Texts on CSR and business ethics: Framings, aspirations and self-relations

Visa Penttilä

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


While corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a topic that is discussed extensively by practitioners and academics alike, a simplified conception of the relationship between CSR and communicative practices persists: Communication about CSR is often seen as "mere talk" or, at best, as a means of transmitting neutral information about corporate responsibilities. Adopting a formative perspective on communication—that is, considering it as constitutive of organizations and organizational phenomena, such as CSR—this dissertation aims to improve our understanding of the significance of communicative practices related to CSR and business ethics by focusing on concrete texts that pertain to corporate responsibilities and interactions regarding such texts. This dissertation consists of three essays that employ different but complementary theoretical foci to examine how CSR and communication are intertwined in empirical cases. Essay 1 focuses on a framing contest of CSR in media texts and how such framings configure business–society relations in new ways in a disrupted institutional context. Essay 2 studies aspirational talk—that is, CSR goals and ideals that an organization does not necessarily live up to yet—and its embeddedness in strategy texts and the processes of writing such texts over time. Essay 3 takes a Foucauldian perspective on business ethics and seeks to understand how organizations can establish relationships with themselves through collective self-writing practices which may enable the development of CSR conceptions in organizational contexts. All three essays rely primarily on naturally occurring datasets: The first essay employs media texts regarding a public debate on tax avoidance, and the second and third essays concentrate on strategy texts and the recordings of interactions around such texts, during which corporate responsibilities are discussed. In line with the principles of organizational communication research, the aim of the studies is to understand what occurs in and through communication regarding CSR. The findings of the dissertation shed light on how the meanings of CSR are constituted and debated through hybrid framings in media texts (essay 1); through recurrent strategy processes that enable the establishment, elaboration, extension, and evaluation of CSR aspirations in strategy texts (essay 2); and through the discursive practices of collective self-writing in strategy texts (essay 3). The studies contribute to a better understanding of how stakeholder interactions around focal texts provide possibilities for new meanings to emerge through the communicative objects of framings, aspirations, and self-relations. Additionally, by fleshing out the specific communicative processes involving the focal texts, this dissertation contributes to a better understanding of how communication can be constitutive of CSR and of the organizations involved in such communicative processes.
Translated title of the contributionTekstejä yritysvastuusta ja etiikasta: tulkintakehyksiä, pyrkimyspuhetta ja itsesuhteita
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Eräranta, Kirsi, Supervising Professor
  • Moisander, Johanna, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8984-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8985-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • CSR
  • organizational communication
  • texts
  • framing
  • strategy
  • aspirational talk


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