Supporting Whose Interest?
Discussions on Corporate Social Responsibility in
Business Media Texts: The Case of Romania
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis, No. 1591

By Oana Apostol
April 2011
Tampere University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514483622
$87.50 Paper Original

Companies play a complex role in society and are commonly seen as key actors in fostering economic growth and societal welfare. However, due to increasing societal concerns about companies’ social and environmental negative impacts and their growing power in society, their social responsibilities have been under debate in recent decades. While much research on corporate social responsibilities has been done in the context of Western countries, little is known about this phenomenon in other parts of the world.

This dissertation looks more closely at this issue in one such less-known societal context: the case of Romania, a former communist country in Eastern Europe, transforming its centrally-planned economy into a free market economy. The dissertation does so by looking at texts in business media, one important actor in society able to influence readers’ way of thinking and acting.

The research investigates how corporate social responsibilities are discussed in a major Romanian business magazine. This is done by looking at three discourses that seem to dominate CSR practice and research. The anti-CSR discourse questions the moral, legal and institutional grounds of the idea of business responsibilities. The business case discourse supports the view that responsibilities are owed to stakeholders only if the firm benefits.

The moral discourse entails that companies need to behave responsibly because it is a moral obligation to do so. The analysis covers a period of 15 years (November 1992-December 2007), during which Romania went through rapid transformations of its social, economic and political institutions.

Textual interpretative analysis is used to examine developments in media discussions of corporate social responsibilities. The empirical analysis is performed by looking at three stakeholders to whom firms may be accountable: employees, the natural environment and society at large. The findings reveal changes in media talk about the business responsibilities owed to the three stakeholders from a society-centred to a firm-centred perspective. The empirical analysis shows how business case discourse became prevalent in media discussions, while moral and anti-CSR discourses were rejected.

Overall, the dissertation suggests that a business case approach may not be beneficial for Romanian society and otherwise may be insufficient for current worldwide social and environmental challenges. A broader agenda for discussing corporate social responsibilities and business role in society is deemed a necessity.


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