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Title: Corporate social investment : communication challenges facing selected Johannesburg Securities Exchange listed organisations
Authors: Ngobeni, Uzothile 
Issue Date: 29-Nov-2012
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSI) is an issue with a growing business value in
South Africa. The increasing emphasis on CSI is affecting the relationship between
organisations and their various stakeholders, such as investors, customers, vendors,
suppliers, employees, communities and government. The stakeholders of an
organisation play a vital role in the process of CSI planning and execution. There is a
need to communicate CSI activities to stakeholders, as well as to monitor the flow
and role of communication within the CSI context. While it is generally agreed that
companies need to manage their relationships and communication with their
stakeholders, the way in which they choose to do so varies considerably. Challenges
in communicating corporate social responsibility do exist – for example,
communication channels that are used in CSI, scepticism towards company
messages and potentially hostile reactions from the media, complex community
engagement processes, diversity of the audience, misunderstanding with special
interest groups such as employees and government regulations. The diverse
information requirements of different stakeholder groups also present special
communication challenges, and these requirements are examined in turn.
Given this background, the purpose of this study is to investigate communication in
CSI practice. This study seeks to understand communication challenges facing CSI
and communication channels that are used in CSI. Lastly, this study offers
recommended best practices that can be applied in CSR communication.
Although CSI is gaining a role as a strategic business function, however the literature
review presented in this paper shows that CSI communication is still an area to be
explored. One of the arguments presented in the literature review originate from
Maignan & Ferrell (2004:17)
that “Businesses cannot hope to enjoy concrete
benefits from CSR unless they intelligently communicate about their initiatives to
relevant stakeholders”.
Communication challenges in CSI exist mainly in the process of transmission and
receiving of messages from sender to receiver. The selection of the proper channels
to disseminate information is also a challenge. These challenges arise mainly in rural
and underdeveloped areas. In most instances, these communities lack infrastructure
such as electricity and telecommunication which facilitate the dissemination of
information. Commonly the communicator has to first do the necessary research in
order to establish the most suitable medium for disseminating information to these
communities. Illiteracy is also a major hurdle to communication in underdeveloped
areas. This poses a challenge in that often messages have to be disseminated face
to face, which can take time and requires expertise in communicating.
The research method that was used to conduct this study is random sampling. A
sample of thirteen organizations was drawn from
Johannesburg Securities
Exchange (JSE) database of medium to large businesses that are actively involved
in CSR programmes in South Africa.
The findings in this study reveal that South African organisations are engaged in
serious efforts to communicate and pro-actively integrate CSI as a strategic business
phenomenon. These findings are significant to communications and CSI practitioners
who wish to communicate with their stakeholders in CSI implementation. These
findings will also benefit corporate executives who wish to engage in CSI
communication. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), Non-Profit Organisations
(NPOs) and community organisations that wish to engage in CSI activities with
corporate organizations, can also benefit from this study.
In summary, CSI has grown from an ideology to a business reality and is now
acknowledged as an important dimension of modern business practice. It is
important that organisation examine their CSI communication in the context of the
ever-changing business environment.
Dissertation submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Technology Degree: Public Relations Management, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2012.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Management Sciences)

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