Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity and Inclusion

Developments like digitization and globalization along with an increased awareness regarding social, environmental and equity issues have raised the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity and inclusion (D&I), which can be considered a part of CSR. The responsibility of organizations concerns all aspects of corporate conduct, including corporate communication on CSR and D&I, marketing communication and employee communication. In our research, we address issues of transparency in CSR reporting and shed light on how organizations communicate about D&I especially with their internal stakeholders and handle D&I-related criticism.


Communicating on Diversity and Inclusion

Even though research in the field of D&I management has been going on for decades, the communication aspect has received little attention so far. Yet, communication and interaction play a significant role in determining the extent to which members of underrepresented groups feel either valued and included or disregarded and excluded at their workplace. Our research aims at identifying how employee communication can promote an inclusive work environment for all employees, no matter how “different” they may be. Yet, D&I measures such as using gender-sensitive language or quotas for underrepresented groups are also controversially discussed within organizations and in society in general. Thus, our research also sheds light on D&I-related criticism and how corporate communication deals with such critical comments and discussions.

The project on criticism about D&I communication is funded by the Academic Society for Management & Communication in 2021.

The project Let’s Talk about Diversity and Inclusion on the role of employee communication to foster D&I in organizations was funded by the Academic Society for Management & Communication in 2020/21.

Contact: Sabine Einwiller, Ingrid Wahl



Transparency in CSR Reporting

By disclosing information on their corporate social performance over and above their financial reporting obligations firms attempt to legitimize their behavior. According to a study by KPMG, 96 percent of the world’s largest 250 firms issued CSR/sustainability reports (KPMG 2020). The proliferation in CSR reporting, however, does not lead to increased confidence in the intention of firms to report in a transparent way and to take CSR seriously. Enhancing transparency is a declared goal of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). A key aspect of transparency is balance, which includes disclosing “positive and negative aspects of the organization’s performance” (GRI, 2015, p. 17). In fact, one central point of criticism concerns the selectivity in CSR reporting concerning what to report on. Our analyses focus on how balanced CSR reporting is, i.e. whether firms also discuss their challenges, setbacks, and failures or whether CSR reports are mainly self-laudatory. In our research we also analyze the language applied in CSR reports to detect indications for transparency signaling and alignment with disclosure standards.

Contact: Sabine Einwiller