Enron, Shell, and in Norway, Statoil and the state-owned Vinmonopolet, are all companies that have recently been involved in scandals and criticized for unethical conduct. By implication, these companies are also accused of neglecting their corporate soci al responsibility (CSR). Concurrently, it is not unlikely that such scandals have fed what appears to be widespread public skepticism regarding CSR programs. The companies' motivation for CSR is questioned, and it is doubted whether they follow up on gran d promises made in public statements such as CSR reports. This skepticism poses rhetorical challenges for companies and also demands reflective and ethical strategies that address public perceptions of CSR. It is important to grasp the existing discourses about CSR in company publications, but also how the CSR concept is expressed in the mass media. In the research literature, however, studies of such aspects are scarce.
This project addresses the above shortcomings in a Norwegian context by conducting a historical and context-sensitive rhetorical and ethical analysis of communication strategies, as well as the mass media's coverage of CSR-related topics. Textual analysis is conducted drawing on both classical and modern works from rhetoric, public relati ons and the management discipline of business ethics. Qualitative interviews with organizational representatives will be used as a supplement. The focus is on five large, five medium-sized and five small Norwegian companies.