From the Substantive to the Ceremonial: Exploring Interrelations Between Recognition and Aspirational CSR Talk

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Stakeholder recognition constitutes a firm’s experience of affirmation and acknowledgment from stakeholders and is deemed essential for organizations to develop positive self-relations and a sense of themselves as morally responsible social actors. Through an in-depth case study, I show how a firm’s varied experiences of stakeholder recognition for its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts alternately facilitated and hindered the performativity of its aspirational CSR talk through two key processes: (a) a recognition-attainment process whereby the experience of stakeholder recognition helped turn aspirational CSR talk into “substantive” talk with the performative potential to catalyze other CSR practices; and (b) a subsequent recognition-commodification process induced by a perceived misrecognition that ultimately rendered such talk “ceremonial.” Elucidating stakeholder recognition as an undertheorized boundary condition of aspirational CSR talk, this study adds to performative approaches to CSR communication. It further contributes to research on recognition by demonstrating the explanatory potential of Axel Honneth’s notion of recognition in researching business and society interactions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness and Society
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)917-949
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 05.2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

    Research areas

  • aspirational talk, corporate social responsibility (CSR), CSR communication, performativity, recognition
  • Management studies