Corporate social responsibility (CSR) for ethical corporate identity management: Framing CSR as a tool for managing the CSR-luxury paradox online

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Corporate Communications


© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the framing and rhetorical devices employed by luxury brands to build CSR-based, ethical corporate identities while managing complexities of the CSR-luxury paradox, the perceived clash between the self-transcendent values of CSR, and the self-enhancement values of luxury. Design/methodology/approach: Qualitative frame analysis was conducted to create detailed frame matrices for each dimension of CSR message content, followed by quantitative content analysis to establish the extent of usage of these frames across 43 luxury brand websites in the apparel, beauty, jewelry, and watch categories. Findings: Luxury brands predominantly framed their CSR efforts as discretionary, driven by altruistic motives. They foregrounded brand over social issue and highlighted substantial input into CSR efforts consistently over a period. CSR efforts were put into programs that were congruent with the brands’ business and that conveyed impact in abstract terms, evoking emotions over logic. Such framing across the CSR message-dimensions of issues, motives, importance, commitment, fit, and impact reflected a sophisticated understanding of communicating to a socially and environmentally conscious demographic while simultaneously aligning with the central, enduring, and distinctive characteristics of luxury. Originality/value: This study contributes to emerging empirical work on CSR as a tool to build ethical corporate identity. This study also adds to the literature on identity management and CSR communication in the luxury industry, a sector that exceeded €1 trillion in retail sales in 2016.

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