Corporate social investment : communication challenges facing selected Johannesburg Securities Exchange listed organisations
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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 the 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.