DeTienne and Lewis, 2005.pdf - Journal of Business...

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Journal of Business Ethics (2005) 60: 359-376 DOI 10.1007/S10551-005-0869-X © Springer 2005 The Pragmatic and Ethical Barriers to Corporate Social Responsibility Disclosure: The Nike Case Kristen Bell DeTienne Lee W. Lewis ABSTRACT. Numerous studies have documented the demand for information regarding corporations' rela- tionships to society. Much recent research has demon- strated why stakeholders need this information, and how it benefits both companies and the public. These studies suggest numerous methods by which companies can effectively disclose corporate social responsibility (CSR) information to the public, but in practice, reporting this type of information is fraught with legal and ethical uncertainty often unexplored in most literature. This article represents a fresh analysis of the numerous prag- matic consequences and legal and ethical complications inherent in CSR reporting, using Nike Corporation as a case example. The article discusses the theoretical view- points surrounding the ethics of CSR disclosure, and presents the case of Nike and the complications it en- countered while advertising CSR information. The arti- cle ends with an analysis of CSR auditing as a possible solution to companies seeking to improve the method and transparency of social responsibility reporting. KEY WORDS: commercial speech, free speech, cor- porate social responsibility, CSR reporting, Nike Kristen Bell DeTienne is a Professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership and Strategy Brigham Young University. She earned her Ph.D from the University of Southern California in 1991. She teaches organizational behavior, management communication, and strategy. She also serves as track leader for the Organizational Behavior/Hu- man Resources track of the MBA program. Her research examines communication in organizations and ethics. Her e-mail address is [email protected] Lee Lewis earned his Bachelor's in Business Management, Magna Cum Laude with Honors, from Brigham Young University. He is a Manager at Texas Wasatch Group. His research examines corporate social Responsibility and knowledge management within organizations. His email is lee. [email protected] Introduction The ethics of corporate social responsihility disclo- sure have historically been some of the most difficult to reconcile with earnings expectations and activist demands (Browne and Haas, 1974; Filios, 1984, 1986; Gelb and Strawser, 2001; Robertson and Nicholson, 1996). Research indicates that almost three quarters of American investors consider social responsibility when they make investment decisions (Companies Fail, 2001; Laurita, 2001). Every com- pany must put its best foot forward at all times in advertisements and reports to remain competitive in the marketplace, but the jagged line between opti- mism and deceit is often difficult to distinguish.
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