A given characteristic of successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs is that they reflect stakeholder expectations and preferences for corporate behavior. This study examines the process by which this alignment is sought by CSR managers in the CSR strategy-making process. Through reliance on stakeholder management theories, and with a particular focus on how and why managers communicate with stakeholders, the extent to which the company-stakeholder alignment process in CSR strategy-making reflects modern, enlightened approaches to stakeholder relations is assessed. This assessment is based on an analysis of structured, in-depth interviews with CSR managers from sixteen industry-leading, Danish companies. The managers’ descriptions of their interactions with stakeholders reveal that their practices fall short of the normative, theoretical ideals since their focus is primarily on just listening to others in the strategy-making process rather than directly involving others in decision-making. Also, because non-stakeholders, such as paid-for consultants, are found to be note-worthy influencers in the CSR strategy-making process, it is concluded that the process is not only a stakeholder management exercise, but an expert, institutionalized, strategic issues management exercise as well.
Public Relations Review, 2014, Vol 40, Issue 1, p. 42-49