This report analyses the power of media to create views on responsibility. What is emphasized and what is selected away when morally sensitive questions are subject to scrutiny? Why do certain organisations, leaders and questions of responsibility become more visible than others?
SUSTAINABLE enterprises, and CSR – corporate social responsibility – are terms that together testify that there is an increased interest in questions that concern the role and responsibility of companies in society. However, it is far from evident what is included in this responsibility. This report analyses the power of media to create views on responsibility. What is emphasized and what is selected away when morally sensitive questions are subject to scrutiny? Why do certain organisations, leaders and questions of responsibility become more visible than others? What is the role of media for setting the agenda for what is the responsibility of companies and what is a responsible way of acting? What pictures of responsibility are provided by the media?
BLACK OR WHITE. Despite the fact that questions about responsibility are complicated and do not have any simple answers, the news reports are simplified and only illustrate one perspective at a time. The pictures provided by the news of the companies’ responsibilities are often black and white and the grey shades that would allow a more multi-faceted and reflecting content are conspicuous by their absence.
A FEW QUESTIONS ARE PREDOMINANT. It is only a few questions about responsibility that constitute the main part of the publicity in this area. In the period studied, 1995−2012, there are three predominant questions: corruption, working conditions and environment.
ROLE MODELS AND SCAPEGOATS. In the media publicity, companies are connected with a certain question of responsibility and the activity of the company is seldom analysed from several perspectives of responsibility. The company is usually criticized for lack of responsibility, but it also happens that a company is put forward as a good example.
THE STRONGEST VOICES SERVE TO SET THE AGENDA. The agent that gets most space in the news material affects the news agenda. The agent that manages to make itself heard on the media arena does also get the possibility to affect the interpretation and evaluation of questions of responsibility.
AUTHOR Maria Grafström, Associate Professor (Docent) of Business Administration, Score at Stockholm School of Economics and Stockholm University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karolina Windell, PhD in Economics, Score at Stockholm School of Economics and Stockholm University. E-mail: email@example.com.
Uppdaterad 11 augusti 2016