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Is it me or is a sign of the times, that sense making and meaning tend to appear more often in academic literature? I had immersed myself into the subject of CSR and was surprised by  Hanke & Stark (2009) “Strategy Development: Conceptual Framework on CSR”. A concept which very simply states that CSR strategy development  has two main elements: Legitimization and sense making, where sense making here again is understood as “active, ‚negotiating expectations’ in collective and interactive processes”.

A CSR framework

If we look again at the model by Lips-Wiersma and Morris (2009) it could be very easy to avoid what Calvano (2008) calls “Stakeholder Perception Gaps” usually created by stakeholder power inequality. Stakeholder dialogues logically should be part of a viable CSR strategy process. The corporation “makes sense” to its internal stakeholders such as employees and management, but also to external stakeholders, such as the community or NGOs. One could even argue that this is a process of social integration. But what stakeholders should be approached and to what extend should their concerns be incorporated into the overall business practice without endangering the economic success of the company?

The Trade and Investment Division of UNESCAP writes 2009 in their STUDIES IN TRADE AND INVESTMENT 68 to ask the following questions:

• To whom do legal obligations exist?
• Who might be positively or negatively affected by the organization s activities?
• Who has been involved when similar issues needed to be addressed?
• Who can help the organization address specific impacts?
• Who would be disadvantaged if they were excluded from the engagement?
• Who in the value chain is affected?

Mitchel et al 1997 defined attributes of key stakeholders or salient stakeholders as being powerful, legitimate and urgent. However Calvano (2008) warns that stakeholders such as communities or NGO which might not be seen as powerful in the CSR strategy conception can develop certain dynamics when their interests are being infringed.  Longo et al, 2006 propose the following grid to what values stakeholders expect from the corporation:

The grid of values

Although the above values appear to be a bit anticipated, they very much demonstrate again how stakeholders make sense of a corporations action in the light of their own expectations. Above grid also shows how norms, values and culture of an organization impact CSR strategy. Corporate culture is thus in an interrelated web with values of the stakeholders, emphasizing that CSR is an activity which builds social capital.

The values web

The Values Web (McBain 2010)

This idea of a value web also demonstrates the necessity of the CSR effort to be authentically grounded in the organizational culture and be well linked with its core competencies to allow other actors to actually allow themselves to be associated with the corporation. Any sort of CSR effort should thus start with a careful audit of the company culture.


Calvano, L. (2007) Multinational Corporations and Local Communities: A Critical Analysis
of Conflict, Journal of Business Ethics (2008) 82:793–805
Hanke, T. & Stark, W. (200) Strategy Development: Conceptual Framework on Corporate Social Responsibility; Journal of Business Ethics (2009) 85:507–516Copyright © United Nations 2009
Longo, M., M. Mura and A. Bonoli: 2005, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Performance: The Case of Italian SMEs’, Corporate Governance 5(4), 28–42.
Mitchell, R. K., B. R. Agle and D. J. Wood: 1997, ‘Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and
Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts’, Academy of Management Review 22(4), 853–886.

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