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Strategic maneuvering with presentational choices in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports

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In the framework of the extended pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting is approached in this study as a particular communicative activity type, which can be reconstructed as part of a critical discussion. CSR reports excerpts are viewed in the analysis as parts of a virtual critical discussion in which a company acts as a protagonist maneuvering strategically to defend the standpoint according to which the business is operated ethically, and to convince the audience about what is mentioned in the standpoint. The reconstructed standpoint of a CSR report, We are doing business responsibly, may be regarded as stereotypical, since it corresponds to the institutional point of this regulated type of communicative activity. In the first part of the study, a brief overview is given of the CSR reporting activity, then the concept of strategic maneuvering is presented, under its three aspects (topical potential, audience demand, and presentational techniques), as well as the notion of communicative activity type, with a highlight on the role of the (macro-)context and of institutional preconditions in analytical studies on argumentation. The analysis in the latter part of the study concerns presentational techniques used by the protagonist in the confrontation and in the argumentation stages in CSR reporting, in order to reconcile rhetorical and dialectical aims by maneuvering strategically. The coordinatively and the subordinatively compound structure of argumentation, the symptomatic argument scheme, as well as reformulations of the standpoint, use of emotionally endowed words, concentration of the arguments in the form of nominal sentences acting as headings are among the most important presentational devices constitutive of argumentative moves aimed at convincing the audience that the company acts ethically, but also at promoting a positive image of its business responsibility, which appears to be the ground for winning the discussion.
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Keywords: CSR report; argumentative move; communicative activity type; presentational choices; strategic maneuvering

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 16, 2017

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