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CSR and Corporate Identity

CSR and Corporate Identity

Assignment Question :

Outline a research question that can be investigated using qualitative methods. Describe a plan for how you will research that question. Your plan should include strategies for both data collection and data analysis. The rationale for the adoption of a particular form of data collection and analysis must be presented.

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1. Introduction

The purpose of this research is to investigate the gap between ideals and practices on corporate identity through corporate social responsibility (CSR) and build up practical findings to help corporations narrow the gap thus enabling them to enhance their CSR identity for both companies and employees.

This study will focus on the case of large Korean corporations – the so called ‘chaebol corporations’ (henceforth, chaebols). Chaebols are interesting cases to conduct CSR related research because chaebols use CSR for substituting their distorted corporate image and identity as ‘unethical’, coming from illegal acts and unsound governance structure. In this sense, chaebols can be considered appropriate cases are currently grappling with a big gap between ideals and practices as the same pertain to their CSR identity. Exploring CSR identity and its effects on practice in chaebols will provide practical indications about the relationship between corporate identity strategy and its employees’ implementation and theoretical implications on chaebol related research.

With multiple-case study strategy, this study will start by looking at corporate CSR identity on the organisational perspectives in case companies. Following this, the study will explore employees’ perception on corporate identity and CSR activities to identify and examine the factors that influence employee corporate identity and encourage employee participation in CSR activities. This is achieved using a triangulation method. This includes semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews and documentary analysis. In this paper, I will design the research plan with methodological strategy, data collection strategy and data analysis strategy including rationales respectively.

2. Research Questions & Assumptions

Research Questions

The research questions will focus on exploring how CSR identity is conceptualised by companies and employees and how that resulting identity influences CSR practices in reality. Thus, the primary research questions are as follows:

Q1. How do corporations conceptualise their CSR identity ?

Q2. How does corporate identity formed at the organisational level influence the ethical identity of employees?

Q3. What are the connections between the organisational level identity of CSR and employees’ participation in CSR activities?


Assumptions grounded in the logic of multi-faceted model of corporate identity (Soenen and Moingeon 2002) and employee performances are as bellow. This multi-faceted model of identity is not a measurement and it provides 5 categories of identity.

A1. Corporate identity of CSR will affect employees’ participation for social activities.

A2. Employees’ participation in CSR activities will increase when corporate identity and their strategies are aligned.

A3. Professed identity will not affect employees’ participation in CSR activities.

A4. Employees’ participation in CSR activities will be influenced by four types of identities when they are matched with each other.

3. Research Design

(1) Research Method and Justifications

This research will be conducted with a qualitative method. According to Creswell (2003), the main reason of using the qualitative method for research is because of exploratory character of study. As this study focuses on the perspectives of both the corporation itself and that of employees’ about CSR identity and CSR activities, qualitative methods of research and analysis are adopted. A qualitative method enables in-depth exploration of the CSR identity and, simultaneously, aid in understanding the conceptual relationships between ideals and practice about CSR identity and CSR activities. Moreover, as corporate identity which is formed by socially agreed concepts, and CSR, which has discursively

constructed concepts, are both rather subjective, and changeable depending on the particular organisation, qualitative approach is more appropriate to understand how these identities can be conceptualised and formed in an organisational context. Comparing to qualitative methods, a quantitative approach rather focuses consideration on measurements and quantities of the traits established by the people or events of studies (Murray 2003).

(2) Epistemological Approach

While much research used quantitative method mainly takes a position of a functionalist or positivist stance, qualitative research can take almost all possible epistemological positions (Gephart 1999 ; Symon and Cassell 2004). This research overall takes an interpretive epistemological view with technically along with realistic point of view. While this research focuses on the specific cases of chaebols, the aim is not a generalization of findings. Instead, the findings might represent chaebol related issues. Taking an interpretivist view, sampling of target cases will be purposeful (Daymon and Holloway 2002) rather than being statistically and randomly representative sample.

(3) Methodological Strategy and Technical & Epistemological Justification

Case Study Strategy & Justifications

This research will take the multiple-case study strategy as its methodological research strategy. There are two reasons for choosing a case study. First, as mentioned above, CSR itself is a very arguable concepts and the impact of CSR can vary depending on corporations’ conditions (Cho and Hong 2009) and corporate identity matters as well. As case study methodology draws insight from data gathered in research ( Stern 1998; Borgerson, Schroeder et al. 2009), to explore CSR and identity on both organisational and employees’ perspectives, it is a useful method to understand matters within the organisation context and obtain in-depth and empirical knowledge on them. Secondly, the case study approach is for this research as it enables the use of interview methods and company documents to collect data (Yin 2003) and also, verify the validity of the collected data. As for more replicable evidence, this research is based on multiple-case study of chaebol corporations. Ten cases are sufficient replications to obtain external validity. Compared to single-case designs, the evidence which is derived from multiple-case studies tends to be more compelling and being more powerful (Hersen and Barlow 1976 ; Yin 2003). The case sampling strategy will be explained in the data collection section. Even though the level of analysis is organisational, the unit of analysis is individual for example, managers and non-managerial employees who are directly and indirectly related to CSR identity and CSR activities in their organisations.

(4) Data Collection Strategy and Technical & Epistemological Justification

1) Triangulation Method

The methods to gather the data will be triangulation methods: semi-structured in-depth interviews, focus group interviews and documentary analyses. The triangulation method is helpful to get an external validity in this research. Data sets obtained from each of 10 multiple-cases will be triangulated as figure 1.

Semi-structured in-depth interviews

A semi-structured interview will be conducted with managers and employees in the CSR department and strategy department. These informants can provide more specific and in-depth knowledge about their own experiences in face-to-face interviews. Even though other methods such as telephone or internet interviews, can also be carried out under the qualitative interview paradigm (King 2004), this research which deals with Korean managers and workers requires face-to-face interviews due to the greater importance of Korean culture in which direct contact can aid in obtaining greater details of the thoughts and experiences of interviewees.

Focus Group interviews

A focus group interview will be held with managers in other strategy related departments and with employees who have experience in CSR activities. The motivation for adopting this approach is that it allows participants to discuss their thinking and ideas about the CSR strategy and CSR identity with their colleagues – at which point the similarities and differences on the perceptions of the participants about CSR can be investigated with greater ease. The advantage of using the focus group interview method at this stage is that it enables participants to get an idea from their colleagues so that they can reflect back on their thinking and their own experiences (King 2004).

The questions which will be asked in the interviews will vary depending on the targets. In managerial level interviews, interviewees will be asked about how they conceptualise and identify CSR in terms of the 4 categories of responsibilities as classified by Carroll (Carroll 1999). In the non-managerial level interviews, interviewees will be asked about how they define their corporate identity in terms of CSR and how these identities affect their CSR participation. All of the interviews will be tape-recorded with the interviewees’ permission for later transcription.

Documentary Analysis

With regards to the validity of data collection, I will use the triangulation method with documentary analysis in addition to the focus group interview and the semi-structured interview. With respect to the documentary analysis, I will use CSR annual reports which are organised according to reporting guidelines (e.g. GRI Guideline). These reports will be accessed via companies’ webpage.

2) Sampling Strategy

The case companies will be selected according to the ‘Most admirable companies in Korea 2009′ ranking complied by the Korea Management Association (KMA). This index ranks companies, according to a consumer survey and employee survey, in terms of the companies’ ethical image and identity. If ranked in the top level, the company is considered to be, to some extent, ethical and philanthropic and is considered to have CSR strategies and programmes that are more systematically designed than those of other companies. After selecting the 10 top ranked companies as sample cases, interview targets will be selected by a purposive sampling strategy. This is because CSR requires professional knowledge through strategy planning and implementation at the organisational level. In this sense, managerial levels and non-managerial levels in CSR related departments will be considered the target samples for semi-structured in-depth interviews. Those located in other departments will be the target sample on focus group interviews. I will contact these targets by email and telephone and in some of the aforementioned cases, have already established initial connections.

3) Epistemological justifications

In terms of epistemological position, this research will have realist assumptions – interviewees’ accounts are assumed to indicate awareness about their actual experiences of CSR involvement. This realist approach will make it possible to gather more accurate accounts by comparing the findings from the interview with the documentary analysis. In qualitative research, interview methods aim “to see the research topic from the perspectives of the interviewee and understanding how and why they come to have this particular perspective” (King 2004). As this research takes the realist approach, the interview will be more structured and systematically prepared compared to, for example, interviews conducted by constructivists or phenomenologists (Pawson and Tilley 1997).

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5) Data Analysis Strategy

1) Template Analysis & Epistemological Justification

Analysis of this research will be conducted via the templates technique. According to King (2004), template analysis as a set of techniques that can be used in realist work. It admits a positivistic position and is particularly useful for research that aims to compare different or similar perspectives of target groups within an organisational context (King 2004). In this sense, this research which relies on realistic epistemological viewpoints and is aims to examine CSR concepts and identity strategy as perceived by corporations and employees, templates analysis provides the most suitable way to produce a list of theme codes which, in turn, derive the concepts and definitions of CSR identity from the informants’ own words within a theoretical framework thus enabling the analysis to develop new theoretical and empirical implications.

As mentioned previously, this research will focus on how corporations and employees perceive CSR concepts and identity from their experience on corporations’ CSR strategy and implementation, which means the words and expressions coming from their own perceptions, can be extremely varied. Therefore, creating the initial template with a few defined codes (King 2004) and starting with this initial template will be a very helpful to guide analysis as well as to collect data. Compared to other techniques such as grounded theory and repertory grids, this research starts with a theoretical framework and needs organisational level analysis.

Using the template analysis, the process of conducting research will proceed as follows. First, to construct the initial template, interview guides will be prepared from a literature review and informal anecdotal evidence from the author’s own experience. This interview guide will include minimum information so as to gain more ideas from the interviewees. Thus, the initial template will begin in a simplified format and consist of the 3 highest-order codes and two or three subdivided lower-order codes. It will then be subject to a processes of insertion and deletion with changes in the higher-order classifications (King 2004) after the first focused group interviews. For this, at the beginning of the first focus group interview, interviewees will be asked to express their opinions and perceptions on CSR under the three highest-order codes and several lower-order codes following the brief topic guideline. They focus group interviewees can then proceed with their discussions. After each interview, the initial template will be edited and added with some new codes if the issues are not found to be covered by the presented codes.

4. Limitations & Conclusions

This study has limitations in terms of generalization due to the small sample size. This is because a small number of respondents cannot be representative of the entire company’s view, even though the propositions are proved by the respondents. The findings from this qualitative study may, thus, be considered preliminary. Further research, conducted using larger samples and adopting longitudinal analysis can aid to make the findings of the present research more robust. Moreover, given their unique governance system and political background in social context (Kim and Lee 2003), at present, chaebol related research tends to be conducted with an institutionalist approach. However, in this research, these factors are excluded as the focus is being kept on the organisational and individual level of the perception making process.

This study will show the gap of corporate identity between ideals and practices and how employees are influenced by corporate identity in CSR practices. By using qualitative approaches with a case study strategy, this research will have practical implications for managers who work in CSR departments, viz., it will identify how to connect their strategy to employees’ ethical identification and participation.


Borgerson, J. L., J. E. Schroeder, et al. (2009). “Corporate communication, ethics, and operational identity: A case study of Benetton.” Business Ethics: A European Review 18(3): 209-223.

Carroll, A. B. (1999). “Corporate Social Responsiblity.” Business & Society 38(3): 268-295.

Cho, S. and Y. Hong (2009). “Netizens’ evaluations of corporate social responsibility: Contents analysis of CSR news stories and online readers’ comments.” Public Relations Review 35: 147-149.

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research Design Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, Inc.

Daymon, C. and I. Holloway (2002). Qualitative Research Method in Public Relations and Marketing Communications. London, Routledge.

Gephart, R. (1999). “Paradigms and Research Methods.” Research Methods Forum 4.

Hersen, M. and D. H. Barlow (1976). Single-case Experimental Designs: Strategies for Studying Behavior New York, Pergamon.

Kim, B. and I. Lee (2003). “Agency problems and performance of Korean companies during the Asian financial crisis: Chaebol vs. non-chaebol firms.” Pacific-Basin Finance Journal 11(327-348).

King, N., Ed. (2004). Using Interviews in Qualitative Research. Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. London, SAGE Publications Ltd.

King, N., Ed. (2004). Using Templates in the Thematic Analysis of Text. Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. London, SAGE Publications Inc.

Murray, T. R. (2003). Blending Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods in Theses and Dissertations. Thousand Oaks, California, Corwin Press, Inc.

Pawson, R. and N. Tilley (1997). Realistic Evaluation. London, SAGE Publications Inc.

Soenen, G. and B. Moingeon, Eds. (2002). The five facets of collective identities. Integrating corporate and organizational identity. Corporate and Organizational Identities: Integrating Strategy, Marketing, Communication and Organizational Perspectives. London, Routledge.

Stern, B. B., Ed. (1998). Representing Consumers: Voices, Views and Visions. New York, Routledge.

Symon, G. and C. Cassell, Eds. (2004). Promoting New Research Practices in Organizational Research. Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. London, SAGE Publications Ltd.

Yin, R. K. (2003). Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA, SAGE Publications.

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