What Drives Corporate Social Responsibility in New Zealand?
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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) provides an avenue for engagement, transparency and trust between an organisation and its stakeholders, and is therefore a topic receiving growing interest from public relations scholars. Public relations practitioners have been found to play an important role in creating effective CSR communication that builds awareness while limiting stakeholder scepticism and the risk of being seen as “greenwashing”. However, there is limited empirical research outside the US that studies phenomena relevant to public relations, such as CSR. The aim of this research is to gain country-specific insights by examining the drivers of CSR among a selected group of top CSR performers in New Zealand, as selected by the 2018 Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand. The method of data collection was semi-structured interviews, where the CSR management from each of the organisations was asked about the drivers behind their organisation’s CSR initiatives. The interviews addressed the main research question, “What are the main drivers behind CSR initiatives among organisations in New Zealand?” aiming to provide insights into organisational motivations and offer a basis for further research on this topic. These insights will help public relations practitioners and scholars to better understand organisational motivations behind CSR, and thus be better equipped to provide transparency for stakeholders. The thematic analysis of the interview data showed some key commonalities: the organisations were first and foremost motivated by the business case for CSR, particularly that of attracting and retaining employees. Stakeholder views and institutional competition and cooperation were the main sources of influence for the participating organisations in implementing and improving their CSR strategy. Furthermore, the participating organisations expressed similar views that the New Zealand public had a general lack of understanding on how the areas of CSR are interconnected, but they acknowledged that younger generations are changing the status quo by placing more importance on CSR in the New Zealand society. In addition, it was argued that New Zealand organisations are all influenced by the Māori worldview to some degree, but more benefits could be achieved from intentionally integrating the Māori worldview into organisations’ CSR strategies. Lastly, the research found that although all five organisations expressed a preference for informal and direct communication with stakeholders, public relations appeared not to play a prominent role in this process. This is in contrast to the latest CSR and public relations literature which found that having strategic communication plans are essential in delivering effective CSR initiatives.