Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


5.2 ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS, Business and Management.


A recent emergence of academic discourse within organisation and management scholarship is encouraging organisations to embrace the performative power of aspirational talk within corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. However, there has been no empirical study to date to investigate the appropriateness of such encouragement. This paper analyses CSR reporting and underlying sensemaking processes to trace how far this academic departure from the dominant discourse of verification and standardisation is reflected and accepted within this practice. The process-focused, longitudinal study is based on a discursive analysis of Nestlé CSR reports, revealing the struggles between forward and backward facing statements, and tracing the discursive management of tensions between talk and action over a period between 2002 and 2016. The discursive analysis is complemented with findings from seven in-depth interviews with Nestlé senior managers and external non-governmental organisation (NGO) stakeholders to provide insights into the underlying organisational sensemaking. Three tension management phases are detected in the reporting shifting from ignoring aspiration to allowing for a dialectic interplay between aspiration and performance. The interview findings support the detection of the three phases, highlight the dialectic interplay between retrospective and prospective sensemaking as part of the iterative reporting, and underscore the importance of stakeholder involvement in the process.