University of Oulu

Reporting process as a management tool for corporate social responsibility in small and medium-sized enterprises : participatory action research

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Author: Rosenqvist, Roosa1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Oulu Business School, Department of Management and International Business, Management
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
Pages: 81
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : R. Rosenqvist, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-06-14
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Hurmelinna-Laukkanen, Pia
Reviewer: Yang, Jialei
Hurmelinna-Laukkanen, Pia


Awareness of sustainability, climate change and social issues is rapidly increasing around the world. Society, governmental and non-governmental organizations, among other stakeholders, are continuously demanding companies to take on more responsibility for the economic, environmental, and social impacts caused by business. Systematic and proactive approach to management of corporate social responsibility (CSR) can aid companies to cope with those demands.

CSR management is complex and multidimensional, and it requires involvement from various company functions. Thus, it is not a simple task for any company, let alone for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Therefore, the objective of this thesis is to examine CSR reporting process as a tool for CSR management in SMEs. This was based on a hypothesis that the CSR reporting process would help SMEs to understand and manage CSR more systematically. Subsequently, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was chosen as the CSR reporting framework to be applied in this thesis.

This thesis follows participatory action research approach because it is particularly suitable for development-oriented research in which multiple research methods need to be used. Furthermore, participatory action research supports continuous cooperation between the researcher and the case company, as well as employee engagement, which were essential to the empirical part of this thesis. Multiple methods used in this action research include an extensive literature review, organizing a workshop in a case company, comparative analysis of other companies’ CSR reports, and developing a customized guidebook for continuous CSR reporting process in accordance with GRI standards.

Results of this research indicate that CSR reporting process, especially following a framework such as GRI, can raise SMEs’ awareness of various CSR issues and CSR management in general. Stakeholder and topic materiality analyses can be beneficial tools for SMEs in the beginning of CSR management. However, the results also demonstrate that SMEs encounter significant challenges in CSR reporting due to broadness of reporting frameworks and heterogeneity of SMEs. Attempts to narrow down or simplify the reporting process may lead to inaccurate and unreliable outcomes. Therefore, the reporting process should be customized to fit the company-specific context of each SME.

This thesis describes the development of the case company’s CSR management through use of CSR reporting process as a tool. The research demonstrates that participatory action research is a suitable approach for studying CSR reporting process as a management tool in SMEs. However, generalization of the results would be inappropriate due to heterogeneity of SMEs, and the non-replicable nature of participatory action research.

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Copyright information: © Roosa Rosenqvist, 2022. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.