CSR communication put to the test
Research project at a glance
Departments and Instituts
15.11.2015 to 31.12.2016
Food is increasingly available at lower prices in Germany. As a result, large sections of the population in Germany can now financially afford to eat meat every day, for example. However, the production, trade and consumption of meat are not free from criticism. Companies are responding to this with various means of improved communication; such as information offers or quality seals and labels for consideration of animal welfare. Social media and news portals also make a significant contribution to the dissemination of information. They enable consumers to actively participate in discussions for the welfare of animals with their own contributions. The net public thus reflects important issues of daily offline life in online discourse. It is not uncommon for latent conflicts between the groups involved and contradictions to emerge openly. Online discussions therefore hold a great deal of potential for consumer research. This is where the project comes in.
The study was prompted by the industry's announcement in January 2015 of its commitment to sustainable and animal-friendly meat production with the "Animal Welfare Initiative". The aim of the project is to make an interdisciplinary research contribution to consumer behavior and consumer groups using the example of Internet discourse on the topic of animal welfare. The basis is a combination of classical (discourse analysis, consumer group identification) and innovative methods of social research (economic psychological experiments). The project examines the significance of the Internet for sustainability communication or communication in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The focus is on questions about behavioral changes and patterns of the groups involved in the course of the discussion and about dominant consumer groups that significantly influence discussions on animal welfare. In addition, the effects of communication on the respective consumer groups will be analyzed. The work contributes to identifying communication patterns and closing information gaps. Based on the results, recommendations for action for comprehensible and understandable CSR and sustainability communication will be aimed at, so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions taking into account animal welfare and sustainability.
The research project will be realized in the following work steps, in a university consortium consisting of the three university institutions, International Center for Sustainable Development (IZNE), Department of Economics and the Institute for Media Development and Analysis:
- Analysis of the online discourse on animal welfare: After researching and comparing existing animal welfare initiatives, representative online sources are identified that can be used for the discourse investigation. They enable the identification of positions and categories of the animal welfare discourse and are reviewed with regard to sustainability dimensions and CSR relevance.
- Consumer analysis based on milieu research: Based on discourse analysis, the behavior patterns of the groups involved in the (Internet) discussions (discourses) are examined, assigned to the groups and transferred to sinus milieus. If this transfer succeeds, milieu-specific characteristics of consumer groups present and dominant on the Internet are identified. Other clearly identifiable consumer groups that are missing from Internet discourse can be identified by this method.
- Experimental deductive testing: Based on the discourse analysis, hypotheses are developed as to which information consumers pay particular attention to in the animal welfare and sustainability discourse, and how CSR aspects of animal welfare initiatives can best be communicated. A web computer experiment will be used to measure changes in subjects' attitudes to different arguments, content and presentations (for example, image versus text, emotional versus factual), on the topic of animal welfare. Here, too, differences between different consumer groups can be identified, if necessary.