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Corporate Social Responsibility Communication

by the Philippine Public Water Utilities through Corporate Website

Evan Swandie G. Pedrosa, Dcomm


Corporate Social Responsibility Communication
by the Philippine Public Water Utilities through Corporate Website

Introduction

Like other private and public corporations of every country around the globe, the

Philippines is actively taking serious responsibility its Corporate Social Responsibility

programs and communicate it to world. It is evident that more and more companies are making

CSR as part in their business strategies on how they could extend their responsibilities to the

economic sphere and the environment (Rimando, 2012). The fact that Maximiano (2005)

affirmed this observation by stating that business executives, regardless of the size of their

company, consider CSR as a fundamental part of their operations. Several CSR categories

emerged in various research studies such as ethics, diversity, environmental, sustainability and

philanthropy (Chandler & Werther 2014) confirmed the continuous evolution in the concept

and practice of CSR.

The growing demand for corporations either government and private to allocate CSR

programs and communicate it to the public has encouraged the public water utilities in the

Philippines to take a huge leap in the challenging and critical waters of CSR despite its primary

focus and function is to deliver a 24/7 potable and safe water supply to its constituents.

The early root of CSR in the Philippines as Sharma (2010) cited was more of charitable

philanthropy and one-time donation as majority of the populace in 1970’s was living in

poverty. Pedrosa (2016), on the other hand, manifested that CSR is now evolving since the

Public Service Corporation focuses more on responsibilities to help develop and protect the

community and environment as well as ensure sustainable services. This defines the core
responsibility to serve the public and what other contribution does it make to the community.

Further, Gachitorena (2011), president of the League for Corporate Foundation and Ayala

Foundation, looked at CSR practices in the Philippines as “doing business in a way that

responds to the needs and concerns of the stakeholders in general”.

Meanwhile CSR communication in the Philippines according to Rimando (2012) is still

traditional based on how the companies report, communicate and encourage engagement.

However, Pedrosa (2016) in her study stipulated that the Public Service Corporation

maximizes the use of every communication resources available in the locality from mass media

such as cable tv and radio to its own communication resources such as newsletters, annual

reports and website, employees, and third parties like media and public officials.

The indication of website as the other mode of communicating to the stakeholders by

the Public Service Corporation prompts the interest of the researcher to investigate the online

CSR communication.

Therefore, this study explores the Online CSR communication and CSR practices of

the Philippine Public Water Utilities.

Review of Related Literature

Corporate Social Responsibility

In the Philippines, the early root of CSR was more of charitable philanthropy and one-time

donation as majority of the populace in 1970’s was living in poverty (Sharma, 2010). The

CSR of the Public Service Corporation is defined as ethical and economic, ethical and legal,

and philanthropic with the specific efforts on poverty, environment, health, education,

technical and resources assistance, and sustainability of the services (Pedrosa, 2016). These
findings are still directed to Caroll’s (1991, 1999) moral perception of companies’ inherent

obligation to do what is right, just and fair, lawful and profitable. Pedrosa’s (2016) conclusion

on Public Service Corporation’s CSR to help develop and protect the community and

environment and ensure sustainable services. This defines its core responsibility to serve the

public and what other contribution does it make to the community. The identified top CSR of

the Public Service Corporation are the watershed management, rehabilitation and protection;

free labor and materials on water installation; and free water usage during fire incident which

are linked to the core service.

The practitioner group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD,

1998, p.3) affirmed the company’s CSR which has “the continuing commitment to behave

ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the

workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large”. The European

Commission (2011, p. 6) further expounded that CSR of enterprises has the responsibilities to

give positive and acceptable impacts on society. As corporate citizen both views emphasized

the practice of CSR of an organization as beneficial to the stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Philippines Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and League of Corporate

Foundations, Inc. (LCF) identified CSR as a business principle which proposes the long-term

sustainability of business is best served when profitability and growth are attained alongside

the development of communities, the protection and sustainability of the environment, and the

improvement of the people’s quality of life (Sharma, 2010).

Thus, the statement Sohn (1982) agreed that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned

with the relationship between a company and a society. He elaborated that CSR should be
based on the question of why companies exist (Sohn, 1982). This simply define CSR as a

company’s justification for existence (Eberle et al. 2013; Sohn 1982).

These views lead to Porter and Kramer’s (2011, pp. 76) statement that “the purpose of the

corporation must be redefined as creating shared value, not just profit per se”. The said

statements emphasized the necessity to align CSR to the core of the business. Thus, CSR is to

consider all these different stakeholders in the creation of corporate policies as it affects the

company’s function (Okrapa 2010).

Cone (2013), likewise, found that CSR is now considered an expectation of business by the

public, more than a good strategy for business. It is in fact, as Sahlin-Andresson (2006) cited

as an emerging movement that enables corporations to impact more the social and economic

development. The base for responsible business activity is the compliance with the laws

(Steurer 2010). Therefore, governments should have good legislation levels to put standards

for businesses in all three areas of the triple-bottom-line concept: economy, environment and

society (Steurer 2010).

It is believed that stakeholder support brings justification for a company’s existence and create

value for stakeholders, which means responding to stakeholder expectations (Mason and

Simmons 2014). Therefore, companies should have dialogue with the stakeholders to

understand their expectations and to report to the stakeholders about their CSR activities.

CSR communication

Communication is essential for any company. As Panapannan et al. (2003) pointed out that it

is as an important element in making CSR successful and the communication needs to be

structured efficiently and properly for it to reach the different target groups. This affirms Vurro
and Perrini’s (2011) study that CSR communication is a central element in the relationship

between a company and the society surrounding it. CSR Communication plays an important

part of gaining legitimacy and staying in touch with the surrounding society. The increasing

interest of the society towards the impacts of the companies act to the society serves as

motivation for companies to participate in CSR communication. This means that CSR

communication is something that needs to be done with a strategy.

Still many companies are facing a choice of whether to communicate their CSR or not because

with the likes of the Scandinavian consumers, they tend to be skeptical towards CSR

communication directly from the companies (Brønn 2013). CSR communication is however

important in building a bond with stakeholders and raising awareness of the company issues.

Du et al. (2010) highlights that

The key challenges of CSR communication are bringing issues to stakeholders’

attention and avoiding skepticism towards their messages. In creating a CSR

communication strategy, the importance is on what is communicated and how

it is done in a way that is fitting to the environment a specific company operates

in (Du et al. 2010).

Thus, it is emphasized that the companies should explain when talking about a social or

environmental issue they are participating why it is an important issue to be involved to

minimize skepticism from the public. It is recommended that a company should not only talk

about the issue but also highlight in their communication their commitment to the issue, the

impacts this specific program has, what are the motives to participate in the issue, and how

does it fit to the core business of the company (Du et al. 2010).
The challenge is to make the CSR communication fitting to specific stakeholders’ expectations

and to the core business of a company (Dawkins 2004). In fact, it is recommended that for the

CSR to be credible it needs to make sense in light of the core of the business operations

(Dawkins 2004). This means that there is a need to find creative communication ways that

catch attention and are easily understandable considering not every target group is interested

in looking for this information and reading reports.

CSR communication channels and strategies

Companies utilize several different communication channels for their CSR communication.

The communication channels can be divided into those that are in the control of the company

itself such as reporting, website, PR, packaging and advertising, and to those are not directly

controlled by the company such as media, social media, what customers or employees say, and

NGOs (Du et al. 2010).

CSR communication is becoming its own field within corporate communications. It now is the

third largest budget item in corporate communications of large companies (Brønn 2013). All

the traditional communication tools can be used for CSR communication, but the way the

messages are perceived needs to be paid close attention to because perceived insincerity in the

messages is bad for the corporate image (Vidaver-Cohen and Brønn 2015).

Pedrosa (2016) manifested that the Public Service Corporation noticeably tried to maximize

every communication resource available in the locality. Thus, radio and cable tv are the

popular medium in the locality because of the limited access of internet in the locality. This

shows that these two popular channels are the most readily available and accessible to the

stakeholders for the CSR information.


Morsing et al. (2008) say that consumers form their opinions about a company based on views

of other stakeholders and not by reading the corporate CSR communication. Thus, it is

encouraged that companies need to balance in between the interests of different stakeholder

groups (Strand 2015). There is a need to publish and present the different scenarios on what

the company is doing and how it is affecting its operation, environment and the community.

Different aspects of CSR are important in different industries and the relevance of CSR

activities is different to different kinds of stakeholder groups (Vidaver-Cohen and Brønn

2015).

In CSR communication, companies consider Morsing and Schultz’s (2006) three CSR

communication models with stakeholders. The stakeholder information strategy means one-

way communication from the company to the stakeholders (Morsing and Schultz 2006).

Sharing information is done through production of material, news and press releases for the

media.

The stakeholder response strategy consists of two-way communication that aims at changing

the behavior and opinions of the public (Morsing and Schultz 2006). The power of stakeholders

is acknowledged but they are seen as passive in communication. The communication from the

stakeholders is seen more as feedback about the company. The feedback is often assessed

through some sort of surveys. The risk in this communication strategy is that the company will

be only strengthening its own identity rather than learning.

The stakeholder involvement strategy is two-way communication in a form of dialogue in

which both participants are demanding change from each other and both participants also

change in response to the messages (Morsing and Schultz 2006). In addition, the stakeholders
are included actively in the dialogue so that the company can develop its CSR strategy. The

dialogue is maintained systematically, and it needs to be continuous so that the CSR activities

are up to date and that stakeholders can feel that they are truly included in the process. The

goal of this two-way dialogue is to create common census or an agreement that is fitting for

both.

Morsing et al. (2008) identified two CSR processes. One is Expert CSR communication

process follows a thought that directly communicating to consumers or public is not a

proficient way to communicate about CSR. It is recommended to let a group of CSR experts

handle the communication. Second is Endorsed CSR communication process is

communicating to the consumers and the public indirectly through a certain group that then

forwards a positive message about the organization’s CSR to the other stakeholders. It is

believed that both have to think that the information is interesting enough for them to

communicate it further (Morsing et al. 2008).

CSR Communication through the Internet

Another challenge of CSR communication today is the Internet since communication on the

Internet has created a new freedom for everyone to both share and find information (Scarlat

and Maxim 2009). People are no longer restricted to having access to only to the information

that communication experts find important to publish.

The young consumers of today grew up with the Internet and are used to communicating

constantly to all corners of the world. They know how to use the Internet as an information

source (Schmeltz 2012). Thus, companies should be innovative and learn to take advantage of

online for the CSR communication. Communication on company web sites however works
only if people go there to look for information, and at their current state many of the corporate

websites are not very interactive as they should be.

Communicating and having an online presence is now a growing importance for companies as

people are getting more and more used to online communication (Scarlat and Maxim 2009).

Corporate communication needs to respond to the communication trends in the society. The

According to Hootsuite, US-based social media management platform, in the Digital 2018

Report, Internet penetration usage rate in the Philippines is only 55%.

Further, according to to mobile network research firm OpenSignal, CNN Philippines (2018)

the Philippines performed poorly on the speed and availability of long-term evolution (LTE)

connection in the country. The firm's "State of the LTE Report" for November 2017 revealed

the country ranked 74th out of 77 countries in terms of 4G speed. 4G, or fourth generation

mobile internet technology, is the current standard for mobile network connectivity, offering

speeds ten times faster than its predecessor. This simply manifests that not all localities in the

Philippines have access to a good Internet speed.

For companies the company website is the main communication tool over which they have

complete control (Lee et al. 2013). The company websites are also an official look at a

company’s CSR regarding all its stakeholders (Wanderley et al. 2008).

This research did not analyze the contents of the sustainability reports available on the websites

or contents on the websites. It provides a case study of communication ways on these corporate

websites.
Methodology

This chapter explains the research methods used in this thesis and gives justifications for the

choice of these methods considering the research objective and the phenomena under study.

The chapter also describes how the data was collected and analyzed.

The research objective of this study is to get better understanding through qualitative case

study of how the Philippine Water Utilities view CSR communication and its challenges.

This case study is not a comparative study but rather investigates the perspectives on CSR and

CSR communication such as stakeholder engagement, communication channels, reporting, and

corporate image from the company’s perspectives.

The research questions are:

1. How the Philippine Water Utilities define CSR?

2. What are the CSR activities of the Philippine Water Utilities as communicated in their

websites?

3. How do they present their CSR activities in their corporate websites?

Research design

The researcher is the primary instrument of data collection and analysis of the results and the

product is a rich description of the experience under study.

The data are gathered through the online website of the different Philippine Water Utilities

from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Two water districts were selected from the three areas

ranging in the following Categories:


Category A- Luzon: Baguio City Water District, Cabanatuan City Water District

Category A-Visayas: Metro Cebu Water District, Bacolod City Water District

Category A-Mindanao: Cagayan de Oro City Water District, Davao City Water District

Category B-Luzon: Subic Water District, Tagaytay Water District

Category B-Visayas: Dumaguete City Water District, Carcar Water District

Category B-Mindanao: Bislig City Water District, Malaybalay Water District

Caterogy C-Luzon: Orani Water District, San Jose Water District

Category C-Visayas: Bais City-Mabini Water District, Catbalogan Water District

Category C-Mindanao: San Francisco Water District, Nasipit Water District

Category D-Luzon: Batac Water District, BAcolor Water District

Category D-Visayas: Talini Water District, Sipalay Water District

Category D-Mindanao: Tagbina Water District, Metro Siargao Water Distirct

The different categories are the classification of water districts as established by the Local

Water Utilities Administration. The criteria of each category of the water districts are based on

number of active service connections (households/establishments), gross revenue, total assets,

net income before interest and depreciation, and staff productivity index. The category A water

districts belonged to a bigger and economically progressive cities followed by the category B

while categories C and D water districts are small once and less economic activities compared

to the former categories.


After the data collection, the research question was restated to reflect the emergent themes.

The data gathered were coded by identifying CSR communication themes gathered in the

official websites of the selected water utilities.

The results were analyzed within the same themes in which the results were presented in terms

of CSR and CSR communication.

Qualitative Case Study

Case study is a method used to investigate in depth one, or in this case small number of

companies (Easterby-Smith et al. 2012). The drawback with case study is that it does not

usually provide generalizations to any larger group. The same limitation is present in this

research.

The addition of multiple cases instead of one provides a bit broader overview and can possible

show also deviation within the context of the case study (Easterby-Smith et al. 2012). Multiple

cases were also used in this research to gain a bit broader perspective than from just one case,

but while still keeping the research focused.

Data collection

The cases of the research consist of eight water utilities chosen based on certain criteria, so the

sampling strategy was purposeful. These companies were chosen for the case study because

the researcher is an employee of one of the water utilities. Further, choosing the water utilities

gives the opportunity to explore with the CSR communication through the website of the water

utilities in this time of growing Internet usage in the Philippines. Therefore, the Philippines
Water Utilities were chosen for the case study. The corporate websites were used for the

primary data collection.

Limitations

Limitations to this study come from the uniqueness of the different water utilities. The

companies studied are from the same industry but in different categories, locations and

environment which does not make the results generalizable to any larger group. The results are

to be understood in the context of the cases.

Therefore, it is important to include different types of information in reports, not just numbers.

But the reports easily become too big when too many groups are targeted. There needs to be

focused to keep the reporting compact enough.

Results and Discussion

Corporate Social Responsibility

The reported CSR programs in the official website of the water utilities focused on the

environment protection, rehabilitation and development; education of the young people,

medical outreach for both young and old; and clean and safe water supply in schools and

indigenous families.

These programs clearly manifested the wholistic concern on the development and quality life

of the people and the community. These, therefore, remarkably brings Carroll’s CSR Pyramid

to the fore: philanthropic, ethical, legal and economic responsibilities, which capitulates the

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, 1998, p.3) that company’s

CSR has “the continuing commitment to behave ethically and contribute to economic
development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their failies as well as of

the community and society at large”.

There is a deep emphasis on the CSR of the water utilities that is beneficial to the stakeholders

and the long tern sustainability of the operation. As the Philippines Business for Social

Progress (PBSP) and League of Corporate Foundations, Inc. (LCF) identified CSR as a

business principle which proposes the long-term sustainability of business is best served when

profitability and growth are attained alongside the development of communities, the protection

and sustainability of the environment, and the improvement of the people’s quality of life

(Sharma, 2010).

Further, majority of the CSR programs of the water utilities are in partnership with other

government and private entities, and individuals. This shows that the CSR of the water utilities

as Sohn (1982) stated corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned with the relationship

between a company and a society. It simply explains that both companies and society are

working together.

The active involvement of the water utilities in the watersheds protection rehabilitation and

development manifested the dependency of its water supply or services to the concessionaires.

The core of the business is public service. This further shows the significant role of the

watersheds to the existence of the water utilities, which points the company of producing goods

or services for the society while making a profit. This simply defines CSR as a company’s

justification for existence (Eberle et al. 2013; Sohn 1982).

While Porter and Kramer (2011, pp. 76) supported CSR by saying that “the purpose of the

corporation must be redefined as creating shared value, not just profit per se”, it is, indeed, the
direction of the CSR of the water utilities as reflected in their websites. Thus, this manifest that

the companies dialogue with the stakeholders to understand their expectations and to report to

the stakeholders about their CSR activities.

CSR Communication through Website

Communication on the Internet has created a new freedom for everyone to both share and find

information (Scarlat and Maxim 2009). People are no longer restricted to having access to only

to the information that communication experts find important to publish. However, out of the

24 water districts, only five water districts placed a CSR page on their website, eight water

districts reported their CSR activities under the news articles or updates, and others did not

post any information about their CSR. They only post information about their water districts.

These outcome manifest that the water utilities are unable to maximize their websites and

inactive in providing information to the public.

Further, the CSR communication through the websites of the water utilities is affected as what

the OpenSignal stipulated that the internet speed and availability performed poorly. The

Philippines ranked 74th out of the 77. This poor speed and availability do not interest the

stakeholders to look for information on the web sites.

This result affirms communication on company web sites works only if people go there to look

for information, and at their current state many of the corporate websites are not very

interactive as they should be (Schmeltz 2012).


Conclusion

The CSR programs of the Philippine Public Water Utilities focused on the people and

environment. It specifically focuses around protection, rehabilitation and development of the

environment; education of the young people, medical outreach for both young and old; and

clean and safe water supply in schools and indigenous families.These affirm Carroll’s CSR

Pyramid to the fore: philanthropic, ethical, legal and economic responsibilities as well as

captures the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, 1998, p.3)

perspective on “the continuing commitment to behave ethically and contribute to economic

development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as

of the community and society at large”.

There is an adamant emphasis on the CSR which is beneficial to the stakeholders and the

sustainability of the water utilities’ operation. As the Philippines Business for Social Progress

(PBSP) and League of Corporate Foundations, Inc. (LCF) identified CSR as a business

principle which proposes the long-term sustainability of business is best served when

profitability and growth are attained alongside the development of communities, the protection

and sustainability of the environment, and the improvement of the people’s quality of life

(Sharma, 2010).

Further, majority of the CSR programs of the water districts are in partnership with other

government and private entities, and individuals. This shows that the CSR of the water districts

as Sohn (1982) stated corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned with the relationship

between a company and a society. It simply explains that both companies and society are

working together.
The active involvement and partnership of the government and private entities, and individuals

together with the water utilities specifically in the protection, rehabilitation and development

of the environment manifests the significance of the latter for the water supply. This further

shows the significant role of the watersheds to the existence of the water utilities, which points

that the company should be producing goods or services for the society while making a profit.

Thus, this simply define CSR as a company’s justification for existence (Eberle et al. 2013;

Sohn 1982).

CSR Communication through Website

While communication on the Internet has created a new freedom for everyone to both share

and find information (Scarlat and Maxim 2009), but only five water utilities placed a CSR page

on their website, eight reported their CSR activities under the news articles or updates, and

eleven did not post any information on their CSR. They only post information about their water

districts. These outcomes manifest that the water utilities are unable to maximize their web

sites in providing information to the public and online updates are inactive because of the poor

internet speed and availability. This result affirms CSR communication on company web sites

works only if people go there to look for information, and at their current state many of the

corporate websites are not very interactive as they should be (Schmeltz 2012).

Recommendation

Based on the results and findings of the study, the following recommendations are therefore

presented.

Maximize the use of the Water Utilities’ website. Communicating the CSR programs

through the water districts website should be maximized and given emphasis since creating a
website is for the sole purpose of transparency and easy access and dissemination of

information. rts.

Campaign the Public Water Utilities website. With the growth in communication

technology, the Water Utilities should campaign its website as an online source of CSR

information and feedback from the various stakeholders.

Conduct another research study. Conduct another study that takes into the cultural context

of online CSR Communication of the Philippine Public Water Utilities.

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