The responsibility of corporation in the public discourse. Differences and co-orientation between responsibility assessments made by corporations, media and citizens

Duration August 2015 until Juli 2018
Project Leader Prof. Dr. Ulrike Röttger
Institution Department of Communication
University of Münster
Bispinghof 9-14
48143 Münster
Funding Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)


The responsibility of corporations is discussed vividly in the public. Moreover, when it comes to issues such as energy revolution, financial crises or low wages, sceptical attitudes towards businesses become apparent. These doubts about the credibility of corporations and the diverging expectations may indicate an inconsistent understanding of the responsibility of corporations. While common research about corporate social responsibility (CSR) discusses mostly ideal conceptions, one important question remains: How are judgments on responsibility actually constructed in the public discourse? By comparing the perspectives of media, citizens and corporations, the research project aims at investigating factors influencing the attribution and evaluation of the responsibility of corporations as well as at detecting differences and co-orientation between corporations, media and citizens.


The research project is based on a structural theory model of reproduction and institutionalization of responsibility judgments in the public discourse. Therefore, a three-part methodological approach is pursued: a) a content analysis of messages published by corporations (self-image), b) a media content analysis (external image), and c) a survey focusing on citizens (external image). The comparison of these three perspectives allows conclusions on causes of the credibility problem and serves as a basis for developing solution strategies for societal-related problems.