This chapter describes how the empirical study has been performed. The choice of approach and technique, and other methodological issues concerned with the subject are described and discussed.
There are different ways of performing research and there are many different views on how to perform research in a correct way (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). However, this is dependent on how the researcher regards knowledge to be created. We have realised that the concept of CSR is more about individual interpretations rather than objective truths. We agree with Ritchie and Lewis (2003) who say that that the researcher and the social world have an im-pact on each other and that the researcher is influenced by perspectives and values when performing research. Hence, to be able to understand a subject of this nature an interpreta-tive approach is suitable, (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). By using both the understanding of the participants of the study as well as our understanding we will create an understanding of the phenomenon studied
Two main approaches on how to perform research are the quantitative and the qualitative approach (Berg, 2001; Holme & Solvang, 1997; Krag, 1993; Patel & Davidsson, 2003; Trost, 2005; Yin, 1994). These two approaches are different in the way information is gen-erated, processed and analysed (Patel & Davidsson, 2003). The quantitative method is more formalised and structured and the researcher is to a large extent in control. There is a dis-tance to the respondents in the empirical study and this method is mostly used for statisti-cal analysis (Holme & Solvang, 1997; Patel & Davidsson, 2003). The qualitative method has a low level of formalisation and its purpose is mainly about understanding. This methodo-logical approach is signified by closeness to the individuals in the empirical study (Holme & Solvang, 1997). The purpose and problem of the study should serve as a guide for which method to choose (Patel & Davidsson, 2003). The goal is not to draw general conclusions about a particular subject, but to gain a deeper understanding of the problem we are studying therefore it is suitable to use a qualitative approach (Holme & Solvang, 1997; Patel & Davidsson, 2003; Trost, 2005).
It is fundamental to be able to interpret and analyse the information in order to understand the implications or consequences of CSR. The advantage of the qualitative approach is that it increases the flexibility while gathering the empirical material, since we can adapt and adjust the empirical research as well as the questions asked during the work process. How-ever, the weakness of using a qualitative method is that it is very much dependent on the researcher, since the researcher interprets the information gathered the study will be sub-jective to some extent (Holme & Solvang, 1997). Nonetheless, we believe that a qualitative approach is most appropriate for our study and that the advantages exceed the disadvan-tages with this methodological approach. Due to the fact that the focus of a qualitative ap-proach is to observe a smaller group and interpret and the underlying patterns, see how they perceive their social environment and how they interpret their and other peoples be-haviour.
The material collected through a qualitative approach is not meant to be used by itself but should be interpreted with help of a theoretical perspective to make it interesting (Trost, 2005). There are three alternatives that can be used in the working process of relating the-ory and empirics: deduction, induction and abduction (Patel & Davidsson, 2003).
Regarding deduction, the researcher adapts everything to a specific theory or theoretical framework. The theory decides what empirical material that should be collected, how this material of information is interpreted and how the analysis should be performed. This is to a large extent an impartial method of research because of the focus on an existing theory, although the theory used will colour the research to a large extent and the researcher might therefore not discover new things during the study. When working in an inductive way the researcher is performing an empirical study without a theoretical base, instead the collected empirical material formulate a theory. There is an attempt of subjectivity since the research will to a large extent be tainted by the researchers ideas and perceptions and thereby lose objectivity (Patel & Davidsson, 2003).
Regarding our study it cannot be considered strictly inductive nor strictly deductive. We had a frame of reference that we worked from when performing the empirical study and therefore the study cannot be regarded as inductive. However, the frame of reference was not complete and we diverted from it and modified it during the process, therefore the study cannot be viewed as purely deductive. Rather a mix between the two different meth-ods is applicable. Abduction, which is rather common in qualitative studies, can be seen as a combination of deduction and induction. It means that from one empirical event it is possible to create a hypothesis or theory, which is tested on new empirical observations (Patel & Davidsson, 2003). We created a frame of reference according to the theories about CSR and from the first observations we created thoughts or hypotheses on how the an-swers were to be from the respondents and from there adjusting the frame of reference. By doing the empirical research as well as gaining the knowledge from the frame of reference we got a wider comprehension of the topic and are therefore hopefully able to give a more understandable picture of the area studied. Hence, we think that an abductive approach was most suitable for our study. However, there is a drawback with the abductive approach as well, since the researcher is tainted from his or her earlier experiences or research and that affects the outcome of the study. We have been interested in the topic of CSR before starting this study but we did not have much experience in the field. Although, previous knowledge and preferences might have affected the study, nevertheless we have tried to remain as unbiased as possible when collecting data and analysing the results.
The qualitative approach contains many different options, such as interviews, focus groups, case studies and so on (Seale, Gobo, Gubrium & Silverman, 2004). When we started to think about the thesis we considered using focus groups, but because of practical reasons we had to put that idea aside. Instead we decided to use interviews as research method. Ac-cording to Riley et al. (2000) interviews are often said to provide a richness of data, as long as the collected data is carefully interpreted. Regarding the purpose of the thesis we believe that an interview study is a suitable method. Since it gives us a deeper understanding of the subject studied as well as a comprehension of how individuals involved in CSR interpret this concept and the consequences of it.
An interview can be unstructured, semi-structured or structured. An unstructured interview contains no questions that are planned ahead, but all questions arise while performing the interview. A structured interview has predetermined questions with fixed options for re-sponse. A semi-constructed interview have traits from both the structured and the unstructured interview since questions and discussion areas are set before hand but during the interview the interviewer can ask additional questions that may arise (Lee, 1999; Berg, 2001). For this study we have chosen to use a semi-structured method for interviewing, which means that a framework of questions or discussion areas were set up before per-forming the interviews but we were able to divert from them when needed (Appendix 1, 2, 3). We also adjusted the questions according to the answers received from the person in-terviewed, which is possible in a semi-structured interview (Krag, 1993). This method of collecting data therefore gave us the possibility of asking more questions during the inter-view outside the set framework of questions. We did this in order to get a clearer picture of something or if we found something especially interesting that we wanted the interviewee to describe further. When having this flexibility the interviewees are given a higher level of freedom to give extensive answers and this facilitates the process of analysing and com-paring the information received (Krag, 1993).
Trost (2005) adheres that questions in a qualitative interview should be characterised by simple straightforward questions with complex and dense answers. We tried to formulate the questions so that they would be easily comprehended and the questions were slightly modified for each group of interviewees, since we had three different groups (will be fur-ther described in section 3.2.2), so that it suited each particular group. Some of the ques-tions were about the negative and positive aspects about a specific matter and those ques-tions were separated, so we asked one question about the negative and one about the posi-tive aspects so that the interviewee would understand and answer both parts of the ques-tion, which is suggested by Trost (2005). All the interviews were performed in Swedish and the questions and answers were later translated to English.
One of the strengths with qualitative interviews is that the situation is very similar to an or-dinary everyday situation and an ordinary conversation. By having this situation disturbing factors and bias can be eliminated to a large extent and will thereby give a more trustworthy result (Holme & Solvang, 1997). Trost (2005) mentions that it is important for the person interviewed to feel safe and relaxed in the environment where the interview is taking place. Regarding the interviews that were done face-to-face almost all of the interviewees were able to decide on the place where to perform the interviews, which we judge as a place where they feel safe and relaxed. Most of the interviews that were performed face-to-face were held at the representatives’ headquarters. Although, one of the interviewees we met at a café and for another respondent we prepared a classroom at Jönköping University where the interview could be carried through.
During the interviews one of us took notes and one of us asked questions, when needed the other person filled in or explained if something was unclear. The interviews were re-corded with an mp3 player. This has been helpful since we could concentrate more on lis-tening during the interview and afterwards we have been able to listen to the interviews over and over again, which is mentioned by Trost (2005) as well as Seale et al. (2004) as one of the advantages of recording. All of the interviewees accepted that we recorded the inter-view. The time varied quite a lot in time, from about fifteen minutes to one and a half hours for each interview. The interviews made over the telephone came out to be shorter than the interviews done face-to-face. The representatives for the ethically driven compa-nies tended to extend their answers and talk more than the persons interviewed in the other groups. This might give us a clearer picture of these companies since we were given more information. We sent the interview guide to the interviewees if they asked for it, but we did not send them any specific questions but only areas for discussion (Trost, 2005). This was made in order to get spontaneous and authentic answers. From the process we have realised that it is difficult to perform interviews in an objective way, when not having experi-ence in the field. However, Seale et al. (2004) adhere that there is no ideal interviewer since there will always be several influences on the interview regarding age, gender, body lan-guage an so on.
Sample Selection and Interview Process
There are many different ways of choosing individuals for an interview, however the selec-tion is a significant part of the research process since it directly affects the outcome. The selection of the sample is not made randomly for qualitative interviews but is made strate-gically to fit the study (Holme & Solvang, 1997). Riley et al. (2000) call this convenience sampling where the selection is based on the purpose of the study and the people available for an interview. For this study it was necessary to get a broad sample that reflected several angles of the problem, but still had relevant knowledge and connection to CSR. We wanted to perform interviews with people that are engaged and are driven by these type of issues. Therefore, some research was performed by reading newspapers and searching the Internet to get an overview of CSR in Sweden. Before we performed any interviews a lecture by Björn Söderberg was attended, it was about “Being an entrepreneur and make profit on something that is good for others”.
Ethically driven SME’s
We made an interview with Söderberg for about one hour right after his lecture in a class-room at Jönköping International Business School. Söderberg told us about his companies that are situated in Nepal and fully owned by him. Watabaran is a company producing pa-per products from recycled paper and WebSearch Professional is a website development company that only employ women. Fair Enterprise Network is a network working with companies that have social responsibility as a foundation and both Watabaran and Web-Search Professional are part of this network. Being inspired by Söderberg’s lecture and his way of doing business we started to look for similar companies, SME’s with a clear focus on ethical questions. We asked Söderberg of companies that he regards as ethical and he mentioned among others Dem Collective, Fair Unlimited and Scandic Hilton. Dem Col-lective and Fair Unlimited are both SME’s that have taken a clear ethical standpoint, which serves as the foundation in these companies. Dem Collective is a company that produces clothes in Sri Lanka and its value chain is considered to be fair in all its steps. Fair Unlim-ited is an economic association having lectures about fair trade and sells fair trade labelled goods, which are produced in developing countries, to companies. During the following weeks we emailed these two companies. From an email conversation with one of the foun-ders and owners of Dem Collective, Annika Axelsson, we decided to meet at Café Publik in Gothenburg. The interview was held at a café and therefore it was some disturbing ele-ments, such as music playing and people walking by, which might have affected the trust-worthiness of the interview although not to a large extent. This was the longest interview, which was about one and a half hours, and although Axelsson is a rather talkative and ex-pressive person we realised that we had to revise the questions for the next interview. We tried to keep the interviews to an hour so that the interviewees as well as interviewer could stay concentrated during this time. We revised the questions, as suggested by Trost (2005) and realised that several questions were similar and not completely relevant. Fair Unlimited was the last company that represented the ethically driven SME’s. Via email we decided to-gether with Daniel Mensch, the CEO of Fair Unlimited who is also one of the owners and founders of the company, to have a telephone interview. We phoned his office in Stock-holm and the interview went smoothly for about one hour and it worked well with the re-vised questions.
LSE’s working with CSR
Another group of companies that we found interesting, when searching and reading within the field of CSR, were the Swedish ambassadors for CSR. These companies are large Swedish corporations that are part of an EU project regarding CSR, Swedish Partnership for Global Responsibility. This project is an initiative that aims at encouraging Swedish companies to be ambassadors for human rights, anti-corruption and a decent and sound environment all over the world and the companies joined this project in September 2003. We sent an identical email to all of the companies that are part of the project, where we ex-plained the purpose or our study and asked if they wanted to meet us for an interview. H&M, Vattenfall, ICA and Löfbergs Lila responded and through email conversations we decided to meet representatives from H&M, ICA and Vattenfall at their headquarters in Stockholm and with the representative from Löfbergs Lila a telephone interview was suit-able. At H&M we met Karolina Dubowicz, who is responsible for communication and in-formation at the CSR department, for about 45 minutes. At ICA we met Lisbeth Kohls, who is Senior Vice President for Corporate Responsibility, and performed an interview for about 45 minutes. At Vattenfall we met Åsa Pettersson, who is Coordinator Public Affairs and project leader for CSR reporting, for about 40 minutes. With Kathrine Löfberg, who is the Marketing Director at Löfbergs Lila, a telephone interview was performed for about 30 minutes. The fifth company, Scandic Hilton, which is also a large corporation is not part of the EU project as the others. Why we chose to approach the company was due to the fact that one of the interviewees Björn Söderberg, recommended us to contact Scandic Hilton because of the company’s extensive work with CSR. By email we decided to have an inter-view over the phone with Jan Peter Bergkvist, Director of Sustainability at Scandic Hilton, it took around 30 minutes. The questions that we had formulated for this group of respon-dents worked well and we just minor adjustments during the process.
Since we wanted to get a nuanced and balanced picture of CSR we realised that we needed to involve some independent thinkers who are involved and engaged in CSR questions, but who are not representing a particular company. Thus, these independent thinkers are not representing a company’s opinion but rather their individual thoughts, although their or-ganisation and company might share their views. In a relatively early stage in the process we attended a lecture by Alf Svensson, MP and former party leader of Kristdemokraterna, “Ethics – the road to success” at Jönköping University in March. After the lecture we agreed with Svensson to perform an email interview. Svensson is a supporter of ethics and thinks that corporate social responsibility is of importance for the Swedish society. This spring there has been a vivid debate regarding ethics and CSR in the Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet. Mats Qviberg started the debate by saying that companies should not involve in ethics or CSR. When following this debate we realised that it would be interest-ing to include Qviberg in our study. We contacted his secretary via email and received a time when we could call him. This interview turned out to be very short, around 15 min-utes, and there were also some interruptions were Qviberg had to take another phone call and so on. This might have affected the trustworthiness of the study, still this interview came out to be very valuable as contrast towards most of the other interviewees’ view of CSR. However, the third independent thinker agrees with the ideas of Qviberg. Kristian Karlsson and his book Avlatsindustrin, released this spring, were mentioned by Qviberg in the debate on Svenska Dagbladet, Qviberg has also written the foreword to this book. Karlsson is also critical towards the CSR movement and try to work against it. We there-fore made contact with Kristian Karlsson by email and decided to make a phone interview.
This was the last interview conducted in our study and it ran smoothly without any distur-bance for about 35 minutes. Karlsson is very articulate and were able to explain the thoughts of the critics in a sensible way, which increases the trustworthiness of the study.
It was important for the study to also integrate a more negative or critical perspective on CSR, since most of the companies that are embracing CSR think positively about it, to be able to do a balanced and to the largest extent possible an unbiased analysis.
Berg (2001) adheres that an interview can be performed by phone, Internet or by a meeting and we have used all of these. The most preferable way is to meet the person interviewed and we did that for five interviews (Berg, 2001). It was not possible to meet all of the re-spondents and therefore five interviews were held over the phone and one via email. How-ever, we do believe that the result would have turned out even better if we could have met all of the respondents, since we lost some of the trust that is built up during a meeting, the face-to -face contact and body language when interviewing over the phone or Internet (Trost, 2005).
In addition, we experienced that misunderstanding arise more easily when not meeting face to face. When having an interview over the phone with one of the respondents the conver-sation started with a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding was regarding the purpose of the thesis and that we wanted a nuanced picture of the situation of CSR in Sweden, in-stead the interviewee gave the impression that we accused him for being against CSR. Even though we had contacted and thoroughly explained the purpose and problem of the study, this obstacle arose. The misunderstanding was very hard to overcome during the interview and together with several interruptions during this time, probably indicating that the inter-viewee was very stressed, the interview turned out to be rather short. The outcome of the interview would probably have been significantly improved if we could have met the inter-viewee face to face and in that way overcome the barrier of misunderstandings. There were also some obstacles arising regarding the email interview. We met Svensson after his lecture and asked him for an interview, together we decided to perform an interview via email. We sent the questions to the respondent, but we did not receive any response. We therefore made contact again after a few weeks and suggested that if he did not have enough time he could just answer some of the questions. After another few weeks we received an email with rather short and concise answers. Since we regarded Svensson as a significant and im-portant respondent for our study we made the decision to include the interview although not all of the questions were answered. We could have overcome this obstacle by having a fact to face interview, although it was not possible due to the interviewee’s demanding schedule.
Nevertheless, obstacles can arise even though there is a meeting face to face, which we ex-perienced when were in Stockholm to perform an interview. The interviewee arrived about ten minutes late and she told us that the company had been accused of having a supplier that is using child labour and that she later on was to be in Danish TV to discuss this mat-ter. In spite of this incident we could perform the interview and although the interviewee was under stress she was very professional and answered all the questions and gave us the material we needed. As mentioned earlier the interviews were recorded. An obstacle that arose in relation to this was that one of the interviewees had a hard time to express her opinions clearly while being recorded and talked much more freely when the mp3 player was turned off, this is rather common according to Seale et al.(2004).
Trustworthiness is about having quality in the performed study. Validity and reliability are concepts that are often mentioned with regards to trustworthiness and the quality of data collection. Regarding the qualitative research the concept of validity concerns the whole re-search process in the qualitative study, which means that it is not only related to the collec-tion of data (Patel & Davidsson, 2003). The validity is strengthened if the researchers are able to grasp ambiguous and contradictory matters from the study, which we regard as one of the strengths with our study of the three groups. The concept of reliability is interpreted in the qualitative study, in contrast to the quantitative study, as dependent on the subject studied and therefore we do not expect the respondents to have exactly the same answers if the interviews were done over again. Nevertheless, the reliability is high since new perspec-tives and knowledge about the views on CSR have been brought forth by our study.
Regardless of the obstacles arising during the study we consider it to have a high degree of trustworthiness. We have tried to do trustworthy interpretations of the interviewees and have tried to grasp ambiguous and contradicting information to be able to create a valid picture of the subject studied. We have also tried to be conscious of disturbing factors, such as misunderstandings, own interpretations and interruptions, when collecting the em-pirical material in order to increase the trustworthiness of the study. The use of the mp3 player, semi-structured interviews as well as the closeness to the interviewees that we met face to face contribute to the trustworthiness of the study. Holme and Solvang (1997) add that the validity in a qualitative study is ensured by the closeness to the object studied and it gives freedom to the empirical study, compared to a quantitative study.
Due to the number of interviews as well as representatives form the different groups show several angles of the subject studied and thereby increase the trustworthiness. There are relatively large differences between the three groups and if for example the critical respon-dents would have been excluded from the study the outcome would have looked very much different. The study would then have been more biased towards a positive view of CSR. In addition, a good qualitative analysis has a good logic where all parts related and create a meaningful whole (Patel & Davidson, 2003). We think that the difference among the interviewees has created a vivid picture of the phenomenon studied and that by pre-senting and relating all the parts the outcome turned out to be very meaningful.
Analysis and interpretation
Holme & Solvang (1997) adhere that there are no given routines, procedures or techniques for drawing conclusions or making analysis from qualitative research data. They regard the analysis of the information given as the most difficult part of qualitative methods since the material needs to be organised and structured after the information is collected. Neverthe-less, Patel and Davidsson (2003) mention that it is valuable to analyse the empirical material during the working process and not wait until all the material is collected, as is often the case with quantitative data. Hence, we have continuously evaluated and discussed the mate-rial and compared them with the frame of reference to get a clear picture of the analysis of the study. By doing this we have come up with new ideas and become aware of some inter-view questions not being clear enough and consequently modified them during the process.
By formulating research questions in connection to the purpose of the study as well as the frame of reference we could focus on the most important empirical material and create a sensible structure. The empirical findings as well as the analysis are built on the structure from the research questions to get a clear understanding (Patton, 1990). Our aim with the analysis is to discuss and answer the research questions. The empirical material collected from the interviews will be analysed together with the frame of reference, which will create a foundation from where the conclusions will be drawn. In the conclusion we will fulfil the purpose of the thesis.
Table of content
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.4 Outline of the Thesis
2 Frame of Reference
2.1 Disposition of Frame of Reference
2.2 Contemporary History and the Driving Forces
2.3 What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
2.4 Stakeholder Management Approach
2.5 Shareholder Perspective
2.6 Different Expressions of CSR
2.7 Benefits of CSR
2.8 Obstacles related to CSR
2.10 Summary of the Frame of Reference
3.1 Research Approach
3.2 Data Collection
3.4 Analysis and interpretation
4 Empirical Findings
4.1 Concept of CSR
4.2 Stakeholder relationships
4.3 Development and motives for CSR
4.4 Advantages and disadvantages of working with CSR
4.5 Future development of CSR in Sweden
5 Analysis and Interpretations
5.1 Concept of CSR
5.2 Stakeholder relationships
5.3 Development and motives for CSR
5.4 Advantages and disadvantages working with CSR
5.5 Future development of CSR in Sweden
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CSR – here to stay or a fad that will fade away? A Study of Corporate Social Responsibility in Sweden