Posted: November 8th, 2023
Corporate Social Responsibility Communication in the Hotel Industry: An Analysis of Corporate Websites
Corporate Social Responsibility Communication in the Hotel Industry: An Analysis of Corporate Websites
Many companies establish and maintain positive brand images by committing to satisfying the various needs of stakeholders. One of the strategic approaches applied to achieve this feat because of its impact on stakeholder relationships is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The business concept refers to the idea that enterprises have a responsibility toward the society in which it operates. Organizations that embrace CSR are structured in a way meant to positively impact society. Therefore, CSR can be perceived as a type of corporate self-regulation that mirrors a firm’s commitment to the betterment and wellbeing of communities. Tilt (2016) states that CSR is imperative to building a company’s reputation, brand perception, and attractiveness to stakeholders. The need for businesses to operate in the community’s best interest highlights a change in what is considered business success. The successful company understands that business goes beyond profitability.
The hotel industry has been increasing its focus on CSR through the concept of sustainable tourism. The concept refers to tourism practice that benefits the environment, the economy, and adjacent communities (Palacios-Florencio et al., 2021). The destinations where people visit are made to ensure residents benefit from improved economic and environmental welfare. The main focus of sustainable tourism can be reduced to five goals: (1) conserving the environment, biodiversity, and natural resources, (2) providing socio-economic benefits to adjacent communities, (3) protecting cultural heritage, (4) increasing the collaboration between local communities and tourists, and (5) establishing inclusive tourism opportunities (Palacios-Florencio et al., 2021). Sustainable tourism also has its financial underpinnings as environmental and cultural preservations results in the continuity of the economic sector.
Engaging in CSR might be more important for companies in the hospitality industry compared to other economic segments. The characteristics of businesses in the service industry, especially the hotel sector, make socio-political practices salient to several desired objectives. Singal and Rhou (2017) assert that hotels that engage in CSR enhance their brand awareness, perceived credibility, and loyalty among customers. An example of the Marriot chain of hotels, which has managed to maintain a large customer base because of its support for minority-related issues, is provided. The commercial benefits of participating in social initiatives include the customer’s willingness to pay higher prices (Singal & Rhou, 2017). Hotels that are able to maintain their clients are able to survive even the harshest economic conditions. Research has shown that customers will pay more for services they perceive to be green and sustainable in restaurants (Singal & Rhou, 2017). There is a case to believe that firms known for their CSR are likely to be forgiven for failure or scandals. All the mentioned potential advantages of CSR highlight the importance of having effective CSR communication.
Purpose of the Study
The study aims to examine the state of corporate social communication in the hotel industry via an analysis of corporate websites. Enterprises in the hotel industry need to perform some form of competitor regulation. Differentiation is one method used by hotels to break away from their competition. Singal and Rhou (2017) state that CSR is a common method hotels use to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The report’s point of focus will assess how hotels have been able to separate themselves from others by integrating CSR into their corporate websites. There is minimal research on how CSR pages in hotel websites have developed into strategic tools for branding.
Corporate Social Responsibility.
Bogetic et al. (2016) conducted a metadata analysis of literature on CSR to derive a standardized definition of managers’ perceptions of the concept. The assessment looked at what the managers said and what they did to achieve CSR. According to the analysis, CSR is a business framework that assists the company in being socially responsible to its stakeholders and the public (Bogetic et al. 2016). Managers perceive CSR practice as a double-edged sword because it facilitates the betterment of various aspects of society while improving brand image. CSR was perceived to have a positive mediated effect on consumer perceptions of trust and transparency. The finding mirrors Singal and Rhou’s (2017) belief that Marriott International has been able to maintain its large consumer base because of its perceived trust and transparency. The hotel’s participation in minority issues makes it seem trustworthy to many customers.
Du and Vieira (2012) claim that CSR is a tool used by companies to increase their legitimacy. Companies in the oil industry employ the practice to enhance their perceived lawfulness (Spence, 2010). A longitudinal observation of CSR application in six oil companies is applied to assess the nature of CSR activities implemented and the strategies used for CSR implementation. The findings of the paper highlight a relationship between legitimacy and customer loyalty (Du & Vieira, 2012). The organizations that successfully conform and apply CSR demonstrate cultural allegiance, which accords them legitimacy status. The loyalty associated with legitimacy becomes a driver of corporate objectives. The article’s finding mirror Bogetic et al.’s (2016) research, which also found a mediated relationship between CSR and trust. A socially responsible company is associated with higher employee and customer retention levels. The same companies benefit from a better pull effect on potential investors.
Ajayi and Mmutie conduct a content analysis of CSR communication in ten major South African organizations to assess the impact of the practice on a brand’s reputation. The underpinning research question was whether CSR contributes to a brand. The study results indicate that most organizations adopt CSR for self-serving purposes (Ajavi & Mmutie, 2021). The findings of the study suggest that there is high awareness among managers of the importance of CSR in driving organizational objectives. The results indicate the transformation of CSR from an ethical practice to a performance prerequisite. Such an assertion aligns with claims that companies use CSR to improve their competitiveness. Building a strong brand reputation is one way to differentiate yourself from competitors and secure a loyal consumer base (Reckmann, 2023). Differentiation and competitiveness are indicative of the self-serving purposes behind the implementation of CSR.
Tilt (2016) offers a different approach to studies defining CSR. The study entails a metadata analysis of literature to examine the influence of context in the implementation of CSR. According to the assessment, corporate attributes, such as size, financial performance, risk, and industry, influence the contextual application of CSR (Tilt, 2016). The research also identifies general contextual factors impacting the implementation of the process. For instance, the country of origin, media participation, and cultural factors were all identified in the literature as influential (Tilt, 2016). The findings suggest the possibility of political influences on the success of CSR. The concept is more likely to be applied in developed economies than in emerging economies. The trend also suggests the potential influence of funds on the likelihood of CSR being implemented. There is a significant lack of scientific literature assessing how context influences the likelihood of implementation and the chances of success.
Capriotti and Moreno (2007) assess the concept of corporate citizenship as applied in public relations. As per the research article, the main reason companies adopt CSR is to grow into corporate citizens. The article finds that while CSR is not a new concept, the understanding of corporate citizenry is relatively new. Many companies do not understand how CSR can be applied to generate support and favour from political regimes. Companies with strong CSR activities and outcomes were more associated with political support (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007). However, there is inconclusive evidence of whether CSR implementation results in political support in all contexts. More longitudinal examination of the process is required in different economies to generate a standardized conclusion. A more comprehensive framework for assessing political influences on CSR and CSR reporting is required. It should be clarified whether the variables are discreet or likely to interact.
Turkel and Akan (2015) conduct a longitudinal observation of the Turkish industry to assess the definition of CSR communication. According to the authors, CSR communication refers to anticipating stakeholder CSR expectations, articulating CSR policy, and managing organizational communication tools meant to enhance transparency (Turkel & Akan, 2015). Apart from the definition, the article also looks at the different communication strategies used by companies to convey their CSR values. According to the review, businesses will use different means, such as product labels, media relations, news reports, commercial advertisements, and corporate websites, to achieve the goal above. Turkel and Akan (2015) posit that corporate websites are not perceived as passive channels for releasing information in CSR. CSR employs the web to induce active participation in consumers on CSR-related topics. CSR participation is highlighted as important in providing constructive feedback on what the company’s focus should be when implementing public projects.
Nielsen and Thomsen (2018) hypothesize that the main goal of CSR communication is to enhance the legitimacy perspective. Du and Vieira (2012) established that companies pursue CSR to enhance their legitimacy, which is a self-serving purpose. CSR communication looks at the strategies, tools, and media to be used to ensure the effective achievement of this feat. While other studies posit that CSR drives corporate legitimacy, Nielsen and Thomsen (2018) argue that legitimacy must be present for effective CSR communication. The study informs how a brand is perceived outside influences the acceptance of CSR messages. Some degree of legitimacy is required for consumers to give time to CSR communication to consider the message. Perception and impact of CSR activities were found to be most influential in enhancing the acceptance of CSR communication (Nielsen & Thomsen, 2018). Overall, it is learned that some communication strategies and practices are more effective than others.
Ajayi and Mmutie (2021) research also sought to measure how CSR communication contributes to a company’s brand reputation. The research looks at the channels and tools used to communicate and how they convey the organization’s reputation. According to the study, companies invest in particular communication channels to appear more reputable (Ajayi & Mmutie, 2021). Companies that are able to invest in the development of corporate websites for their CSR communication are hypothesized to have more impact on consumer awareness than the conveyance of the messages via print and television media. The more formal a channel looks and operates affects its perceived credibility, in turn influencing its ability to influence customer perceptions. Corporate websites are perceived as more formal communication platforms than social media because they are owned and managed by the company.
Ingenoff and Sommer (2011) conducted a quantitative analysis of CSR reports from various organizations and undertook qualitative interviews with communications executives to assess the factors influencing CSR communication. The study finds that company motives are one of the main influential factors behind the medium and message (Ingenoff & Sommer, 2011). For instance, if the company wanted more social engagement, social media, and TV commercials were preferred. Another influential factor was stakeholder expectations. Turkel and Ana’s (2015) definition of CSR communication includes the anticipation of stakeholder expectations. Because of stakeholder expectations, CSR reports from companies tend to be filled with information on philanthropic activities. It is common practice to mention the names and faces behind CSR-based philanthropy. However, the altruistic motives were more associated with anticipated financial benefits, with funders differentiating themselves from competitors (Ingenoff & Sommer, 2011). The stakeholders in the interviews were mostly unable to mention explicit CSR activities despite being mentioned in the reports.
Morsing et al. (2019) introduce a different perspective on ESR communication by highlighting the impact of governments and company size. The research is based on the Communication Constitutes Organization (CCO) theory to assess the dilemmas that face companies and governments in CSR communication. According to the findings, large companies face fewer challenges in CSR communication because they are able to enforce application along the supply chain, which means participation by suppliers (Morsing et al., 2019). As a result, their message is able to reach wider audiences. Small and medium enterprises do not benefit from such channels. As a result, there CSR communication is subject to identity disruptions (Morsing et al., 2019). CSR reporting is mandatory, yet small businesses tend not to engage in the practice due to technical difficulties. Even if small businesses engage in the practice, the lack of consistency and the nature of the communication is insufficient in promoting socially responsible practice (Morsing et al., 2019). The overall message is that businesses that promote CSR reporting are large in size.
Relevance of CSR in Corporate Websites
Erstock and Leichty (1998) performed one of the earliest assessments of CSR on corporate web pages. The over two-decade-old research involved a random sample of Fortune 500 companies, finding that each at least had one CSR message on its corporate website. Most of the messages centred on community involvement, community health, education, and environmental concerns. The number of CSR activities included in a website was found to have a positive correlation with the company size (Erstock & Leichty, 1998). Larger multinational organizations were associated with more CSR communication on their web pages. Such organizations have engaged in more CSR activities and thus have more content to output. Contrastingly, small companies have engaged in fewer and less complex CSR initiatives, meaning less content to disclose. The finding mirrors Morsing et al.’s (2019) understanding of how company size influences the chances of CSR reporting and the effectiveness of CSR reporting.
Schroder (2021) undertakes a content analysis of corporate websites from over 70 financial institutions to examine the nature of CSR communication conveyed in the web platforms. The researchers assessed the websites based on the four CSR categories: environmental, energy, products, and community involvement. The findings highlight that most of the CSR communication by banks centres on product and service promotion (Schroder, 2021). While other scientific studies assessed how company size influences ESR communication, Schroder informs that the industry or economic sector will equally influence company disclosures. Since banks are capital-market oriented, they tend to focus more on products and customer relationships. The finding reiterates the importance of understanding context when assessing CSR communication in corporate websites.
The government is cited as a determinant of the type of CSR disclosures that companies will make via their corporate websites. Wanderley et al. (2008) carried out a metadata survey of the type of CSR content published on companies’ corporate websites in different countries. The research included 127 companies from eight South America, Asia, and African emerging economies. According to the findings, the country of origin significantly impacts CSR content disclosures on the web (Wanderley et al., 2008). In Thailand and Indonesia, there is government censorship regarding particular public information. Oversight is meant to ensure that the CSR messages do not convey bad images about the people or the government. However, the research does not outline whether the government factor influences CSR participation by local and foreign investors. Important to recall is that stakeholders have anticipations, including financial gains, from engaging in CSR. They might be discouraged from participating if they are not mentioned in particular initiatives.
Rim’s (2010) survey posits that the customer base influences companies’ tendency to use corporate websites to display CSR information. The article conducts quantitative research on ESR website disclosures in different companies, assessing their content and comparing it to customer use of company websites. According to the finding, companies where customers tend to engage with the company more, are obliged to disclose their CSR activities online (Rim, 2010). Such organizations are normally large and have a deeper market reach for their communication. Small companies where customer engagement is more via phone or face-to-face were less obliged to disclose CSR information online (Rim, 2010). However, the finding does not imply the size of the customer base is what influences the chances of ESR disclosure. The article articulates it is the frequency of website use determines the probability of companies outputting their CSR information. Therefore, large organizations will little followership do not have the need to display their information online.
Sharma (2019) highlights the importance of corporate websites outputting CSR information as part of cultural compliance. The researcher conducted a quantitative review of website CSR disclosures among top Chinese firms. According to the article, it is a compulsory cultural practice in China for firms to report on their CSR initiatives online (Sharma, 2019). Digital media is used to make the cultural practice more purposeful. Web platforms are used because they are cheaper and include links for additional information on company CSR activities. In a time of brand perception wars, the more information a company is able to output influences the perceived quality of its initiatives. Therefore, there is both a financial and cultural impetus for web disclosures. However, the cultural factor is mediated by the country of origin.
Gaps in Literature
The literature review identifies that there is a significant lack of scientific evidence on the use of corporate websites in CSR, especially in the hospitality sector. Studies on CSR communication have mostly centred on outcomes and their use in establishing brand reputation or influencing brand perceptions. An example is Sharma’s (2019) assessment of how the oil industry uses CSR to counter its environmental impacts and improve brand perceptions. However, there is minimal focus on the technicalities and strategies behind CSR communication. There is a great need for scientific evidence that focuses on web practices in CSR to enhance the quality of web-based interactive tools applied to improve CSR awareness, support, and implementation. Based on the identified gaps, the following questions will need to be answered:
The research will follow the tenets of quantitative content analysis to assess CSR communication practices in the Hotel industry. Scacco and Coe (2017) describes content analysis as a set of procedures designed for the systematic, repeatable evaluation of textual data. The process entails the classification of segments of text via the adoption of a structured coding scheme. The categorization process facilitates the identification of emerging themes and patterns. Since the researcher specifies the process used to classify text, the research becomes replicable and in line with the features of credible scientific research. Scacco and Coe (2017) informs that the successful execution of a content analysis is reliant on the researcher paying close attention to (1) the unitizing classes for the texts, (2) the sampling process, (3) research reliability, and (4) research validity. Reliability is achieved by ensuring the codes are consistent, whereas validity is achieved by using a coding formula that mirrors the phenomena under study (Scacco & Coe, 2017). The research employed a tabular approach to the coding process for content analysis.
The content analysis will collect data from a defined set of inquiries to guide the observation process of the Hotel’s websites. The analysis will observe any communicative language on CSR in the selected websites, focusing on essential features of CSR activities. Therefore, a conceptual approach is used for the analysis. The process entails quantifying or counting on the presence of a concept in text, in this case, CSR information on the hotel websites. The main goal is to determine the frequency of occurrence of identified terms, images, or messages. The identified inquiries from the literature review will be used as guides for screening the samples. The proposed level of analysis will look at words, phrases, sentences, images, and themes. The selected filter must highlight some form of CSR issue, concept, or practice. Table 1 shows the categories that will be used to fill in observations for the content analysis.
Table 1: CSR Concepts and their Operational Definitions for the Content Analysis
|1||Organizational governance||The corporate website should provide information about their governance structure and practices, such as the board of directors, management team, etc…|
|2||Human rights||The corporate website should address its commitment to human rights, including: Due diligenceHuman rights risk situationsAvoidance of complicityResolving grievancesDiscrimination and vulnerable groupsCivil and political rightsEconomic, social and cultural rightsFundamental principles and Rights at work|
|3||Labour practices||The corporate website should provide information about their employment practices and policies, including: Employment and employment relationshipsConditions of work and social protectionSocial dialogue Health and safety at work Human development and training in the workplace|
|4||The environment||The hotel chain’s corporate website should showcase their environmental initiatives, including: Prevention of pollution Sustainable resource useClimate change mitigation and adaptation Protection of the environment, biodiversity and restoration of natural habitats|
|5||Fair operating practices||The corporate website should address their commitment to fair business practices and ethical behavior, including: Anti-corruptionResponsible political involvementFair competition Promoting social responsibility in the value chain Respect for property rights|
|6||Consumer issues||The corporate website should address their commitment to consumer protection, including: Fair marketing, factual and unbiased information and fair contractual practicesProtecting consumers’ health and safetySustainable consumptionConsumer service, support, and complaint and dispute resolutionConsumer data protection and privacyAccess to essential servicesEducation and awareness|
|7||Community involvement and development||The should highlight its commitment to supporting the communities where it operates, by providing information about its philanthropic activities, community engagement initiatives, such as: Community involvementEducation and cultureEmployment creation and skills developmentTechnology development and accessWealth and income creationHealthSocial investment|
The content analysis will also focus on the strategies used to communicate CSR issues and practices in the hotel industry. While table one looked at the presence of CSR concepts in company websites, another tabular representation, table 2, will be developed to highlight the type of CSR communication strategies.
Table 2: CSR Communication Strategies
|Category of tactics||Definition and Items|
|Expositive||Embedding CSR in corporate mission and values,Presenting factual arguments Showcasing awards Sustainability report|
|Interactive||Interactive tools on a website can offer a more engaging user experience and can be effective in increasing user engagement, retention, and conversion rates, including: Virtual tours.Interactive mapsInteractive quizzes or surveysInteractive graphics Hypertexts|
The research adopted probability sampling, specifically stratified sampling, to identify the six hotels that will be assessed in the study. Stratified sampling is a method used to enhance the accuracy and representativeness of results by minimizing sampling bias (Cesar & Carvalho, 2011). The method requires knowledge of the suitable characteristics of the sampling population (Cesar & Carvalho, 2011). For instance, the research acknowledges that CSR efforts in the hotel industry correlate with the size of the hotels. Big multinational firms have more to invest in CSR initiatives than state motels. Therefore, it was necessary for the study to include hotels of the same calibre, meaning they operate in several countries and have near similar annual bottom lines. Therefore, the first process in the stratified sampling involved dividing hotels based on their financial performance and global presence. The study sample was finalized by selecting equal samples from the stratum. The six identified multinational hotels for the study were Hyatt Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton Hotels, The Marriott International, Wyndham Hotels, and Accor Hotels. The table below shows the similarities behind the sampling population for the report.
|Hotel||Revenue||Profit/Loss||No. of Workers||Headquarters||No. of Hotels||No. of Countries||Link|
|Hyatt||$5.89 billion||Profit $2 billion||73750||Chicago||1350||worldwide||https://about.hyatt.com/en/world-of-care.html|
|IHG||$3.982 billion||$2.4 billion||13178||Denham, UK||5556||Over 100||https://www.ihgplc.com/en/responsible-business|
|Hilton||$8.7 billion||$2.04 billion||159000||McLean, Virginia||584||122||https://esg.hilton.com/|
|Marriott||$13.87 billion||$2.35 billion||121000||Bethesda, Maryland||2149||131||https://serve360.marriott.com/|
|Wyndham||$1.49 billion||746 million||8000||Parsippany, New Jersey||n/a||95||https://corporate.wyndhamhotels.com/social-responsibility/|
|Accor||$2.2 billion||862 million||84000||Issy, France||5100||101||https://group.accor.com/en/commitment|
The content analysis shows a significant effort put in by the various hotels to highlight their commitment to the natural, social, cultural, and economic environments. Corporate social responsibility is exhibited as one of the main tourism products on corporate websites. The quality of the images used, narratives conveyed, and the arrangement of the web pages interplay to determine the online user experience. From a collective standpoint, destination managers and critical decision-makers in the hotel sector are increasing their participation in ecologically sustainable practices. The trend mirrors Ettinger et al.’s (2018) assertion that the service industry will supersede manufacturing and processing in becoming sustainable. All six hotels display an above-average industry-level commitment to implementing CSR concepts. A major challenge identified in the corporate websites centres on the ability of the companies to measure their CSR performance. There is minimal information offers on the measurement of emissions, resource use, and waste. Most of the information centres on what the companies are doing but not the tangible achievements.
There is a considerable effort to integrate CSR into the larger corporate mission in the hotel industry. One of the most noticeable CSR communication strategies is that neither of the six hotels had a separate website for their CSR activities, with the exception of the Hilton. Even though CSR has dedicated webpages, the information is retrieved from the main corporate website. The marketing and communication approach implies the inseparability of CSR and business strategies in the hotel industry. Nevertheless, identified is that not all CSR issues receive equal attention by the hotels. Table three shows a categorization of the main issues conveyed by the CSR web pages. Organizational governance, environmental protection, fair business practices, and community development were the four main CSR themes identified by the research. The main themes might be reflective of the main socio-political issues impacting the hotel business in the global economy. The four CSR issues had 100% engagement from the six hotels.
The selective attention paid to CSR categories is equally evident in data sheet 1. All five hotels are intent on showing how their corporate governance is committed to address CSR. Labour practices and human rights are the second most prioritized CSR function in the hotel industry. All the selected hotels release public information regarding their labour practices and the state of their workplace with regard to employee welfare. There is also the mention of how the hotels do not engage in exploitative labour practices as once common in the hotel and fashion industries, such as the use of child labour.
One of the most noticeable messages was the commitment to eradicate discrimination for women and ethnic minorities. All five hotels depict the commitment to addressing the oppression of vulnerable groups and the promotion of their economic, social, and cultural rights. A trend that meets expectations is the five assessed hotels all committing to climate change mitigation and sustainable resource use. The protection of biodiversity is key to the continuity of the tourism sector, so its makes economic sense for the hotel industry to spear head efforts in environmental change. Consumer issues and fair operating practices are the least prioritized CSR-related practices in the hotel industry. Fair competition, data protection and privacy, and fair marketing all have financial inclinations, explaining why they might be less prioritized.
Table 3: CSR Action and Issues
|Hotels Actions & Issues||Hyatt||IHG||Hilton||Marriott||Wyndham|
|Organizational governance||Yes https://about.hyatt.com/en/world-of-care/caring-for-the-planet/climate-change-and-water-conservation.html||Yes https://www.ihgplc.com/-/media/ihg/files/responsible-business/2022-rbr/ihg-responsible-business-report-2022.pdf?la=en&hash=115A33AF9BD435895B864E3DE019AE1C||Yes https://vimeo.com/694056856||Yes http://serve360.marriott.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Serve-360-goals-page-tabloid_2-updated-20180916-English.pdf||Yes https://corporate.wyndhamhotels.com/a-message-from-our-ceo/|
|Human rights||Yes https://about.hyatt.com/en/world-of-care/caring-for-people/human-rights-trafficking.html||Yes https://www.ihgplc.com/en/responsible-business/modern-slavery||Yes https://hiltonglobalfoundation.hilton.com/||Yes https://serve360.marriott.com/||Yes https://corporate.wyndhamhotels.com/our-social-responsibility-commitments/|
|Labour practices||No||No||No||Yes https://serve360.marriott.com/#collapse-872376202||Yes https://s22.q4cdn.com/153757806/files/doc_downloads/2022/04/WHR-2022-ESG-Report.pdf|
|The environment||Yes https://about.hyatt.com/en/world-of-care/caring-for-the-planet/climate-change-and-water-conservation.html||Yes https://www.ihgplc.com/-/media/ihg/files/responsible-business/2022-rbr/2022-esg-databook.pdf?la=en&hash=C939BCCB8EDDDAB3D9BD80DDD0D90C0D||Yes https://esg.hilton.com/environment/||Yes https://serve360.marriott.com/#collapse-450004780||Yes https://corporate.wyndhamhotels.com/our-social-responsibility-commitments/|
|Fair operating practices||Yes https://about.hyatt.com/en/world-of-care/caring-for-the-planet/responsible-sourcing.html||Yes https://www.ihgplc.com/en/business/suppliers||Yes https://esg.hilton.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2023/04/Hilton-2022-Environmental-Social-and-Governance-Report.pdf||Yes https://serve360.marriott.com/#collapse-450004780||No|
|Consumer issues||No||Yes https://www.ihgplc.com/en/business/suppliers||Yes https://esg.hilton.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2023/04/Hilton-2022-Environmental-Social-and-Governance-Report.pdf||Yes https://serve360.marriott.com/#collapse-1100473401||No|
|Community involvement and development||Yes https://about.hyatt.com/en/world-of-care/caring-for-people/community-engagement.html||Yes https://www.ihgplc.com/en/responsible-business/modern-slavery||Yes https://esg.hilton.com/environment/||Yes https://serve360.marriott.com/#collapse-872376202||Yes https://corporate.wyndhamhotels.com/our-social-responsibility-commitments/|
Human rights equally benefited from substantial corporate attention, with five of the six (83.33%) of the assessed hotel websites containing the issue. The diversity of human rights issues was broad, ranging from the plight of refugees to the exploitation of child labour. Each hotel had a different human rights issue emphasized on its website. For instance, the Marriott hotel’s webpage shows the image of happy children enjoying water (highlighting the human right to basic needs), whereas Wyndham has content on human trafficking as the introduction to its CSR commitments. The CSR communication implies that a significant number of multinational hotels are willing to engage in conversations on human rights.
Consumer issues were the least prioritized by the CSR communication. Half of the participating hotels highlight a lack of consideration for consumer issues, such as privacy. However, the lack of information was only present on the CSR web pages. Wyndham contains some information on consumer protection on its news & media and ‘about us’ webpages. Therefore, CSR communication on corporate websites is not only reserved for the CSR web pages. The difference in CSR content could be explained by the divergence in communication tactics. The research shows there are deviations in strategic approaches based on the CSR action or issue being communicated. Table four was integrated into the research to help reveal whether there are industry differences in CSR communication strategies.
Table 4: CSR Communication Strategies
|issues||Information Resources||Feedback Resources|
|Fair Operating Practices||5||2||0||5||4||0|
The table indicates that expositive features in CSR communication dominate interactive features. From the content analysis, it is evident that hotels take the time to ensure consumers understand their contribution to environmental and social betterment. The main objective is that the consumer interacts with the website in navigating corporate performance on CSR initiatives. For instance, all six corporate websites have interactive hypertexts that direct the user to the company’s annual sustainability reports. In CSR issues where there are no measured efforts, communication is done in an expositive manner. One noticeable observation is that the expositive information displayed often makes references to industry-wide, available information. There was little effort to base the CSR references on customer reviews. The gap could explain why consumer issues were the least prioritized issue on the CSR websites.
Data sheet 2 also confirms that expositive features dominate interactive features in the corporate websites of the five assessed hotels. Expositive features had a score of 15 whereas interactive features had a score of 11. The hotels make sure their websites contain highly visible pages for their sustainability reports and awards. The visibility is a clear intent to employ CSR to improve their perceived brand image. The close relationship between CSR and brand image also explains why all five hotels include well described and visible CSR messages in their corporate mission webpages. There is the measuring of the impact of their CSR activities, which is why the hotels scored well in presenting factual information.
Discussion and Conclusion
This paper set out to study the status quo with regard to CSR communication practices in the hotel industry via an analysis of their corporate websites. The evaluation assesses the main CSR issues and topics covered in the corporate online platforms, contributing to a better understanding of what the companies are getting right and what they are getting wrong. The research finds that there is a considerable effort by multinational hotels around the world to provide CSR communication. Hotels are proving to be cultural, political, social, and environmentally conscious institutions. CSR communication is perceived not only as a regulatory requirement for business reporting but as an essential success factor in hotel branding. Companies in the service industry are using CSR to enhance their brand reputation and differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, the research recommends that the hotels integrate customer reviews as one of the primary CSR issues they cover. There is a significant lack of customer consideration in the CSR communication of hotels. Customers are stakeholders that need to be included in CSR dialogues to make CSR initiatives more successful.
Implications for Hotel Practice
The research finds that CSR communication in the hotel industry is still in its late infancy stage. The conveyance of corporate-related CSR initiatives and objectives is not an industry-wide practice, as the major hotels are mostly behind the communication. Therefore, there is unused potential in the application of CSR communication to bolster the image and operations of the hotel industry. All the assessed hotels have dedicated web pages for sharing communication on what the company has been doing to meet its CSR objectives. The web pages also highlight the dominant social justice issue that surrounds the hotels. Only the Hilton Hotel had a dedicated website for its CSR activities as opposed to relying on the main corporate website. However, none of the CSR communication web pages is interactive. Mostly focus on exposing the good aspects of what the companies are doing. Customers cannot comment or engage with support to derive more information on CSR activities. Ettinger et al. (2018) inform that the approach could impact consumer trust and confidence because there is a skewed exposition of CSR information.
Foremost, there is a need to promote CSR communication among medium and small-sized hotels. At the moment, the collective contribution of the hotel industry to societal well-being is going unnoticed because of the minimal information shared by small hotels. The fact that small hotels are less likely to convey CSR communication mirrors Erstock and Leichty’s (199) finding that the number of CSR activities included in a website was found to have a positive correlation with the company size. Family-owned establishments should be willing to engage consumers and provide CSR-related feedback on their operations. There is reason to believe that smaller hotels are nearer to the ground, meaning their participation might result in more sophisticated and successful CSR initiatives. Such an industry requirement mandates increased promotion of collaboration across different operational levels in the hotel industry. As long as corporations are from the same locale and working on the same social issues, collaboration should be encouraged.
The hotels need to include authority in their CSR communication. Currently, the assessed CSR communication implies that most major hotels approach CSR as a private function. Information on CSR projects, including challenges, experiences, and impacts, is kept internally and only released via annual reports. There is minimal validation from established public and professional institutions, such as the Global Reporting Initiative. The integration of professional institutions to elevate the authority in CSR initiatives will help bolster the quality of engagements centred on CSR issues. Collaboration is equally necessary for improving the tracking and measuring of CSR impacts on the community. There is also a need to include partners, such as suppliers, in the CSR communication strategy. The inclusion of CSR concepts along the supply chain will help enhance stakeholder awareness of what the company are trying to achieve. The resultant implication should be increased socio-political support for the initiatives.
The report must acknowledge the fact that simply because there is CSR communication on the corporate hotel website does not mean that CSR efforts are executed as communicated. The degree to which the hotels are using CSR as a competitive strategy implies the possibility of CSR whitewashing. Future research should include a content analysis but complement it with tangible metrics for the identified CSR concepts. For instance, if Hyatt shows it engages in human labour practices, let the research include a metric that highlights Hyatt’s impact and contribution to the matter. Such an approach would guarantee the delivery of credible and believable results regarding what the hotel industry is actually doing to improve the world. Future research should also include primary data in the form of consumer reviews. Consumers should be asked about their perspectives concerning CSR communication in the hotel industry.
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