Banking on bullshit: Indifferences toward truth in corporate social responsibility

David M. Herold, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria

Timo Dietrich, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Tim Breitbarth, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia



Purpose: This article attempts to identify and deconstruct bullshit in banks’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication in order to advance the management rhetoric research space, which has been characterised by an indifference to truth and meaning.

Design/methodology/approach: We provide a typology of bullshit phenomena overview in the banking sector and follow the McCarthy et al.’s (2020) C.R.A.P. framework from to showcase how bullshit can be comprehended, recognised, acted against and prevented.

Findings: This paper puts a spotlight on written and spoken language to detect bullshit in banks’ CSR statements. It provides actionable insights into how stakeholders can act against and prevent bullshit statements from occurring in the future.

Research limitations/implications: Future research is warranted to assess the use of still imagery, events and video materials in corporate communications and non-financial reporting. Further rigorous assessment of actual CSR initiatives must be undertaking to assess claimed contributions.

Practical implications: Monitoring mechanisms and independent assurance statements prepared by authorised third parties may strengthen the motivation and ethicality of CSR activities.

Originality/value: This viewpoint is the first to follow the C.R.A.P framework and critically assess indifferences toward truth in banks’ CSR communications.

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