• Learn why corporate reputation represents an important intangible asset and how to distinguish reputation from related constructs such as identity, image and legitimacy.
• Gain an understanding of how companies across industries manage their reputation in relation to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
• Gain an appreciation of how efforts to manage a reputation for CSR may be a double-edged sword; it may strengthen a company's reputation with stakeholders, yet it may also create increasing expectations about good conduct.
• Be able to critically reflect on, and analyse, more symbolic and rhetorical versus substantive and material approaches that companies take to manage their CSR reputation, that may create both opportunities and risks.
When deciding to buy a product, what do people usually think of? Probably the price, the quality of the product, and maybe also whether they like the brand. Or would consumers also consider how well this company treats its employees, how ethical it is, and whether it shows environmental responsibility? As a matter of fact, most of us would probably relate to the former set of reasons (price and quality of the product and the brand). But, according to a recent study by the Reputation Institute (2015), people's willingness to buy, recommend, work for and invest in a company is driven about 60 per cent by their perception of the company – in other words by its reputation – and only about 40 per cent is driven by how people perceive the product itself or the price alone. Many firms, in particular global brands such as H&M, IKEA, Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Apple and the like often consider brand reputation their most important asset, besides other resources such as financial or human capital. For instance, H&M's reputation for being a fashionable but low-priced clothing brand has enabled the company to outperform its rivals for many years. Coca-Cola's reputation for being the global beverage of good taste and reliable quality has allowed the company to sustain its market share in the face of fierce competition.