Language matters: The use of economic and moral language in the issue selling process

No Thumbnail Available
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
In recent years there has been a lot of attention in the literature and media for the concept of corporate social responsibility (Carroll and Shabana, 2010). The purchasing function of organizations has become an important tool for organizations to ensure their social corporate responsibility. Through socially responsible purchasing (SRP), organizations can integrate their social considerations into their purchasing policies and decisions (Leire and Mont, 2010). Before an organization can engage SRP, momentum must be created within the organization for SRP by means of issue selling. It follows from theresearch of Wickert and De Bakker (2018) that there is little knowledge about the use of normative and economic language for social issues when creating momentum. The goals of this master's thesis will therefore be to provide insight into the issue selling process and to explore when and why the issue sellers use the different forms of language in the issue selling process of SRP. In order to realize this goal, the following research question is addressed: “When and why are economic and moral language used in the issue selling process of SRP related issues?” To be able to answer this research question, a qualitative research was conducted. Interviews were being held with both the issue sellers and the issue buyers within Solvinity, a Dutch company that specializes in creating and managing secure and innovative IT solutions for its customers. The main focus of the interviews was on the language, moral or economic in nature, that the issue sellers used in their issue selling attempt and why the used language was chosen. The results showed that when there is a small financial interest, the issue sellers choose to use moral language. Terms such as "doing your part", "doing the right thing" and "the moral thing" are then used. When one wants to promote an idea in the field of SRP within the organization that involves a significant amount of financial resources, the issue seller will use economic language. The reason behind the choice of moral rather than economic language could be found in the attitude of Solvinity's top management. Both the CEO and the CFO indicate in their interviews that they primarily consider the economic and financial side of an SRP related idea. They state that any good idea must contain some economic, profit element. Moreover, when there is a trade-off to be made between a morally justifiable choice or one that involves reduced expenses, the CFO indicates that he will go for the cost-saving option. A reservation must be made on this last conclusion, however, Solvinity's CEO gave several contradictory answers in his interviews. For example, he not only stated that a good idea in the field of SRP should always contain a profit element, but also that sometimes an idea does not need to have a profit motive. This last statement is not consistent with his earlier statement. Therefore, it is not entirely clear what the CEO's position actually is in terms of SRP related problems and whether or not it has an economic justification.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen