Integrative Approach to Maintaining the Image of the Information And Communication Technology (ICT) Organization: Case Study Among Finnish Enterprises

Mirja Airos


Theoretical Viewpoints

Images of the organizations are nowadays exposed to the drastic moves and changes in society, organizations and among individuals. One organization may have multifaceted, ambiguous and polyphonic fragmented images depending on the multiple discursive voices to be followed. Together these partial images create the overall and common image of that organization. This study aims to find out, how chosen three ICT enterprises are reflecting their ethical and responsible ideals and how the overall society is attempting to guide these acting firms through public discourses. Thus, there are theoretical scientific voice, official company voice and voice of the regulatory authorities or interest groups present in this examination.

Caring leadership and responsible business may be conducted by defining values and other basic principles: visions, missions, goals, rules and guidelines. Systematic communication on responsible and ethical issues proves the overall stance of the corporation. These days the stakeholder communication is crucial part of every firm’s strategic performance and different parties are waiting for more than just theoretical discussions in the form of public statements. (Kujala & Kuvaja 2002, 49, 72-75) Desire and willingness to communicate the responsible way of thinking varies and amount of which the companies interact in outlining processes differs. These are absorbing issues to be approached.

This paper reveals that major professional organizations and regulatory authorities, which are having impacts and effects to Finnish ICT field: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), Ministry of Transport and Communications Finland, Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA), Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics (FiCom), Finnish Information Processing Association (FIPA) etc. have their own published codes of ethics. Enterprises also have their own written ethical principles, professional guidelines, corporate social responsibility reports or like. These codes have differences in presentation and emphasis, but they are still in vast agreement on some general principles. This paper profiles also, how these explicit, commonly admitted and stated, codified rules of ethics are tight to the other implicit discursive statements, which chosen firms are introducing in their own discourses. Firms are using multiple discourses as a strategic devices, how to govern ethical and responsible issues. Dialectical and pragmatic way to see the multiple voices are relevant and also the contextual understanding of these voices. Both normative and empirical aspects shall be encompassed in integrative approach (Singer, 2009).

Empirical Viewpoints

This research attempts to show, how some publicly presented discursive thoughts are heading to formulate the stakeholders view and visualization on the ethical and responsibility issues of the selected ICT firms. Chronological contemplation is conducted through years 1997 – 2007, the aim is to reveal some extensive ideas on the subject. Last two years 2008 and 2009 of this longitudinal study has taken into account by revealing some descriptive statements. Reason for that is the ever-growing number of discursive statements.

In this research the contemplation concentrates on three companies, which are TeliaSonera, TietoEnator and Elisa, formerly Yomi. These corporations may have had many names in previous years, but in present paper above-mentioned names are in use. The development and the route of the two first ones are more unilinear than is the case in the last one. Selected firms differ in the size and fields of business-making are partially unlike, but the well-known definition (European Commission in Virallinen Lehti L 107 1996, 4-9) of the large-scale firm annual turnover more than 40 MEUR and total sum of balance sheet more than 27 MEUR holds true in every case.

TeliaSonera and Elisa are communications service providers and TietoEnator is service producer, which offers computing, research and development and consultancy services. Although these firms present the different sides of the broadly perceived information technology enterprises, these all have had operations both in domestic markets and also in international level and the scales of the operations have been multi-filament, making the firms equally essential for this kind of research. This way we are able to explore more comprehensively the common phenomena of different kind of voices, which are present in image building processes of ICT enterprises. The research has then more cross-sectional nature, too.

Methodological Viewpoints

This study belongs to qualitative research tradition and it has nuances of both interpretative and radical humanistic paradigm (Burrell & Morgan, 1979 and onwards). Critical business research as this study seems to be tries to create new ways of thinking (Alvesson & Deetz 2000, 22-31) and written texts and documentations are seen as socially constructed phenomena (Atkinson & Coffey 1997, 47), which are related to prevailing society and produced by individuals. Empirical examination is based on the official written documents (annual reports, responsibility reports, ethical codes, web-contents) of the firms and the theoretical notions are made with the scientific literature about business ethics and corporate responsibility and also ICT related references. Research data represents only some of the possible discursive cases, but in this particular study that procedure is acceptable, because of multi-dimensional and rich sources of data. This kind of data is called discretionary samples (Eskola & Suoranta 1998, 15–18).

This study could also be named as cross-case methodological approach (Gerring 2007, 1 & Yin 1990, 27 etc.), because of multiple cases and sources of data. Methodologically this study has signs of three various dimensions: case analytical points, interpretations are made both about the individual cases and also from more abstract entities, (Hammersley & Gomm 2000, 3-4) as mentioned already, discourse analytical elements and then content analytical views; analyzing discourses goes through different steps (Tuomi & Sarajärvi 2003, 94), data shall be categorized in a suitable way (Holsti 1969, 94-95; Carney 1972, 167-168) and one possible hermeneutic understanding is created. Researcher is seen as active subjective creator of meanings and it is relevant to recognize and confess that openly (Hardy & Harley & Phillips 2004, 19 – 22).

Conclusive Viewpoints

This study continues the scientific work, which have studied ethics and responsibility in ICT industry in conceptual-historical way and prospects and challenges for management and leadership with public-discourse based approach (Airos, 2006 and Airos, 2009) and has some neighboring studies among Finnish (Onkila, 2009; Kooskora, 2008; Takala & Syrjälä, 2008; Siltaoja, 2006) and international (Payne & Landry, 2005; Gilbert & Rasche 2008; Vaccaro & Madsen 2009) current discussions. In the paper the reality is seen as socially constructed phenomena, this is consistent with author’s thinking. (Ilmonen 1993, 69-70; Beck 1990, 17-23; Giddens 1991, 3 etc.) The reality and also business environments are fragmented to partial realities and constructing of the each actor’s own reality is exclusive.

Other essential perceptions or facts are the presence of the stakeholder issues in current discourses as well. Stakeholders are seen multiple ways and various dividing and illustrating approaches are in use as was present already earlier many cases in literature, too (Näsi 1995, Carroll 1989 & 1993, Clarkson 1998, Freeman 1984 etc.). Stakeholders may be seen as theoretical practicalities as normative recommendations or as instrumental methodological approach (Friedman & Miles 2006). In this study the stakeholder interaction is seen with more theoretical emphasis than as methodological practice even though three kind of discursive voices are explained more thoroughly.

At the same time firms are trying to reflect them as individual among others and also underline their ability to be open and transparent. Some of Seeger’s (1997, 18-19, 26, 34) ideas about diminishing the organizational ambiguity in their ethical and responsible image are implicated in discourses, too. Enterprises attempt to reveal them as entities, which allow different audiences and stakeholders to reflect their feelings etc. Interaction and remoulding of the ethics and responsibility interpretations is enclosed.

As also Elia (2009) also points out transparency is supposed to encourage stakeholder trust, separate the company from its competition and persuade new investors, clients and employees, which leads to better prosperity and growth. Corporations ethical and responsibility policies are tangible illustrations, which show the firms commitment to develop the operations and act in good way in business dealings (Wood & Rimmer, 2003).


Airos, Mirja (2006). Informaatio- ja kommunikaatioteknologia-alan etiikka ja vastuullisuus – käsitehistoriallinen tarkastelu. Teoksessa Kallio, Tomi J. & Nurmi, Piia (toim.). Vastuullinen liiketoiminta: peruskysymyksiä ja esimerkkejä. Keskusteluja ja raportteja 10:2005, Turun kauppakorkeakoulun julkaisuja. Turku. (73-85)

Airos, Mirja (2009). Ethics and Responsibility in ICT -Enterprises – Prospects and Challenges for Management and Leadership. EJBO Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies. 14 (1) Business and Organization Ethics Network (BON), Jyväskylä. (33- 42)

Alvesson, Mats and Deetz, Stanley (2000). Doing Critical Management Research. Sage Publications Inc. London, Thousand Oaks, Delhi

Atkinson, Paul and Coffey, Amanda (1997). Making sense of qualitative data: Complementary research strategies. Sage Publications Inc. Thousand Oaks, California.

Beck, Ulrich (1990). Riskiyhteiskunnan vastamyrkyt: organisoitu vastuuttomuus.(translated by Heikki Lempa) Tampere. Vastapaino.

Burrell, Gibson & Morgan, Gareth (1979). Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis: Elements of the Sociology of Corporate Life. Gower Publishing Company Limited. Aldershot, England.

Carney, Thomas F. (1972). Content Analysis: a Technique for Systematic Inference from Communications. University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, Canada.

Carroll, Archie. B. (1993). 2nd Edition. Business & Society: Ethics and Stakeholder Management. Cincinnati (Ohio). South-Western Publishing Co.

Clarkson M. B. E. (1998). Corporations and Its Stakeholders: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Toronto. University of Toronto Press

Elia, John. (2009). Transparency Rights, Technology, and Trust. Ethics and Information Technology 11:145–153

Eskola, Jari and Suoranta, Juha (1998). Johdatus laadulliseen tutkimukseen. Osuuskunta Vastapaino, Tampere.

Freeman, Richard E. (1991). Business Ethics: The State of the Art. New York. Oxford University Press.

Friedman, Andrew L. and Miles, Samantha (2006). Stakeholders: Theory and Practice. New York, Oxford University Press, Inc.

Gerring, John (2007). Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Giddens, Anthony (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge. Polity.

Gilbert, Dirk U. and Rasche, Andreas. (2008). Opportunities and Problems of Standardized Ethics Initiatives – A Stakeholder Theory Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics (2008) 82:755–773

Hammersley, Martyn and Gomm, Roger (2000). Introduction. Teoksessa Gomm, Roger & Hammersley, Martyn & Foster, Peter (Eds.) Case Study Method: Key Issues, Key Texts. Sage Publications Inc. London. 1-16

Hardy, Cynthia & Harley, Bill & Phillips, Nelson (2004). Discourse Analysis and Content Analysis: Two Solitudes?. Julkaisussa Gerring, John (toim.) Qualitative Methods, Newsletter of the American Political Science Association: Organized Section on Qualitative Methods, Volume 2, No 1. 19 – 22

Holsti, Ole R. (1969). Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. Reading, Massachusetts.

Ilmonen, Kaj (1993). Tavaroiden taikamaailma: sosiologinen avaus kulutukseen. Tampere. Vastapaino

Kooskora, Mari (2008). Understanding Corporate Moral Development in the Context of Rapid and Radical Changes: The Case of Estonia. Jyväskylä Studies in Business and Economics, Jyväskylä.

Kujala, Johanna and Kuvaja, Sari (2002), Välittävä johtaminen. Sidosryhmät eettisen liiketoiminnan kirittäjinä, Helsinki. Talentum. (72-75).

Näsi, J. 1995. Understanding Stakeholder Thinking. Jyväskylä.Gummerus Kirjapaino Oy.

Onkila, Tiina (2009). Corporate Argumentation for Acceptability: Reflections of Environmental Values and Stakeholder Relations in Corporate Environmental Statements. Journal of Business Ethics 87: 285–298

Payne, Dinah and Landry, Brett J. L. (2005). Similarities in Business and IT Professional Ethics: The Need for and Development of A Comprehensive Code of Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 62: 73–85

Seeger, Matthew W. (1997). Ethics and Organizational Communication. Cresskill, New York. Hampton Press, Inc.

Siltaoja, Marjo (2006). Value Priorities as Combining Core Factors Between CSR and Reputation – A Qualitative Study. Journal of Business Ethics 68: 91–111

Singer, Alan E. (2009). Integrating Ethics and Strategy: A Pragmatic Approach. Journal of Business Ethics DOI 10.1007/s10551-009-0176-z Published online 14 August 2009

Takala, Tuomo and Syrjälä, Jari (2008). Ethical Aspects in Nordic Business Mergers: The Case of Electro-Business. Journal of Business Ethics 80: 531–545

Tuomi, Jouni and Sarajärvi, Anneli (2003). Laadullinen tutkimus ja sisällönanalyysi. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi, Helsinki. Gummerus Kirjapaino Oy, Jyväskylä.

Vaccaro, Antonino and Madsen, Peter (2009). Corporate Dynamic Transparency: The New ICT-Driven Ethics. Ethics and Information Technology 11:113–122

Virallinen lehti No: L 107. 30.4.1996. Recommendation given by European Commission on 3rd of April 1996, about the definition of small- and medium-sized firms (text designated for European Economic Area) (96/280/EY) Helsinki. Edita Publishing Oy. 4-9

Wood, Gregg and Rimmer, Malcolm (2003). Codes of Ethics: What are They Really and What They Should be? International Journal of Value-Based Management 16: 181–195

Yin, Robert K. (1994). Case Study Research: Design and Methods 2nd ed.. Newbury Park, CA. SAGE Publications