Students win prize for discovering patterns in CSR communication
Anastasia and Almut explain more about their collaboration with Rambøll and their thesis and offer tips for next year’s students who will write their thesis with the building material distribution company STARK, who has won the HBH Prize for 2022.
What is your thesis about?
For our thesis, we used Natural Language Processing to analyse what is written in the Corporate Social Responsibility communication of about 60 Danish companies. With increasing amounts of CSR communication being published, it becomes challenging to obtain an overview of what is being communicated by companies. To address this problem, our goal was to discover patterns in communication and how the communication of companies that were positively discussed in the news and social media differed from the communication of the entire dataset. This workflow also provided a methodology for comparing the communication of our case company to that of other companies, highlighting areas for further investigation or potential improvements.
What were some of the benefits of writing your thesis with a case company?
By collaborating with a case company, we were given the opportunity to gain an inside perspective to our research topic as well as a better understanding of the problems associated with it. For instance, Rambøll invited us for a full-day introduction to their approach to sustainability, initiatives, challenges and so on. In hearing about their sustainable efforts, we became even more eager to see how this translated into differentiated CSR communication. The support given by a case company, such as a contact, allowed us to reach out for questions or feedback, granting us additional resources which made the thesis-writing process even more exciting and gratifying. It also aided in clarifying the business case for our thesis from early in the process and keeping a clear connection to the applicability of our research throughout our analysis and writing.
It was a fantastic opportunity to get to know Rambøll quite well in a way we would not have done otherwise. We also got to work with real-life data. This was important to us as it prepared us well for our careers in Data Analytics.
What were some of your key take-aways from the process?
Overall, writing a thesis is a great opportunity to practice planning and executing a comprehensive project. It is important to keep in mind what was initially planned to achieve with your topic so that you can continually make progress and maintain coherency, but also to re-evaluate your approach as you gain new information. Different opinions and resources can help refine a thesis, and a case company is a great source of additional knowledge and support. Also, even if the analysis does not go to plan or your results aren’t what you expected, there are still takeaways that can contribute to how the problem is approached in the future.
It is also good practice for your time management skills. During the whole thesis process, we experienced that we could always add more details on top, but we learned that it is better to be efficient with the time we had. Another key takeaway was to keep a thesis-life balance. Writing a thesis is not an easy task, so it is important to make sure you can keep at it through maintaining your well-being.
What tips would you give next year's students?
Since finding a topic and company to collaborate with can be difficult, we suggest starting early and developing a clear idea of what problem you would like to research as soon as possible. When writing your thesis, we found it helps to keep your scope fairly narrow and your ideas cohesive. Not only will that give you more time to improve the analysis or research that you do choose to focus on, but it will also help keep your writing and its connection to your research question clear.
I would stress that it is not good leaving your thesis to the last minute, especially the writing. I would also advise breaking down the research process into small tasks and setting deadlines for these with weekly status updates. It helps to manage your process and time much better. During your thesis project, use your partner and your supervisors as sparring partners to discuss questions, methodology and writing in depth.
What is the HBH Prize?
Since 1991, the HBH Prize has been presented annually by CBS and the HBH Foundation. Behind the award is Henrik Bødtcher-Hansen, who established the company H. B. Hansen A/S shortly after World War II and made HBH a household name within electric appliances. Among others, the HBH Prize has been given to Mikkeller, B&O Play, VELUX and Hi-Fi Klubben.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO PARTICIPATE?
If you would like to write your thesis with this year’s HBH Prize winner - the building material distribution company STARK - you can read all about The Troubleshooter Prize, the upcoming workshop and how to be part of it all.