A Broader Look at Firms’ Corporate Social Performance in 2000-2010

 

10310820984_fb57a27068_z[We’re pleased to welcome Elise Perrault of College of Charleston. Elise recently published an article in Business & Society, entitled “What have firms been doing? Exploring what KLD data report about firms’ corporate social performance (CSP) in the period 2000-2010,” with co-author Michael Quinn of Bentley University.]

With a strong interest for firms’ relationship with stakeholders and, more broadly, society, we constantly read about how firms address – or not – a wide variety of social issues. However, this stream of research generally provides anecdotal evidence or analyzes antecedents and consequences of firms’ involvement in a targeted issue (such as philanthrophy or environmental management, for example). In short, we felt the need for a broad, 30,000 ft, view of how firms generally engage with stakeholders through addressing social issues. At the same time, with the soaring popularity of KLD data in the field, we wanted to gain a more precise appreciation of how this data source pictured firms’ actions in society.

We find our results quite revealing and at times surprising. For instance, the results show that firms are increasingly attending to secondary stakeholders, even while garnering more concerns on primary stakeholder dimensions. This points us to question whether managers are experiencing shifting beliefs regarding the value of BAS CoverCSR; specifically that it represents less a mechanism to attract stakeholder support and more a cornerstone to their risk management approach in terms of how society values the firm’s existence. We also find, as expected, that firms generally nurture strengths in the same dimensions in which they present concerns.

The most surprising finding is the extent to which prior corporate social performance (CSP) in a given dimension is linked to CSP in other dimensions over time. This suggests that as firms engage in CSP, they find rewards that drives them to further invest in yet other dimensions of CSP. As a result, we are led to reconsider the notion of a “virtuous circle” (Waddock & Graves, 1997) and suggest that future research examines in greater depth the real benefits that firms perceive from CSP and the motives that drive their increasing commitment to CSP.

Having provided this broader view of firms’ involvement with stakeholders and social issues, we hope this research will serve as a foundation for future research in several ways. For starters, we note the significance of industry dummies in the analysis. This finding confirms what previous research indicates, that industry matters to CSP strenghts and concerns. However, the extent to which industry affiliation predisposes a population of firms to certain CSP strenghts or concerns remains unaddressed. Pushing further in this direction would be to explore how industry affiliation affects stakeholders’ perceptions, and whether stakeholders are more forgiving or scrutinizing of firms in certain industries, for example.

Another insight from our analyses is the importance of using a long time frame when analyzing firms’ CSP, which has seldom been used in previous research. Doing so would enable researchers to see patterns and connections between various dimensions of CSP, answering questions such as “Do strengths (concerns) on certain dimensions of CSP generally prompt firms to subsequently perform better or worse on these and other dimensions?” While this would shed light on the ways in which firms can be primed to address certin social issues, on a broader scale, these analyses contribute to the conversation debating the fundamental question regarding the purpose of the firm and its obligations to shareholders and stakeholders.

The abstract for the paper:

With the blossoming of research on corporate social performance (CSP), the data produced by Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini (KLD) have become the standard to measure firms’ social and stakeholder actions. However, to date, only a few studies have focused on examining the data directly, and have done so largely in terms of validating the concepts and methods in the data set’s construction. The present study seeks to complement these efforts by contributing knowledge about what the KLD data report on firms’ actions toward primary and secondary stakeholders, and the dimensions of CSP that firms generally engage in, together or sequentially. With data on 3,073 firms over the period 2000-2010, results show that firms expend more resources on garnering strengths in primary stakeholder dimensions, although this trend is sharply deteriorating to the benefit of secondary stakeholders—notably the natural environment. Results also show that firms generally approach CSP with a mixed behavior, with strengths and concerns in the same dimensions, especially as it pertains to secondary stakeholders. These are the same dimensions in which firms show the longer, more intrinsic commitments, suggesting that secondary stakeholder strengths and concerns may be structural in nature. However, there is also evidence of relationships across dimensions, indicating that firms’ involvement in CSP can generate momentum. The rich implications of these findings are discussed.

You can read “What have firms been doing? Exploring what KLD data report about firms’ corporate social performance (CSP) in the period 2000-2010” from Business & Society free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on the latest research published by Business & SocietyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

Interested in submitting a manuscript to the journal? You can learn more about Business & Society‘s manuscript guidelines by clicking here.

*Conference sponsorship image attributed to Fortune Live Media (CC)

Good in Theory, Bad in Practice: Corporate Social Marketing in the Alcohol Industry

Green Margarita

Corporate social marketing (CSM) campaigns are used to improve the image of a wide variety of companies. Each CSM initiative is unique, but when it comes to companies in the alcohol industry, CSM campaigns seem to share a certain moral ambiguity. In sharp contrast to the other CSM initiatives, which demonstrate how an organization contributes positively to the community, similar campaigns for companies in the alcohol industry have drawn criticism for the way they promote “responsible drinking.” In their article, “Smokescreens and Beer Googles: How Alcohol Industry CSM Protects the Industry,” published in Social Marketing QuarterlySandra C. Jones of Australian Catholic University, Austin Wyatt of Swinburne University of Technology, and Mike Daube of McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth delve into why CSM campaigns for organizations in the alcohol industry can prove to be problematic, particularly for the community.

The abstract:

Corporate social marketing (CSM) is one of several initiatives companies can undertake to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility (CSR). While there are many motivations for CSR and CSM, all are linked to profit in some way, including promoting the reputation of the organization. While CSM is often seen as evidence of SMQ Jan 2016organizations making a contribution to their community, there are some industries whose CSM campaigns have drawn considerable controversy and criticism. This article discusses the role of the alcohol industry in developing and disseminating “responsible drinking” CSM activities. It discusses some of the problems identified with alcohol industry CSM campaigns—including evidence that industry education campaigns communicate ambiguous messages; improve public perceptions of the industry but do not discourage harmful or underage drinking; and divert attention from more effective approaches, such as controls on price and availability. The paper also addresses the issue of other CSM/CRM activities undertaken by the alcohol industry, such as encouraging consumers to purchase a brand by donating a proportion of the profits to health and social causes (including those that are exacerbated by alcohol consumption). It discusses the value of these activities for the industry and their potential negative impact on the health of the community. In summary, the evidence suggests that industry CSM and CRM activities protect the industry (from restrictive policies and declining sales) but may in fact be detrimental to the community.

You can read “Smokescreens and Beer Goggles: How Alcohol Industry CSM Protects the Industry” from Social Marketing Quarterly by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Social Marketing Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

How Do Attitudes Towards CSR Influence Job Choices Across Cultures?

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint[We’re pleased to welcome Cedric E. Dawkins of Dalhousie University. Dr. Dawkins recently collaborated with Dima Jamali, Charlotte Karam, Lianlian Lin, and Jixin Zhao on their article “Corporate Social Responsibility and Job Choice Intentions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis” from Business & Society.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

The paper was inspired by the travel of the authors and observing the concerns and challenging around CSR and how they varied, but maintained similar presence, in different countries.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The results of the study, that the preference to work for firms respondents viewed as socially responsible were relatively consistent but the reasons for the preferences differed, did not surprise us in that culture impacts so much of our decision making. It is noteworthy from a decision making/motivation perspective, that the respondents in different countries arrive at the same place by assigning different weights to the same variables.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We believe that a clear implication of our paper for recruiters and HR officers is that when seeking international workers the ŒCSR message may be better received if it is tailored to the specific cultural context. This insight is nothing special, but illustrates the need to extend cross-cultural sensitivity to perception of CSR as well.

You can read “Corporate Social Responsibility and Job Choice Intentions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis” from Business & Society free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this from Business & Society? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!


dawkinsCedric E. Dawkins (PhD, Ohio State University) is an associate professor of management at the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University. His research interests focus on connections between labor rights and corporate social responsibility (CSR), labor union revitalization, and the impact of disclosure on corporate behavior. His work has appeared in journals such as Business & Society, Business Ethics Quarterly, Employee Relations, Journal of Business Communication, and Journal of Business Ethics.

jamaliDima Jamali is a professor of management in the Olayan School of Business at American University of Beirut and currently holds the Kamal Shair Endowed chair in responsible leadership. With a PhD in social policy and administration from the University of Kent at Canterbury, her research revolves primarily around CSR a nd social entrepreneurship (SE). She is the editor of three books (CSR in the Middle East, Social Entrepreneurship in the Middle East, and CSR in Developing Countries), and more than 50 international research publications, focusing on different aspects of CSR and SE in developing countries in general and in the Middle East in particular. Her research record has won her a number of scientific awards and honors, including the Abdul Hameed Shoman Award for Best Young Arab Researcher for 2011.

KaramCharlotte Karam (PhD, University of Windsor) is an assistant professor of organizational behavior in the Olayan School of Business at American University of Beirut. Her research broadly examines responsible engagement at the intersection among gender, corporate responsibility, and employee extra role behavior at work within developing and emerging economies. Most of her research is examined within a multilevel contextual framework, which considers factors relating to societal culture, socioeconomic development, and political stability. Her work has been published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Management, Business Ethics Quarterly, Career Development International, among other journals. In 2012, she was awarded the university-wide teaching excellence award for her classes in business ethics, leadership development, and organizational behavior.

LinLianlian Lin (PhD, University of Texas at Austin; LLM, University of Pennsylvania Law School) is a professor of management at California State Polytechnic University Pomona. Her research interests focus on cross-cultural issues, multinational management, and law. Her articles have appeared in journals such as Yale Journal of International Law, University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, and Journal of Asian American Studies.

Jixin Zhao (DBA, China Agricultural University) is a professor of management and director of MBA Education Center at North China University of Technology. His research interests focus on human resource management and industrial economics. His articles have appeared in journals such as Productivity Studies and Economic Issues. He has published books such as Humanistic Management and Managers Roles and Skills Upgrading.

Calling for Papers on Corporate Social Marketing!

home_coverDo you have research on the practice of corporate social marketing? Social Marketing Quarterly is accepting submissions on this topic for their Special Issue that will be publishing in March 2016! This issue will be guest edited by Nancy Lee, Founder and President of Social Marketing Services, Inc., and Sameer Deshpande, Associate Professor of Marketing in the Faculty of Management and member of the Center for Socially Responsible Marketing at the University of Lethbridge in Canada.

This special issue intends to better define and understand the theoretical, ethical, effectiveness, efficiency, and other practical implications of CSM. Possible case studies and research topics include, but are not limited to:

  • How do social marketing efforts undertaken by businesses differ from those undertaken by governments and nonprofits?
  • Under what market conditions and internal organizational conditions should businesses decide to undertake CSM initiatives?
  • What criteria should businesses use when selecting a CSM effort to support?
  • What ethical implications will a business and its stakeholders experience when it undertakes CSM efforts?
  • What skepticism will a business face from stakeholders (especially the target audience) when undertaking CSM efforts?

Manuscripts are due no later than June 30, 2015. For more information on this call, including how to submit, click here. Questions can be directed to Ryan Hollm, Managing Editor of Social Marketing Quarterly, at rhollm@fhi360.org.

Want to know about all the latest news and research from Social Marketing Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Are Corporations Really as Green as They Say They Are?

recycle-1-917289-mMore and more, consumers are demanding “green” products. In response, many corporations are developing and marketing merchandise billed as environmentally friendly. But are these corporations choosing to ignore any negative ramifications these products may actually have? Organization and Environment Guest Editor Frances Bowen and Editor J. Alberto Aragon-Correa discuss in their editorial “Greenwashing in Corporate Environmentalism Research and Practice: The Importance of What We Say We Do.”

From the editorial:

Greenwashing is the selective disclosure of positive information without full disclosure of negative information so as to create an overly positive corporate image (Lyon & Maxwell, 2011). Greenwashing is a central empirical phenomenon oae coverwithin organizations’ interactions with the natural environment because it is hard for stakeholders to directly evaluate firms’ environmental performance. This leads to a reliance on firms to signal their environmental quality through environmental reports, advertising, corporate websites, or eco-certification schemes. Increased environmental disclosure without obvious substantive improvements in environmental impacts has fed justifiable skepticism about the gap between what firms say and do on environmental issues (e.g., Dauvergne & Lister 2010; Forbes & Jermier, 2012; Konefal, 2013). Increased environmental disclosure has also provided research questions and empirical data for scholars to analyze greenwashing behavior, its drivers, and its consequences (e.g., Delmas & Burbano, 2011; Du, 2014; Walker & Wan, 2012).

This editorial also introduces the most recent issue of Organization and Environment, which can be read for free for the next 30 days. Click here to view the Table of Contents and here to read “Greenwashing in Corporate Environmentalism Research and Practice: The Importance of What We Say We Do.” Want to know all the latest from Organization and Environment? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

The Power of Meaningful Work

Organizations engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the desire to attract investors, customers, and prospective employees. But a new study in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly shows that CSR efforts in the hospitality industry also benefit another key group of stakeholders—current employees:

pullquoteFrom the viewpoint of hospitality industry practice, the most important implication of our findings is that when hospitality organizations engage in CSR activities and make their employees aware of these activities, they can reap substantial benefits in terms of improved job attitudes and greater engagement in discretionary work behaviors. This is an important finding because research suggests that engagement in CSR may be driven by the objective of projecting a better image to financial investors, potential customers, or potential employees, or may simply reflect a trend to follow the latest management fashion, rather than being explicitly focused on promoting outcomes at the level of the organization’s employees. When engagement in CSR is not motivated by an explicit concern for the attitudes and performance of current employees, it is more likely that organizations miss out on multiple opportunities of making their employees aware of ongoing CSR CQ_v53n3_72ppiRGB_150pixWinitiatives. However, this study suggests that it is the employees’ awareness of these initiatives that drives results. Observation of CSR practices in the organization under investigation in our study and discussion with managers revealed multiple starting points for thinking about how hospitality businesses can foster greater awareness of corporate CSR initiatives in their employees.

The paper, “The Power of Meaningful Work: How Awareness of CSR Initiatives Fosters Task Significance and Positive Work Outcomes in Service Employees” by Steffen Raub of Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and Stephan Blunschi of MIGROS, Switzerland, is forthcoming in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

Earth Day 2013: The Present and Future of CSR Research

B&S_72ppiRGB_150pixwIn anticipation of Earth Day tomorrow, we are pleased to highlight an article in Business & Society on the impact of Newsweek magazine’s 2009 Greenest Companies ratings on financial market outcomes. This large-scale environmental assessment evaluates the impact of sustainability ratings on 500 of the largest U.S. companies. Read “Environmental Disclosure: Evidence from Newsweek’s Green Companies Rankings,’” published by Thomas P. Lyon of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Jay P. Shimshack of Tulane University in Business & Society OnlineFirst, publish ahead of print, August 13, 2012.

In the journal Organization, a special issue on the current trajectory of Corporate Social Responsibility in both scholarly inquiry and business practice asks “Is thhome_cover[1]ere anything substantively useful in the area of CSR research when it comes to providing some ethical guidelines for the way business is done today, or should it be abandoned as just another piece of capitalist ideology? If there is an overriding feeling that we have all been some­how ‘duped’ by the premises and solutions of CSR, what might be the best way forward when its presence is more widespread now than ever?” Read “In Search of Corporate Social Responsibility: Introduction to Special Issue” published by Peter Fleming of Queen Mary College, UK, John Roberts, Sydney Business School, Australia and Christina Garsten of University of Stockholm, Sweden and the rest of the special issue in the Organization May 2013 issue.