The negative side of corporate social responsibility

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Although corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become increasingly important to a company’s success, the relationship between CSR and corporate financial performance is equivocal. The purpose of this research is to explore additional conditions under which CSR can lead to negative outcomes for both the firm and consumers. Specifically, different from other papers examining the negative effects of CSR that focus on either perceived negative motivations or perceived unethical behavior by the firm, this research examines how CSR that is, on the surface, perceived positively by consumers, leads to negative outcomes. The first paper, “Who’s working in the kitchen today”, explores the potential for CSR activities to lead to negative financial outcomes through producer contagion between stigmatized populations and products they produce. The results show that although consumers admire companies that hire stigmatized populations, they actually tend to avoid products produced by stigmatized populations. Consumers believe that this CSR practice decreases the value of products because stigmatized populations may contaminate the products by transferring their negative properties to the products through the production process. Further research identifies the mediating effect of disgust and the moderating effects of product intimacy and end user vulnerability. Finally, a choice task reveals that the negative producer contagion effect can be mitigated by implicit information such as color. The second paper, “Can ‘Real’ Men Consume Ethically?” complements the first paper by examining the outcomes from the consumers’ perspective. This paper examines how observers make judgments about consumers on the basis of their CSR support. Across four experiments it reveals that, in addition to being viewed as socially responsible, consumers are viewed as less masculine and more feminine when they consume ethical products. It also identifies two boundary conditions to this effect, including the use of self-benefit advertising appeals and the use of descriptive norms to signal gender appropriate behavior. It also identifies how consumers resolve the conflict of prosocial and gender-congruent impression management objectives. It shows that when consumers are in the presence of observers of the opposite sex, they are more likely to prioritize prosocial identity even when it threatens their gender orientation.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Peloza, John
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etd7937_JShang.pdf 1.68 MB