Essays on corporate social performance : an examination of the antecedents and consequences of corporate social performance
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There is growing evidence that a vast majority of CEO’s believe that sustainability-related issues are having or will soon have a material impact on their firms. Nearly all of the academic literature on the firm level impacts of corporate social performance (CSP) has focused on looking for a universally positive or negative effect of CSP on corporate financial performance (CFP). Recent literature in the CSP domain, however, has presented two questions that have been under-researched with respect to CSP by firms: 1) What are the processes and motivations that underlie the inclusion of CSP in firm strategic decisions? and 2) Why do some firms generate different market returns from their CSP? The present research consists of two studies that focus on developing an understanding of these two questions. The first study uses a Contingency Theory approach and proposes that several organizational, market, customer, environmental and competitive characteristics of a firm predict a firm’s level of CSP. Findings based on a longitudinal, multi-industry sample of 447 firms over the period from 2000 to 2007 show that firms that have a corporate branding strategy, serve consumer markets, and have a greater degree of globalization have higher levels of CSP. Finally, this study also finds that higher levels of CSP relative to a firm’s industry result in higher levels of firm intangible value (Tobin’s q). The second study examines the following: 1) Does CSP history moderate the relationship between CSP and CFP? and 2) Is there a CSR Black Hole with respect to a firm’s history of negative behaviors? That is, does past negative social performance of the firm negate potential benefits from current period changes in positive social performance? Using the Flow Signals framework proposed by Dekinder and Kohli (2008), this study finds that a (1) history of growth in negative CSP, (2) trend toward increasing negative CSP, or (3) more inconsistent history of positive or negative CSP (reversals) decrease the returns to positive social performance. This study also finds evidence of a CSR Black Hole, but show that firms may be able to exit this by consistently managing their social performance over time.