PurposeThough enormous research studies were conducted on corporate environmental responsibility (CER), few of them could empirically justify how CER helps to improve firm’s competitive advantage and firms are still hesitant to incorporate CER with their business strategy at present. The purpose of this paper is to theoretically and empirically explore how the CER strategy could help the firm to gain competitive advantage in Chinese context, particularly in terms of achieving brand sustainability (BS).Design/methodology/approachIn this study, 310 listed companies in China were chosen as research sample. First, the CER strategies were classified into developing eco-friendly products, adopting EMAS or other eco-management, enhancing the impact of CER through value chain and charitable CER. Second, BS is constructed as two dimensions, i.e. resource-acquisition and consumer impact. Accordingly, this paper analyzed the relationship between CER and BS with regression model analysis, taking account of several moderating and control variables.FindingsThe results indicate that CER strategies have positive effect on BS. Among all CER strategies, developing eco-friendly products and charitable CER undertakings are the most effective ones to promote BS performance. Also, the paper found that the length of time in adopting CER strategy moderates the effect of CER on BS. The empirical evidence proves that CER strategies could enhance the brand value in terms of BS and help the company to gain competitive advantage.Research limitations/implicationsFirst, most of our samples are of the state-owned enterprises, so our assumption might not be applicable to other types of business. Second, corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication is an important factor in the relation between CSR and corporate performance, but it is not taken into account in this study. Third, the difference in industries and ownership in this research is out of concern.Practical implicationsAs this paper has provided empirical evidence to reveal the effectiveness of different CER strategies, firms in China could be more motivated to undertake CER not only for the sake of environment but also for their brand value and competitive advantage. More importantly, this paper could be a valuable reference for the firms in China to choose suitable and effective CER strategies, as proved in this study, to gain competitive advantage in the market.Originality/valueAt first, while public environmental awareness has improved gradually, we introduce the BS concept to explain how the CER strategies affect CCA. This approach gives us another perspective to highlight the relationship between these two constructs. Second, we conducted our research from practical perspective to explore how to apply the CER undertakings as the company’s strategy. Third, we conducted our empirical research in Chinese context, which will enrich the theoretical CER and CSR literature.
Nankai Business Review International – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 6, 2018