It is often assumed that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a very promising way for corporations to improve their reputations, and a positive link between practicing CSR and corporate reputation is supported by empirical evidence. However, little is known about the mechanisms that underlie this relationship. In addition, the effects of not practicing CSR on corporate reputation have received little attention thus far. This paper contributes to the literature by analyzing the cause-and-effect relationships between (not) practicing CSR and corporate reputation. To this end, the paper draws on a psychological framework, in particular, on insights from expectancy violations theory and attribution theory. Building on the ideal-type distinction between CSR in terms of voluntary engagement for society (“doing good”) and the prevention of irresponsible behavior (“avoiding bad”), the paper develops four propositions that unveil some fundamental cause-and-effect relationships between (not) practicing CSR, irresponsible behavior, and corporate reputation. In doing so, it also addresses the question under which conditions CSR leads to a buffering or backfiring effect on corporate reputation in the event of irresponsible behavior.
Journal of Business Ethics – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 19, 2016
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