perceived to be a natural fit for the company. CSR Program Multiplier The extent to which a company’s CSR initiatives will lead to the positive internal outcomes—for the company, the consumer, and the relevant issues— will depend on a set of external factors or multipliers pertaining to the company and the consumer. Specifically, a company’s overall marketing strategy and the position of CSR within it is likely to affect the extent to which its CSR activities translate to positive internal outcomes (as in the case of Ben & Jerry’s or The Body Shop). Similarly, belonging to a certain industries (e.g., oil, tobacco, and alcohol) is likely to dampen the effect of CSR initiatives due largely to the unfa vorable often cynical attributions that consumers are likely to make in these instances. As noted, a company’s reputation magnifies the internal outcomes of CSR; consumers are not only likely to be more aware of what such companies are doing, but also more likely to make favorable attributions regarding their CSR actions and, therefore, have more positive attitudes towards such compa nies. Not surprisingly, however, our research in the context of corporate-non profit alliances shows that for companies with extremely positive reputations, additional CSR activities may not contribute much to positive internal outcomes due to ceiling effects. Finally, a company’s size and demographics contribute to the strength of the relationship between its CSR activities and the internal out comes. Our focus groups and surveys revealed that consumers are more likely to make positive attributions and have positive attitudes when the company engag ing in CSR is small rather than big, local rather than national, and a small, per sonal, privately owned operation rather than a big impersonal conglomerate or multinational. In the words of a survey respondent: “Recently many formerly socially responsible companies, such as Stonyfield Farms and Boca have been consumed by other multinational corporations, such as Dannon and General Foods. I feel that if the parent company is not socially responsible in all of their product lines, this strongly diminishes the validity of any gestures in their other product lines. Therefore, I do have mixed feelings about Stonyfield although I am very glad that they make it possible to get organic yogurt in a regular market.” Certain dimensions of a company’s CSR efforts are likely to moderate the relationship between CSR and internal outcomes. Distinctive CSR initiatives that set the company apart from its competitors are not only more likely to catch CALIFORNIA MANAGEMENT REVIEW VOL. 47, NO. 1 FALL 2004 17
Doing Better at Doing Good consumers’ attention, but also to generate attributions and attitudes. Our research shows that consumers’ attributions and attitudes are much more posi tive when they view the company as a pioneer in its CSR policies. Similarly, in cases where companies engage in many CSR initiatives in multiple domains, perceptions that such efforts cohere into a natural, sensible whole is likely to result in more positive internal outcomes. The same is true in the case where
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