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How Consumers Connect With Corporate Social Responsibility

For many companies, building brand loyalty involves a measure of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR refers to a “commitment to improve social, economic and environmental well-being through business practices,” and typically falls into one of seven “domains”: “employee relations, human rights, diversity, community issues, corporate governance, the environment, product issues.”

But how do consumers really respond to CSR?

A new paper co-authored by Professor Sankar Sen (Baruch College), and published in the Journal of Business Research, affirmed that if a company’s CSR efforts aligned with a consumer’s moral foundation, it tended to be viewed more positively.

Drawing on moral foundations theory (MFT), the scholars conducted two experiments. In the first, 152 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers answered questions pertaining to six hypothetical questions.

It turns out that consumers viewed companies more favorably when their social accountability reflected consumers’. But this only takes place when a company acts positively. Lapses provoked negative reactions. “The failure to act morally is judged with a broader stroke than are ‘good’ behaviors,” the researchers wrote.

Beyond the study’s theoretical implications, there are many takeaways for companies, including researching consumers’ moral foundations before launching CSR activities, and considering how they communicate those activities once they do. 

Beyond SUM

Work By

Sankar Sen (Lawrence and Carol Zicklin Chair in Corporate Integrity and Governance, Marketing) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools

Baruch College