• Challenging corporate commitment to CSR: Do CEOs keep talking about corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues in times of the global financial crisis?

      Fehre, Kerstin; Weber, Florian (Management Research Review, 2016)
      Purpose In times of crisis, the fundamental principles of companies erode, leading to strategy shifts. This paper aims to examine whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) is on management’s agenda in times of crisis, indicating CSR embeddedness into corporate strategy. The focus is on the four pillars of CSR: social, environment, economy and governance. Design/methodology/approach Starting points are competing hypotheses based on shareholder and stakeholder theory. Chief executive officer (CEO) letters to shareholders of German HDAX firms from 2003 to 2012 are analyzed by means of computer-aided text analysis. Findings The authors find that CEOs talk less about CSR in times of crisis, especially about social and governance issues, indicating that CSR is not fully embedded into corporate strategy, and that, in times of crisis, other aspects gain more importance on management’s agenda.
    • CSR strategies for (re)gaining legitimacy

      Weber, Florian; Fehre, Kerstin (2020)
      In times when numerous scandals have challenged companies’ social legitimacy, CSR might serve as a legitimacy booster. But which is the most effective CSR strategy for improving legitimacy? This study examines how corporate social responsibility activity (CSRA) and corporate social responsibility communication (CSRC) impact legitimacy. The empirical results indicate that neither CSRA nor CSRC has a standalone effect; nonetheless, CSR is important for legitimacy: A CSR strategy that combines high levels of CSRA with low levels of CSRC emerges as the most effective for (re)gaining legitimacy, while an opposite strategy that combines low levels of CSRA with high levels of CSRC emerges as the worst.
    • The effectiveness of combinations of corporate social responsibility activity (CSRA) and communication as strategies for regaining legitimacy

      Fehre, Kerstin; Weber, Florian (2018)
      A number of scandals have challenged the social legitimacy of companies. Since corporate social responsibility (CSR) is about the pursuit of public and stakeholder objectives beyond the bottom line, a company’s level of commitment to such altruistic aims is reflected in its CSR investments. It follows, then, that companies can use CSR as a vehicle for improving their legitimacy in the eyes of stakeholders and of society in general. Little research exists on the effectiveness of CSR strategies for improving legitimacy. The present study addresses this lacuna by examining how CSR communication and activity impact legitimacy. My results indicate that neither CSR communication nor CSR activity have a stand-alone effect on legitimacy. Nonetheless, CSR is important with respect to legitimacy. CSR strategies consisting of different combinations of talk and action are ranked in order of their legitimacy impact, and then this hypothetical ranking is empirically tested against a sample of German companies. Some hypotheses are confirmed while others are rejected. CSR strategies combining low levels of communication with high levels of CSR action emerge as the most effective for (re)gaining legitimacy, while those combining high levels of communication with low levels of action emerge as the worst in this regard.
    • The effectiveness of combinations of CSR talk and action as strategies for (re)gaining legitimacy

      Fehre, Kerstin; Weber, Florian (2016)
      A number of scandals have challenged the social legitimacy of companies. Since corporate social responsibility (CSR) is about the pursuit of public and stakeholder objectives beyond the bottom line, a company's level of commitment to such altruistic aims is reflected in its CSR investments. It follows, then, that companies can use CSR as a vehicle for improving their legitimacy in the eyes of stakeholders and of society in general. Little research exists on the effectiveness of CSR strategies for improving legitimacy. The present study addresses this lacuna by examining how CSR communication and activity impact legitimacy. My results indicate that neither CSR communication nor CSR activity have a stand-alone effect on legitimacy. Nonetheless, CSR is important with respect to legitimacy. CSR strategies consisting of different combinations of talk and action are ranked in order of their legitimacy impact, and then this hypothetical ranking is empirically tested against a sample of German companies. Some hypotheses are confirmed while others are rejected. CSR strategies combining low levels of communication with high levels of CSR action emerge as the most effective for (re)gaining legitimacy, while those combining high levels of communication with low levels of action emerge as the worst in this regard.
    • Why some are more equal: Family firm heterogeneity and the effect on management’s attention to CSR

      Fehre, Kerstin; Weber, Florian (Business Ethics - A European Review, 2019)
      Research at the family firm–Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) nexus lacks agreement about whether family firms are more or less socially responsible than their non‐family counterparts, which leads discussion relating to the bright and dark side of socioemotional wealth (SEW). We add to this ongoing debate in two different ways. First, we build on family firm heterogeneity and argue for a gray side to SEW, located between the bright and dark sides that is dependent upon the kind of family firm ownership. Second, we assume that prior research on a diverse set of CSR behaviors may, to some extent, explain the contradicting results; thus, we propose going back a step and focusing on management’s attention to CSR as an important antecedent of CSR behavior. By analyzing the letters to the shareholders of German HDAX firms from 2003 to 2012, this study finds that family ownership positively affects management’s attention to CSR, mainly driven by founders and family foundations. The research adds to our understanding of the family firm–CSR nexus by scrutinizing the role SEW plays in management’s attention to CSR when it comes to family firm heterogeneity.