• 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.