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Media Depictions of CEO Ethics and Stakeholder Support of CSR Initiatives: The Mediating Roles of CSR Motive Attributions and Cynicism

Babatunde Ogunfowora (), Madelynn Stackhouse () and Won-Yong Oh ()
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Babatunde Ogunfowora: University of Calgary
Madelynn Stackhouse: University of Calgary
Won-Yong Oh: University of Calgary

Journal of Business Ethics, 2018, vol. 150, issue 2, 525-540

Abstract: Abstract Corporate social responsibility (CSR) functions as a positive signal to stakeholders that a firm is a responsible corporate citizen. However, CSR is increasingly becoming an ambiguous signal of organizational goodwill because many companies engage in CSR purely out of self-interest, rather than genuine altruism. In this paper, we integrate attribution theory with signaling theory to explore how stakeholders react when they receive additional signals that contradict the company’s intended positive CSR signal. Specifically, we argue that morally questionable CEO ethics in the media negatively influences stakeholders’ CSR motive attributions, which in turn results in increased cynicism that ultimately impacts CSR support intentions and behaviors. We find support for our hypotheses in a quasi-experimental study of stakeholder media exposure to different types of CEOs (morally questionable, ethical, and ethics-unknown). Our findings demonstrate that stakeholders consider CEO ethics an important signal of CSR motives, and will shun the CSR initiatives of morally questionable CEOs.

Keywords: Attribution theory; CEO ethics; Corporate social responsibility; CSR motive attribution; Organizational cynicism; Signaling theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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