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Mixing business with politics: Does corporate social responsibility end where lobbying transparency begins?

Alvise Favotto and Kelly Kollman

Regulation & Governance, 2021, vol. 15, issue 2, 262-279

Abstract: Scholars increasingly have argued that the future effectiveness and legitimacy of firms' corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities are dependent on more transparent forms of lobbying to ensure firms' policy positions are aligned with their CSR commitments. Very little empirical work, however, has systematically analyzed firms' lobbying disclosures or examined how these firms coordinate their lobbying and CSR activities. We address these empirical questions by analyzing the CSR reports of 150 corporations from Germany, the UK and the US over an 18‐year period and by conducting interviews with the CSR managers of these firms. We find that corporations have become more transparent about their public policy advocacy over time, thus acknowledging that lobbying is a CSR issue. For most firms, however, this commitment to transparency appears to be largely ceremonial. Few firms disclose the specific policy positions they advocate or sufficiently coordinate the work of their lobbying and CSR units to foster greater alignment of these activities. These modest changes in lobbying transparency appear to be driven by legitimacy concerns and, in a few instances, by governance gaps firms perceive to be relevant to their future business interests.

Date: 2021
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