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Do Actions Speak Louder than Words? The Case of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Olga Hawn

Boston University School of Management

Ioannis Ioannou

London Business School

June 7, 2013

This paper examines how existing firm resources and contemporaneous symbolic and substantive strategic actions interact to drive firm performance in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We integrate neo-institutional literature and the resource-based view of the firm to develop hypotheses about the differential impact of these distinct types of strategic CSR investments on firm performance, conditional on the level of existing CSR resources. We use the market-value equation and a database comprising 2,261 firms in 43 countries from 2002 to 2008. We find a positive impact on firm performance when a firm a) undertakes symbolic CSR actions in the presence of a larger stock of CSR resources or b) concurrently undertakes symbolic and substantive CSR actions. We discuss implications for future research and practice.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), firm performance, legitimacy, resource-based view, symbolic and substantive actions, decoupling

JEL Classification: M10, M14

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Date posted: July 6, 2012 ; Last revised: June 7, 2013

Suggested Citation

Hawn, Olga and Ioannou, Ioannis, Do Actions Speak Louder than Words? The Case of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (June 7, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2101775 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2101775

Contact Information

Olga Hawn (Contact Author)
Boston University School of Management ( email )
595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
Ioannis Ioannou
London Business School ( email )
Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, NW1 4SA
United Kingdom
02070008748 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.london.edu
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