Corporate Responsibility as Myth and Ceremony: Bad, but Not for Good

University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration, UZH Business Working Paper No. 305

37 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2012 Last revised: 8 Dec 2014

See all articles by Patrick Haack

Patrick Haack

University of Zurich - Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology

Dirk Martignoni

University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration

Dennis Schoeneborn

University of Zurich - Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology; Copenhagen Business School - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management

Date Written: October 7, 2013

Abstract

Organizations adopt corporate responsibility (CR) policies often ceremonially, meaning that policy adoption is not substantive and lacks alignment with actual practice. Prior research in institutional theory has largely assumed as static view of adoption and suggests that a situation of opacity (i.e. the difficulty or impossibility of evaluation) stabilizes ceremonial adoption and thus impedes substantive adoption. This paper offers a dynamic view of adoption sequences and re-examines the role of opacity in promoting substantive adoption among multiple organizations within a given field or industry. Using a three-state Markov chain model, we specify the boundary conditions under which initial opacity paired with a change towards transparency (i.e. the relative ease or possibility of evaluation) maximizes the overall number of substantive adoptions. Our findings suggest that the institutionalization of CR-related policies can be advanced by leaving organizations significant leeway and autonomy in their adoption decision. In turn, institutionalization may be hampered by initial requests for transparency and organizational accountability. We discuss implications for (1) efforts to institutionalize CR as a global governance mechanism and (2) the institutional theory concepts of decoupling and (re-)coupling.

Keywords: corporate responsibility, decoupling, diffusion, implementation, institutional theory, self-reinforcing process

Suggested Citation

Haack, Patrick and Martignoni, Dirk and Schoeneborn, Dennis, Corporate Responsibility as Myth and Ceremony: Bad, but Not for Good (October 7, 2013). University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration, UZH Business Working Paper No. 305, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2136509 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2136509

Patrick Haack (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology ( email )

Universitätsstrasse 84
Zürich, 8006
Switzerland
0041446345307 (Phone)
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HOME PAGE: http://www.business.uzh.ch/professorships/as.html

Dirk Martignoni

University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zurich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Dennis Schoeneborn

University of Zurich - Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology ( email )

Plattenstrasse 14
Zürich, 8032
Switzerland

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management ( email )

Porcelænshaven 18A
Frederiksberg C, DK - 2000
Denmark

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