Assessing the Impact of CEO Activism

23 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2016 Last revised: 25 Apr 2018

Aaron Chatterji

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Michael W. Toffel

Harvard Business School

Date Written: December 19, 2017


CEO activism refers to corporate leaders speaking out on social and environmental policy issues not directly related to their company’s core business. In the first study of this phenomenon, we investigate how CEO activism can influence public opinion about these issues and consumer attitudes about the CEO’s company. Using an experiment, we find that CEO activism can sway public opinion and increase consumers’ intentions to purchase the company’s products. However, we find that these two effects depend on the alignment between the CEO’s message and individuals’ policy preferences.

Suggested Citation

Chatterji, Aaron and Toffel, Michael W., Assessing the Impact of CEO Activism (December 19, 2017). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 16-100; Duke I&E Research Paper No. 16-11. Available at SSRN: or

Aaron Chatterji

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

Michael W. Toffel (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617.384.8043 (Phone)

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