Assessing the Impact of CEO Activism

37 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2016 Last revised: 22 Apr 2019

See all articles by Aaron Chatterji

Aaron Chatterji

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Michael W. Toffel

Harvard Business School

Date Written: April 9, 2019


CEO activism refers to corporate leaders speaking out on social and environmental policy issues not directly related to their company’s core business. Distinct from nonmarket strategy and traditional corporate social responsibility, the recent wave of CEO activism focuses on social issues unrelated to their core business, ranging from environmental issues to LGBTQ rights and race relations. In the first study of this phenomenon, we implement two framed field experiments to provide evidence on how CEO activism can influence public opinions about government policies and consumer attitudes about the CEO’s company.

Keywords: business and society, corporate social policy, leadership, social activism, values

JEL Classification: M1, M14, M38

Suggested Citation

Chatterji, Aaron and Toffel, Michael W., Assessing the Impact of CEO Activism (April 9, 2019). 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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