Strategic Silence: Withholding Certification Status as a Hypocrisy Avoidance Tactic

Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol 63, Issue 1, pp. 130 - 169

76 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2018 Last revised: 30 Jun 2019

See all articles by W. Chad Carlos

W. Chad Carlos

Brigham Young University - Marriott School; Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Ben W. Lewis

Brigham Young University

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

We examine why organizations that obtain prominent certifications may at times elect not to publicize them. Drawing on the impression management literature, we argue and show that concerns about being perceived as hypocritical may cause organizations to strategically withhold their certification status. Using a longitudinal panel of corporations that were members of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, a prominent environmental certification, we show that in the face of reputational threats, organizations are less likely to publicize their certification status when the threat appears to directly contradict the claims implied by the certification. Our findings suggest that the threat of hypocrisy is amplified for firms with stronger reputations in the same domain as the certification and when audience members better understand and value the certification. Our findings delineate new boundary conditions under which firms will make prosocial claims and inspire reconsideration of long-held assumptions about the process of decoupling the implementation and communication of socially valued practices. This study also provides insights for scholars of nonmarket strategy on how corporations strategically communicate with external constituents about their sustainability initiatives.

Keywords: certification, impression management, hypocrisy, sustainability, nonmarket strategy

JEL Classification: M14

Suggested Citation

Carlos, W. Chad and Lewis, Ben W., Strategic Silence: Withholding Certification Status as a Hypocrisy Avoidance Tactic (2018). Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol 63, Issue 1, pp. 130 - 169. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2931972

W. Chad Carlos (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - Marriott School ( email )

United States

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Ben W. Lewis

Brigham Young University ( email )

565 TNRB
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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