Bad Company: Tactics, Stigma, and Shifts in the Public Approval of Environmental Activist Organizations after the BP Oil Spill

44 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2017 Last revised: 25 Mar 2018

See all articles by Mary-Hunter McDonnell

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

The Wharton School - The University of Pennsylvania

Elizabeth G. Pontikes

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: March 21, 2018

Abstract

Social movement organizations increasingly interact with firms through collaborative, rather than contentious tactics. And yet the trade-offs associated with choosing to collaborate are not well understood. Activists recognize firms' potential to be particularly useful allies due to their considerable resources, global scope, and political power. And yet activists fear that collaborating with a firm could damage their reputation and credibility, particularly if the company becomes embroiled in a scandal. We shed light on these trade-offs by through an empirical investigation of changes in the contributions received by activist organizations in the wake of the BP oil spill. Our results show that activists that had collaborated with BP prior to the spill suffered from decreased contributions after the scandal, relative to activists with no prior interactions with BP. To the contrary, activists that had previously contentiously targeted BP enjoyed increased contributions after the spill. These results shed light on the trade-offs associated with activists' choice between a collaborative and contentious engagement strategy for interacting with private sector entities.

Keywords: social movement organizations, cross-sector collaboration, crisis, stigma, reputation

Suggested Citation

McDonnell, Mary-Hunter and Pontikes, Elizabeth G., Bad Company: Tactics, Stigma, and Shifts in the Public Approval of Environmental Activist Organizations after the BP Oil Spill (March 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3005520 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3005520

Mary-Hunter McDonnell (Contact Author)

The Wharton School - The University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Elizabeth G. Pontikes

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/elizabeth.pontikes/

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