Webs of Influence: Secondary Stakeholder Actions and Cross-National Corporate Social Performance
Organization Science, (Forthcoming)
72 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 27, 2020
We analyze the relationship between the actions and interactions of secondary stakeholders with an interest in corporate social performance (CSP) and variation in firm-level CSP across countries. Our work represents a significant theoretical shift in research exploring comparative CSP, which to date has focused on cross-national variation in institutions. We propose stakeholders can also drive cross-country heterogeneity in CSP by influencing the salience of the issues for which they advocate. Stakeholders raise salience of CSP issues through their interactions with important socio-political actors within a country, signaling their collective ability to change expectations on CSP. CSP issue salience is also heightened where heterogeneous stakeholder groups advocate for CSP issues, signaling issues have garnered widespread acceptance or legitimacy. Managers are also more attuned to the urgency of issues through the direct actions stakeholders take against firms in the country. We also argue and find that these effects are moderated by inter-stakeholder interactions which signal the degree of consensus amongst stakeholders on issues and their ability to mobilize repeatedly against firms. We draw upon a novel dataset of 250 million media-reported events to identify secondary stakeholders with interests in the environmental and social issues that constitute CSP, their direct actions against firms as well as their interactions with important socio-political actors and each other. We empirically demonstrate that both across country, and within country variation across time, in secondary stakeholder actions and interactions are associated with differences in firm-level CSP among a sample of 2,852 firms spanning 36 countries from 2004-2013.
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, networks, nonmarket strategy, social movements, stakeholders
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation