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Do Corporate Social Responsibility Engagements Lead to Real Environmental, Social, and Governance Impact?

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  • Jun Li

    () (Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109)

  • Di (Andrew) Wu

    () (Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109)

Abstract

We construct an event-based outcome measure of firm-level environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact for public and private firms globally from 2007 to 2015 using data from RepRisk. Then we measure the societal impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagements using participation in the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) as a proxy. We demonstrate a robust and striking difference between public and private firms: whereas private firms significantly reduce their negative ESG incident levels after UNGC engagements, public firms fail to do so and are more likely to engage in decoupled CSR actions—actions with no subsequent real impact. We then conduct a series of in-depth analyses to examine possible economic mechanisms. Our results are most consistent with shareholder–stakeholder conflicts of interest being the main moderator of decoupling. The intensity of this conflict is further moderated by three factors: ownership type, proximity to final consumers on the value chain, and specific ESG incident types. Other possible mechanisms, such as selective entry into UNGC and heterogeneities in media exposure, country representation, and entry timing, do not survive our analysis. Our results suggest that existing CSR engagements and one-size-fits-all CSR policy mandates might not necessarily lead to better societal outcomes, and a multi-tiered policy targeting different ownership and industry types might be more efficient at maximizing ex post ESG benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Jun Li & Di (Andrew) Wu, 2020. "Do Corporate Social Responsibility Engagements Lead to Real Environmental, Social, and Governance Impact?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(6), pages 2564-2588, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:66:y:2020:i:6:p:2564-2588
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2019.3324
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2019.3324
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Cai, Ya-Jun & Choi, Tsan-Ming, 2020. "A United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals perspective for sustainable textile and apparel supply chain management," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 141(C).
    2. Nan Zhou & Heli Wang, 0. "Foreign subsidiary CSR as a buffer against parent firm reputation risk," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 0, pages 1-27.
    3. Nan Zhou & Heli Wang, 2020. "Foreign subsidiary CSR as a buffer against parent firm reputation risk," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 51(8), pages 1256-1282, October.

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