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Radical Repertoires: The Incidence and Impact of Corporate-Sponsored Social Activism


  • Mary-Hunter McDonnell

    () (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)


This article explores when and why firms participate in overt corporate-sponsored social activism. To shed light on this question, I empirically explore the emergence and implications of a new strategic phenomenon in nonmarket strategy—the corporate-sponsored boycott—in which firms voluntarily cooperate with contentious social movement organizations to sponsor boycotts that protest the contested social practices of other companies or entities at higher orders of market organization, such as industries, transnational regulators, or states. Using a longitudinal database that tracks the social movement challenges faced by 300 large companies between 1993 and 2007, I provide evidence that overt corporate-sponsored activism is used by companies that are chronically targeted and losing ground to activists, especially when those companies are facing a reputational deficit. Furthermore, I find that participation in overt corporate-sponsored activism is associated with significant decreases in the number of activist challenges targeting a firm in the future, suggesting that the tactic may effectively defend a firm from contentious threat by allowing firms to co-opt allies within the activist population. I discuss implications of these findings for social movement research, nonmarket strategy, and the study of corporate social responsibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Mary-Hunter McDonnell, 2016. "Radical Repertoires: The Incidence and Impact of Corporate-Sponsored Social Activism," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 53-71, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:27:y:2016:i:1:p:53-71

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McDonnell, Mary-Hunter & King, Brayden & Soule, Sarah A., 2015. "A Dynamic Process Model of Private Politics: Activist Targeting and Corporate Receptivity to Social Challenges," Research Papers 3319, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    2. Kathleen M. Eisenhardt & Claudia Bird Schoonhoven, 1996. "Resource-based View of Strategic Alliance Formation: Strategic and Social Effects in Entrepreneurial Firms," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 7(2), pages 136-150, April.
    3. Sen, Sankar & Gurhan-Canli, Zeynep & Morwitz, Vicki, 2001. " Withholding Consumption: A Social Dilemma Perspective on Consumer Boycotts," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 399-417, December.
    4. Rodolphe Durand & Hayagreeva Rao & Philippe Monin, 2003. "Institutional Change in Toque Ville: Nouvelle Cuisine as an Identity Movement in French Gastronomy," Post-Print hal-00480858, HAL.
    5. Thomas P. Lyon & John W. Maxwell, 2004. "Astroturf: Interest Group Lobbying and Corporate Strategy," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(4), pages 561-597, December.
    6. King, Gary & Zeng, Langche, 2001. "Logistic Regression in Rare Events Data," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 137-163, January.
    7. David P. Baron & Daniel Diermeier, 2007. "Strategic Activism and Nonmarket Strategy," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(3), pages 599-634, September.
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    1. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:12:p:2424-2443 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:jbrese:v:95:y:2019:i:c:p:417-427 is not listed on IDEAS


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