IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/24169.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

When Corporate Social Responsibility Backfires: Theory and Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • John A. List
  • Fatemeh Momeni

Abstract

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a cornerstone of modern business practice, developing from a “why” in the 1960s to a “must” today. Early empirical evidence on both the demand and supply sides has largely confirmed CSR's efficacy. This paper combines theory with a large-scale natural field experiment to connect CSR to an important but often neglected behavior: employee misconduct and shirking. Through employing more than 3000 workers, we find that our usage of CSR increases employee misbehavior - 20% more employees act detrimentally toward our firm by shirking on their primary job duty when we introduce CSR. Complementary treatments suggest that “moral licensing” is at work, in that the “doing good” nature of CSR induces workers to misbehave on another dimension that hurts the firm. In this way, our data highlight a potential dark cloud of CSR, and serve to forewarn that such business practices should not be blindly applied.

Suggested Citation

  • John A. List & Fatemeh Momeni, 2017. "When Corporate Social Responsibility Backfires: Theory and Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 24169, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24169
    Note: EEE LS
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w24169.pdf
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at http://www.nber.org/wwphelp.html. Free access is also available to older working papers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Tiefenbeck, Verena & Staake, Thorsten & Roth, Kurt & Sachs, Olga, 2013. "For better or for worse? Empirical evidence of moral licensing in a behavioral energy conservation campaign," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 160-171.
    2. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Identity, Morals, and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 805-855.
    3. Christiane Bradler & Robert Dur & Susanne Neckermann & Arjan Non, 2016. "Employee Recognition and Performance: A Field Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(11), pages 3085-3099, November.
    4. Berg, Janine., 2016. "Income security in the on-demand economy : findings and policy lessons from a survey of crowdworkers," ILO Working Papers 994906483402676, International Labour Organization.
    5. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    6. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2010. "Individual and Corporate Social Responsibility," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 77(305), pages 1-19, January.
    7. John List & Sally Sadoff & Mathis Wagner, 2011. "So you want to run an experiment, now what? Some simple rules of thumb for optimal experimental design," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(4), pages 439-457, November.
    8. Michael Kosfeld & Susanne Neckermann, 2011. "Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 86-99, August.
    9. Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2007. "Estimating Risk Attitudes in Denmark: A Field Experiment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 109(2), pages 341-368, June.
    10. Yuan-Shuh Lii & Monle Lee, 2012. "Doing Right Leads to Doing Well: When the Type of CSR and Reputation Interact to Affect Consumer Evaluations of the Firm," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 105(1), pages 69-81, January.
    11. Gabriele Paolacci & Jesse Chandler & Panagiotis G. Ipeirotis, 2010. "Running experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(5), pages 411-419, August.
    12. Shuili Du & C. B. Bhattacharya & Sankar Sen, 2011. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Competitive Advantage: Overcoming the Trust Barrier," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(9), pages 1528-1545, March.
    13. Mirco Tonin & Michael Vlassopoulos, 2015. "Corporate Philanthropy and Productivity: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(8), pages 1795-1811, August.
    14. Sebastian Kube & Michel Andre Marechal & Clemens Puppe, 2012. "The Currency of Reciprocity: Gift Exchange in the Workplace," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1644-1662, June.
    15. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Nyborg, Karine, 2008. "Attracting responsible employees: Green production as labor market screening," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 509-526, December.
    16. Henri Servaes & Ane Tamayo, 2013. "The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Firm Value: The Role of Customer Awareness," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(5), pages 1045-1061, May.
    17. Vanessa C. Burbano, 2016. "Social Responsibility Messages and Worker Wage Requirements: Field Experimental Evidence from Online Labor Marketplaces," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(4), pages 1010-1028, August.
    18. Ockenfels, Axel & Sliwka, Dirk & Werner, Peter, 2015. "Timing of kindness – Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 79-87.
    19. Sophie Clot & Gilles Grolleau & Lisette Ibanez, 2014. "An experimental analysis from a taking game in Madagascar," Working Papers 14-02, LAMETA, Universitiy of Montpellier, revised Jan 2014.
    20. Daniel W. Elfenbein & Ray Fisman & Brian Mcmanus, 2012. "Charity as a Substitute for Reputation: Evidence from an Online Marketplace," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1441-1468.
    21. Clot, Sophie & Grolleau, Gilles & Ibanez, Lisette, 2014. "Smug Alert! Exploring self-licensing behavior in a cheating game," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 191-194.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24169. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.