Corporate Social Responsibility Practices and Financial Performance over Time for Selected U.S. Corporations
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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a subject long debated since the 1930s, but the premises of the topic in regards to the what, how, why, and to whom it should be remain in question. The relation between CSR and corporate financial performance (CFP) has emerged at the forefront of this debate, particularly within the last 30 years, yet no unified theory has been reached. Other scholars interested in CSR have criticized the emphasis on CFP as a means of economic justification for what they believe to be a broader social issue, and have attempted to redirect the focus in CSR research to include other motivations and outcomes associated with organizational stakeholders other than shareholders. Using a descriptive and instrumental stakeholder theory approach, the focus of the current study was to explore CSR practices in both a dependent and independent sense. These theoretical underpinnings reflect stakeholder management decisions based on organizational characteristics, and the strategic management of various organizational stakeholders, respectively. The study population consisted of a diverse array of 353 U.S.- based corporations, 80 percent from the Fortune 500. Data included eleven corporate classification variables that represented organizations’ geographical location, industry, executive leadership dimensions, and financial health. It also included six CFP variables that represented accounting and market-based measures, and seven CSR variables that represented the key organizational stakeholders of the local community and environment, employees, and customers. The corporate classification variables were utilized to assess CSR performances, while CFP was assessed by analyzing differences among levels of the CSR practices. These assessments were performed for organizations for the twelve years within 1991-2002. Several results that assisted in informing descriptive and instrumental stakeholder theory were produced through the examination of previously used and under-explored variables. Specifically, the study results included new insights regarding how several organizational characteristics related to their CSR practices. Study findings provided elaboration regarding how performance differences in seven key CSR categories affected six representative accounting and market-based measures of corporate financial performance. Implications for practice for organizational decision-makers are provided along with detailed information pertaining to how, with inferences as to why, firms engage in CSR. Additionally, associated financial outcomes from different levels of CSR implementation are reported. Key findings from the study were that the CSR practices regarding employees and the environment remained stable over the twelve-year time period. Additionally, organizations’ geographical location, financial health, and corporate leadership dimensions had an impact on CSR practices for various stakeholder groups, with the exception of employees. A high level of investment in CSR for certain stakeholder groups did not produce the best financial outcomes in all cases; however, organizations that emphasized CSR in the categories relative to the community and its employees outperformed others with respect to certain financial performance measures.
SubjectCorporate social responsibility
Corporate financial performance
Human resource development
Phelan Ribera, Kelli Catherine (2010). Corporate Social Responsibility Practices and Financial Performance over Time for Selected U.S. Corporations. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from