NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

John A. List, Fatemeh Momeni

NBER Working Paper No. 24169
Issued in December 2017
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Economics, Labor Studies

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.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24169

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Cassar and Meier w24109 Intentions for Doing Good Matter for Doing Well: The (Negative) Signaling Value of Prosocial Incentives
Hulten w24141 The Importance of Education and Skill Development for Economic Growth in the Information Era
Azar, Marinescu, and Steinbaum w24147 Labor Market Concentration
Kotchen and Jungbien Moon w17254 Corporate Social Responsibility for Irresponsibility
Murphy, Scott-Clayton, and Wyness w23888 The End of Free College in England: Implications for Quality, Enrolments, and Equity
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us