Legitimacy, visibility, and the antecedents of corporate social performance : an investigation of the instrumental perspective
Date of Issue2011
College of Business (Nanyang Business School)
Using institutional theory as the foundation, this study examines the role of organizational visibility from a variety of sources (i.e., slack visibility, industry visibility, and visibility to multiple stakeholders) in influencing corporate social performance (CSP). The conceptual framework offers important insights regarding the instrumental motives of managers in performing CSP initiatives. Based on a sample of 124 S&P 500 firms, the authors found that it is a firm’s visibility to stakeholders, rather than its economic performance, that has the larger impact on managers’ decisions regarding how much CSP their firms exhibit. The results show that more profitable firms may not be motivated to engage actively in CSP unless they are under greater scrutiny by various firm stakeholders. The authors also found that organizational slack (estimated as cost of capital) is positively associated with a Social CSP dimension but negatively associated with a Strategic CSP dimension. This research contributes to the current CSP literature by demonstrating that motivations in addition to normative or ethical ones may be at play in the decisions firms make regarding their CSP.
Journal of management
© 2011 The Author(s).