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Conformity or differentiation? A U-shaped relationship between peers’ CSR and focal firms’ CSR

Xianyi Long (School of Economics and Management, Wuhan University , Wuhan, China)
Ting Zhang (School of Business Administration, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law , Wuhan, China and School of Economics and Management, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China)

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 8 February 2021

Issue publication date: 31 March 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the influence of peers’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) on focal firms’ CSR from an integrated perspective. The current study aims to explore whether as peers’ CSR increases focal firms’ CSR would first decrease and then increase.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is based on a sample consisting of Chinese listed manufacturing firms from 2010 to 2016. Hypotheses are tested by generalized least squares method to minimum heterogeneity and autocorrelation concern.

Findings

The results show that focal firms’ CSR would first decrease and then increase with the increase in peers’ CSR. Furthermore, this paper found that corporate visibility would stress more value on CSR differentiation strategy and environmental uncertainty would stress more value on CSR conformity strategy, such that the U-shaped relationship would be more pronounced in high corporate visibility or low environmental uncertainty situation.

Practical implications

The findings may be of interest to the academic researchers and managers. For researchers, it is important to understand how focal firms would practice CSR in response to peers’ CSR, especially through an integrated perspective. For managers, the results show that the best way to invest in CSR activities in response to peers’ CSR follows a U-shaped curve, and corporate visibility and environmental uncertainty are important factors to be considered to make CSR decisions.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the literature by proposing and examining a U-shaped relationship between peers’ CSR and focal firms’ CSR, which stresses the conformity and differentiation value of CSR simultaneously. Besides, to fully map the effects of peers’ CSR and focal firms’ CSR, this paper considers the moderating roles of internal and external contingencies on this non-linear relationship between the peers’ CSR and focal firms’ CSR.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Natural Science Foundation of China 71532011.

Funding: This study was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (No.71532011).

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Citation

Long, X. and Zhang, T. (2021), "Conformity or differentiation? A U-shaped relationship between peers’ CSR and focal firms’ CSR", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 305-327. https://doi.org/10.1108/CMS-04-2020-0157

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

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