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CSR: retailer activities vs consumer buying decisions

Ulf Elg (School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Jens Hultman (School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 13 June 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a retailer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and image influence consumer perceptions regarding the firm’s social responsibility, and how CSR aspects influence consumers buying decisions in store for a specific product.


A qualitative case study method is used, including interviews, document studies and observations. The CSR approach of a Swedish retailer is investigated at corporate level and in the store, and how this interacts with the views of consumers as they make decisions regarding the purchase of a disposable product.


The authors propose the concept CSR identity to capture the internal efforts and positioning that a retailer attempts to achieve. Store activities and external independent stakeholders will have a main influence on whether the identity is regarded as credible by consumers. Furthermore, factors such as self-image and influences from the social network will influence whether a consumer will be committed to prioritize CSR aspects in the store.

Practical implications

Gaps between the retailer and the consumer perspective on CSR, particularly relevant for disposable, low-involvement products are identified. It is critical for retailers to be aware of and address these gaps.


The study captures corporate level, store level and consumer behaviour for a single retailer and is able to reflect upon how specific activities from the retailer interact with consumer attitudes and activities in the store. The authors connect various streams of research on CSR and retailing into one consistent framework.



This research is part of a larger research project founded by Handelsbanken’s Research Foundation.


Elg, U. and Hultman, J. (2016), "CSR: retailer activities vs consumer buying decisions", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 640-657.



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