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Corporate social responsibility and innovation: a comparative study

Haidi Zhou (School of Management, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China)
Qiang Wang (School of Management, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China)
Xiande Zhao (China Europe International Business School, Pudong, China)

Industrial Management & Data Systems

ISSN: 0263-5577

Article publication date: 17 March 2020

Issue publication date: 4 May 2020



The purpose of this study was to examine how firms' corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies affect their innovation performance via two mediating variables, employee involvement and supplier collaboration, and compare how this mechanism works in the service and manufacturing industries.


The conceptual model was built on stakeholder theory, the resource-based view (RBV) and service-dominant logic (SDL). Based on survey data from 686 service firms and 1,646 manufacturing firms, the hypothesized relationships were tested using structural equation modeling (SEM).


The empirical results showed that CSR positively affected service innovation and product innovation in service firms and manufacturing firms, respectively, and that these effects were positively mediated by employee involvement and supplier collaboration. However, compared with manufacturing firms, the effect of CSR on innovation performance was greater for service firms. Supplier collaboration and employee involvement also played a stronger role in service firms when mediating the relationship between CSR and innovation performance.


By analyzing and validating the direct and indirect effects of CSR on innovation performance in both the service and manufacturing industries, this study addressed the strategic benefit of CSR and extended research focused on the financial benefits of CSR. Therefore, its findings contribute to our understanding of sustainability and innovation issues. From a theoretical perspective, this study extended the RBV, SDL and stakeholder theory to the context of the CSR-innovation relationship, and showed that firms could align CSR and innovation initiatives to achieve strategic synergy. It also revealed the similarities and differences between service and manufacturing firms regarding the mechanism through which CSR affects innovation.



This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71602159, 71420107024).


Zhou, H., Wang, Q. and Zhao, X. (2020), "Corporate social responsibility and innovation: a comparative study", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 120 No. 5, pp. 863-882.



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