Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 131-144

First online:

Corporate Charitable Contributions: A Corporate Social Performance or Legitimacy Strategy?

  • Jennifer C. ChenAffiliated withSchool of Business, Brigham Young University Hawaii
  • , Dennis M. PattenAffiliated withSchool of Business, Brigham Young University Hawaii
  • , Robin W. RobertsAffiliated withSchool of Business, Brigham Young University Hawaii Email author 

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This study examines the relation between firms’ corporate philanthropic giving and their performance in three other social domains – employee relations, environmental issues, and product safety. Based on a sample of 384 U.S. companies and using data pooled from 1998 through 2000, we find that worse performers in the other social areas are both more likely to make charitable contributions and that the extent of their giving is larger than for better performers. Analyses of each separate area of social performance, however, indicate that the relation between giving and negative social performance (cited concerns) only holds for the environmental issues and product safety areas. We find no significant association between corporate philanthropy and employee relations concerns. In general, these findings suggest that corporate philanthropy may be more a tool of legitimization than a measure of corporate social responsibility.


corporate charitable contribution corporate social performance legitimization social reporting