, Volume 99, Issue 4, pp 565-585
Date: 12 Nov 2010

A Stakeholder Identity Orientation Approach to Corporate Social Performance in Family Firms

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Extending the dialogue on corporate social performance (CSP) as descriptive stakeholder management (Clarkson, Acad Manage Rev 20:92, 1995), we examine differences in CSP activity between family and nonfamily firms. We argue that CSP activity can be explained by the firm’s identity orientation toward stakeholders (Brickson, Admin Sci Quart 50:576, 2005; Acad Manage Rev 32:864, 2007). Specifically, individualistic, relational, or collectivistic identity orientations can describe a firm’s level of CSP activity toward certain stakeholders. Family firms, we suggest, adopt a more relational orientation toward their stakeholders than nonfamily firms, and thus engage in higher levels of CSP. Further, we invoke collectivistic identity orientation to argue that the higher the level of family or founder involvement within a family firm, the greater the level of CSP toward specific stakeholders. Using social performance rating data from 1991 to 2005, we find that family and nonfamily firms demonstrate notable differences in terms of social initiatives and social concerns. We also find that the level of family and founder involvement is related to the type and frequency of a family firm’s social initiatives and social concerns.