A Framework for Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility Programs as a Continuum: An Exploratory Study

Abstract

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are increasingly popular corporate marketing strategies. This paper argues that CSR programs can fall along a continuum between two endpoints: Institutionalized programs and Promotional programs. This classification is based on an exploratory study examining the variance of four responses from the consumer stakeholder group toward these two categories of CSR. Institutionalized CSR programs are argued to be most effective at increasing customer loyalty, enhancing attitude toward the company, and decreasing consumer skepticism. Promotional CSR programs are argued to be more effective at generating purchase intent. Ethical and managerial implications of these preliminary findings are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank MSI International, a full service marketing intelligence firm based near Philadelphia for the generous contribution of their survey programming and internet survey panel for data collection for this study.

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Correspondence to Julie Pirsch.

Additional information

Julie Pirsch, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Villanova University. She researches in the areas of cause-related marketing, corporate social responsibility, and new product development.

Shruti Gupta, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Management at The Pennsylvania State University at Abington, in Abington, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gupta’s research interests lie in the area of corporate social responsibility, cause-related marketing, environmental consumerism, and social marketing issues.

Stacy Landreth, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of North Texas. She researches in the areas of cause-related marketing and social marketing alliances, as well as advertising source effects.

Appendices

APPEDNDIX A

Institutional CSR company description

Company R started in 1983 as a project of the Rural Education Center (a nonprofit agency) to help revitalize the struggling New England dairy industry and save the fast disappearing family farms.

Over the 20 years, this company has defined itself around its socially responsible agenda in the following way:

  • By using all natural organic ingredients (produced without the use of antibiotics, pesticides and fertilizers), no preservatives or artificial flavors or sweeteners.

  • Buying milk only from local family farmers rather than national dairy suppliers, and requires these farmers to use no antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides or fertilizers.

  • Giving 10% of their profits to environmental causes, and has recycles all possible waste from manufacturing, including water and heat, and has decreased plant emissions by over 50%.

  • Reducing waste by:

  • switching to a lighter-weight plastic cup

  • replacing the plastic lid with a foil seal

  • giving the yogurt waste (in the manufacturing process) to local pig farmers to be used as hog feed instead of disposing it in a landfill or incinerator.

  • Building a workforce that reflects the local community by hiring a multi-ethnic group of workers and seeking out people from underrepresented segments of the population when hiring.

  • Reviewing their suppliers for fair labor practices, make sure suppliers offer a living wage to employees, and require basic health care services be provided.

APPENDIX B

Promotional CSR company description

Company W is part of a larger food products corporation that makes other products besides yogurt like breakfast cereal, snack foods, prepared meals, baked foods etc. The company’s CSR activities include:

  • Supporting Women’s Breast Cancer Cure by running a 4 month promotion every year called “More Lids for a Better Life.” This program has been offered for the past 2 years. For every yogurt cup lid that is returned to the company by the user, a 10 cent donation is made to a national Breast Cancer Foundation.

  • Providing information on women’s wellness – breast cancer, heart health, osteoporosis prevention and fitness – on its website.

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Pirsch, J., Gupta, S. & Grau, S.L. A Framework for Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility Programs as a Continuum: An Exploratory Study. J Bus Ethics 70, 125–140 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9100-y

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Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • cause-related marketing
  • customer loyalty
  • satisfaction
  • stakeholder theory
  • skepticism