Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 136, Issue 4, pp 759–773 | Cite as

Corporate Social Responsibility Failures: How do Consumers Respond to Corporate Violations of Implied Social Contracts?

  • Cristel Antonia RussellEmail author
  • Dale W. Russell
  • Heather Honea


This research documents consumers’ potential to monitor corporations’ License to Operate through their consumption responses to corporate social responsibility failures. The premise is that the type of social contracts or standards in place may determine how consumers, through their individual and collective behaviors, can play a direct role in influencing corporate behavior, when corporations fail to meet social responsibility standards. An experiment conducted with a large sample of consumers in the United States shows that consumers respond differently to a company’s failure in its social responsibilities depending on whether the violated standard is a government mandate or a voluntary commitment and depending on the consumers’ own environmental consciousness. The findings highlight the potential power of individual consumers and consumer collectives in narrowing the governance gaps relative to social and environmental issues and reducing the likelihood of CSR failures.


Corporate social responsibility Ethical consumers Individual boycotts Social contract Collective action 



Corporate social responsibility


Genetically modified organisms


Non-governmental organizations


United States


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristel Antonia Russell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dale W. Russell
    • 2
  • Heather Honea
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of MarketingAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniformed Services UniversityBethesdaUSA
  3. 3.Department of MarketingSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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