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CSR by Any Other Name? The Differential Impact of Substantive and Symbolic CSR Attributions on Employee Outcomes

Abstract

Employing a time-lagged sample of 371 North American individuals working full time in a wide range of industries, occupations, and levels, we contribute to research on employee outcomes of corporate social responsibility (CSR) attributions as substantive (cause-serving) or symbolic (self-serving). Utilizing a mediated moderation model, our study extends previous findings by explaining how and why CSR attributions are related with work-related attitudes and subsequent individual performance. In support of our hypotheses, our findings indicate that the relationships between CSR attributions and individual performance are mediated through person–organization fit and work-related attitudes. Additionally, when CSR is perceived as important, substantive CSR is positively related to, and symbolic CSR is negatively related to, perception of fit with the organization. These findings contribute toward our understanding of the complex effect CSR has on employees’ work outcomes. Practical implications and future research directions are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

Magda Donia has received a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada that partly funded this data collection (#430-2014-00296).

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Correspondence to Magda B. L. Donia.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethics Approval

Ethics approval for data collection for this study was obtained under certificate # 05-12-06.

Human Participants and Animals Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The third author, Carol-Ann Tetrault Sirsly passed away while the work on this paper was in progress. We wish to dedicate this paper to her loving family; in particular her husband Tony, and daughters Dominique and Francesca. Dearly missed, our dear friend and exemplary colleague continues to impact us.

Carol-Ann Tetrault Sirsly: In Memoriam

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Donia, M.B.L., Ronen, S., Tetrault Sirsly, CA. et al. CSR by Any Other Name? The Differential Impact of Substantive and Symbolic CSR Attributions on Employee Outcomes. J Bus Ethics 157, 503–523 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3673-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3673-5

Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • CSR attributions
  • Person–organization fit
  • Employee attitudes
  • Importance of CSR
  • Employee performance