Intergroup Conflict is Our Business: CEOs’ Ethical Intergroup Leadership Fuels Stakeholder Support for Corporate Intergroup Responsibility

Abstract

Is reducing large-scale intergroup conflict the business of corporations? Although large corporations can use their power and prominence to reduce intergroup conflict in society, it is unclear to what extent stakeholders support corporate Intergroup Responsibility (CIR). Study 1 showed that support for CIR correlates in theoretically meaningful ways with relevant economic, social, and moral attitudes, including fair market ideology, consumer support for corporate social responsibility (CSR), social dominance orientation, symbolic racism, and moral foundations. Studies 2 and 3 employed experimental designs to test the hypothesis that business leaders who advocate for intergroup tolerance boost perceptions of corporations and their leaders as moral, just, and fair, which in turn, increases stakeholders’ support for CIR. We found support for this hypothesis across two highly publicized and contentious events related to racial conflict in the U.S.: The White supremacy rally in Charlottesville and the federal government’s announcement about the planned rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. Specifically, exposing participants to real-world tweets by CEOs who advocated intergroup tolerance following these events increased participants’ support for CIR. This effect was mediated by heightened perceptions of corporations and their leaders as moral, just, and fair. Taken together, these findings enhance our understanding of the factors that shape stakeholders’ reactions to CIR; highlight intergroup conflict as an emerging arena for CSR; and illustrate the power of ethical intergroup leadership.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Two of the thirty items, one belonging to the Authority/Respect foundation and one belonging to the Purity/Sanctity foundation, lowered the reliability of their respective indexes, and were therefore omitted when calculating the relevant indexes.

  2. 2.

    We also included in Study 1, for exploratory purposes, items pertaining into inclusion of others in the circle of moral regard (Graham et al. 2017; Reed and Aquino 2003), political orientation (liberalism/conservatism), income, and other demographic characteristics.

  3. 3.

    This four-item scale measured general support for CIR, which is also the level at which we conceptualize and measure this construct in Studies 1 and 3. We also included in Study 2 context-specific items that were relevant to the public discourse around the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville (e.g., “The U.S. should contract private organizations to monitor and manage crowd behavior in public events related to racial conflict”). Because our interest in this paper is in the construct of CIR more broadly, we focus on generalized (i.e., cross-situational) support for CIR.

  4. 4.

    This analysis used resampling with replacement was robust to the number of resamples, and yielded the same results with 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 iterations.

  5. 5.

    To examine whether there was an indirect effect of the ulterior motives induction on support for CIR, we conducted two additional bias-corrected bootstrap mediation analyses with 5,000 resamples. The mediation analysis comparing the ulterior motives induction condition to the control condition, as well as the mediation analysis comparing the ulterior motive induction condition to the ethical intergroup leadership condition, did not find support for a significant indirect effect (via dampening perceptions of the morality of corporations and their leaders).

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Correspondence to Nir Halevy.

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Halevy, N., Jun, S. & Chou, E.Y. Intergroup Conflict is Our Business: CEOs’ Ethical Intergroup Leadership Fuels Stakeholder Support for Corporate Intergroup Responsibility. J Bus Ethics 162, 229–246 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-4013-0

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Keywords

  • Morality
  • Leadership
  • Intergroup relations
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Ideology