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Corporate social responsibility, board of directors, and firm performance: an analysis of their relationships

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This paper aims to contribute to the empirical evidence relating corporate social responsibility (CSR), board composition, and firm performance. Using a sample of Spanish listed firms included in the IBEX 35 over the period 2005–2010 the results show that the percentage of independent directors affect firm CSR activities, and that this effect is moderated by the resources available to the firm (measured by return on assets). Also, the CSR has a mediating role on the relation between the independence of the board of directors and firm value. These results hold for other board characteristics (board size and women as directors).

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    See Rausch (2011) for a summary about the main characteristics of Shareholder and Stakeholder Theories.

  2. 2.

    The Observatorio de Responsabilidad Social Corporativa is an association made up of organisations representing civil society, including NGOs, trade unions and consumers’ organisations, which encourages participation and cooperation amongst social organisations working in CSR in different ways.

  3. 3.

    The obligations established in the Norms can be grouped in the following categories: (a) general obligation to respect, promote and secure the fulfillment of human rights, (b) ensuring equality of opportunity and treatment for the purpose of eliminating discrimination, (c) not engaging in nor benefiting from war crimes respecting the right to security of persons, (d) not using forced or compulsory labour, respecting the rights of children to be protected from economic exploitation, providing a safe and healthy working environment, providing workers with remuneration that ensures an adequate standard of living and ensuring freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, (e) prohibition of corruption, not supporting States or any other entities to abuse human rights and respecting economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and contributing to their realization, (f) acting in accordance with fair business, marketing and advertising practices and ensuring the safety and quality of the goods and services they provide, (g) carrying out their activities in accordance with the regulation relating to the preservation of the environment and contributing to the wider goal of sustainable development, (h) implementing the necessary internal rules of operation, monitoring and verification in compliance with the Norms.

  4. 4.

    We initially considered controlling for the sector effect by including dummy variables for each of the sectors to which the sample firms belong. However, this possibility was rejected because it increased excessively the number of explanatory variables considering our sample size and made it difficult to draw up a homogeneous definition of all the variables in all the models considered (determinants for CSR and firm value).

  5. 5.

    The year considered as a reference was 2005.


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We acknowledge the financial support provided by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (Projects ECO2012-35439 and ECO2012-36532) and the University of León (Spain) (Project UXXI2014/0038).

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Correspondence to Roberto Fernández-Gago.

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Fernández-Gago, R., Cabeza-García, L. & Nieto, M. Corporate social responsibility, board of directors, and firm performance: an analysis of their relationships. Rev Manag Sci 10, 85–104 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-014-0141-9

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  • CSR
  • Board composition
  • Board independence
  • Firm value
  • Resources available

JEL Classification

  • M14
  • G30