Corporate Reputation Review

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 140–158 | Cite as

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review of the Top 100 US Retailers

  • Min-Young Lee
  • Ann Fairhurst
  • Scarlett Wesley
Academic Research


This study is motivated by the lack of information about the retail industry's commitment to and attention given to socially responsible behaviors. The purpose of the study is to discover in what context corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being addressed within the top 100 US retail organizations. The framework of the study consists of principles of CSR, processes of CSR and outcomes of CSR. Based on this, corporate web pages were reviewed using content analysis procedure. Just over one-half of 100 US retailers mentioned CSR principles either in separate statements or embedded in mission statements. Economic statements were most common to category killers whereas discount stores predominantly mentioned philanthropic statements. In the analysis of CSR programs, social programs followed by environmental programs were most frequently mentioned. The results suggest more retail firms should be involved in communicating their social responsibility beliefs on their corporate website although previous research showed that a majority of Fortune 500 companies used their website to promote some aspects of CSR.


corporate social responsibility top 100 retailers corporate website content analysis 


  1. Adams, C.A., Hill, W. and Roberts, C.B. (1998) ‘Corporate social reporting practices in Western Europe: Legitimating corporate behavior?’ British Accounting Review, 30 (1), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anselmsson, J. and Johansson, U. (2007) ‘Corporate social responsibility and the positioning of grocery brands’, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, 35 (10), 835–856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asongu, J.J. (2007) ‘The legitimacy of strategic corporate social responsibility as a marketing tool’, Journal of Business and Public Policy, 1 (1), 1–12.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, M. (2005) ‘Corporate social responsibility – What does it mean?’, available at
  5. Barbaro, M. (2007) ‘Home depot to go green’, International Herald Tribune, 17 April, available at
  6. Bowd, R., Bowd, L. and Harris, P. (2006) ‘Communicating corporate social responsibility: An exploratory case study of a major UK retail centre’, Journal of Public Affairs, 6 (2), 147–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. California Green Solutions (2007) ‘Consumer holiday trends toward green in 2007’, California Green Solutions, 16 November, 2007, available at,content=1403.
  8. Carroll, A.B. (1991) ‘Corporate social performance measurement: A commentary on methods for evaluating an elusive construct’, in U.E. Post (ed.), Research in Corporate Social performance and Policy, Greenwich, CT: JAI. Vol. 12, pp. 385–401.Google Scholar
  9. Clarkson, M.B. (1995) ‘A stakeholder framework for analyzing and evaluating corporate social performance’, Academy of Management Review, 20 (1), 92–117.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, K. (1973) ‘The case for and against business assumptions of social responsibilities’, Academy of Management Journal, 16 (2), 312–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Du, S., Bhattacharya, C.B. and Sen, S. (2007) ‘Reaping relational rewards from corporate social responsibility: The role of competitive positioning’, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 24 (3), 224–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Esrock, S.L. and Leichty, G.B. (1998) ‘Social responsibility and corporate web pages: Self-presentation or agenda-setting?’ Public Relations Review, 24 (3), 305–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Esrock, S.L. and Leichty, G.B. (1999) ‘Corporate world wide web pages: Serving the news media and other publics’, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 76 (3), 456–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Esrock, S.L. and Leichty, G.B. (2000) ‘Organization of corporate web pages: Publics and functions’, Public Relations Review, 26 (3), 327–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freeman, R.E. (1994) ‘The politics of stakeholder theory: Some future directions’, Business Ethic Quarterly, 4 (4), 409–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gan, A. (2006) ‘The impact of public scrutiny on corporate philanthropy’, Journal of Business Ethics, 69 (3), 217–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gossling, T. and Vocht, C. (2007) ‘Social role conceptions and CSR Policy Success', Journal of Business Ethics, 74 (4), 363–372.Google Scholar
  18. Holcomb, J.L., Upchurch, R.S. and Okumus, F. (2007) ‘Corporate social responsibility: What are top hotel companies reporting?’ International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 19 (6), 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Home Textiles Today (2008) ‘JCPenney going “Simply Green”’, Home Textiles Today, 18 January, 2008, available at
  20. Hooghiemstra, R. (2000) ‘Corporate communication and impression management – New perspectives why companies engage in corporate social reporting’, Journal of Business Ethics, 27 (1–2), 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jamali, D. and Mirshak, R. (2006) ‘Corporate social responsibility (CSR): Theory and practice in a developing country context’, Journal of Business Ethics, 72, 243–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Juholin, E. (2004) ‘For business or for the good of all? A Finnish approach to corporate social responsibility’, Corporate Governance, 4 (3), 20–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Katsoulakos, T. and Katsoulacos, Y. (2007) ‘Strategic management, corporate responsibility and stakeholder management integrating corporate responsibility principles and stakeholder approaches into mainstream strategy: A stakeholder-oriented and integrative strategic management framework’, Corporate Governance, 7 (4), 355–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kennedy, S. (2007) ‘Environment, responsibility and retail’, Retailing Today, 46 (6), 9.Google Scholar
  25. Klein, J. and Dawar, N. (2004) ‘Corporate social responsibility and consumers’ attribution and brand evaluations in a product-harm crisis’, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 21 (3), 203–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Maignan, I. and Ralston, D. (2002) ‘Corporate social responsibility in Europe and the U.S.: Insights from businesses’ self-presentations', Journal of International Business Studies, 33 (3), 497–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Margolis, J.D. and Walsh, J.P. (2001) People and Profits? The Search for a Link Between a Company's Social and Financial Performance, Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  28. Marlin, A. and Marlin, J.T. (2003) ‘A brief history of social reporting’, available at
  29. Mohr, L.A., Webb, D.J. and Harris, K.E. (2001) ‘Do consumers expect companies to be socially responsible? The impact of corporate social responsibility on buying behavior’, Journal of Consumer Affairs, 35 (1), 45–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moskowitz, M. (1972) ‘Choosing socially responsible stocks’, Business and Society, 1, 71–75.Google Scholar
  31. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (2004) ‘Corporate social responsibility show to enhance profitability and long term shareholder value’, available at
  32. Piacentini, M., MacFadyen, L. and Eadie, D. (2000) ‘Corporate social responsibility in food retailing’, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, 28 (11), 459–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rowley, T. and Berman, S. (2000) ‘A brand new brand of corporate social performance’, Business and Society, 39 (4), 397–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schulz, D.P. (2007) ‘SAP top hundred retailers’, Stores, July, pp. S2–S19.Google Scholar
  35. Sen, S., Bhattacharya, C.B. and Korschun, D. (2006) ‘The role of corporate social responsibility in strengthening multiple stakeholder relationships’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 34 (2), 158–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Senser, R.A. (2007) ‘Corporate social responsibility: A fledgling movement faces a crucial test’, Dissent Winter, 2007, 77–82.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, H.J. (2003a) ‘The shareholders vs. stakeholders debate’, MIT Sloan Management Review, 44 (4), 85–90.Google Scholar
  38. Smith, N.C. (2003b) ‘Corporate social responsibility: Whether or how?’, California Management Review, 45 (4), 52–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. The Business Journal (2007) ‘Kohl's to pursue “green” certifications for stores’, The Business Journal, 7 November, 2007, available at
  40. Turban, D.B. and Greening, D.W. (1997) ‘Corporate social performance and organizational attractiveness to prospective employees’, The Academy of Management Journal, 40 (3), 658–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. U.S. Census Bureau (2007) ‘Estimates of monthly retail and food services sales by kind of business: 2007’, available at
  42. Van der Laan, G., Van Ees, H. and Van Witteloostuijn, A. (2008) ‘Corporate social and financial performance: An extended stakeholder theory, and empirical test with accounting measures’, Journal of Business Ethics, 79, 299–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vogel, D. (1992) ‘The globalization of business ethics: Why America remains distinctive’, California Management Review, 35 (1), 30–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vomhof, J. (2008) ‘Target's future stores will bigger, greener', Business Journal, 8 February 2008, available at
  45. Waddock, S.A. and Graves, S.B. (1997) ‘The corporate social performance-financial performance link’, Strategic Management Journal, 18 (4), 303–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Webb, D.J., Mohr, L.A. and Harris, K.E. (2008) ‘A re-examination of socially responsible consumption and its measurement’, Journal of Business Research, 61 (2), 91–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Whitehouse, L.A. (2006) ‘Corporate social responsibility: Views from the frontline’, Journal of Business Ethics, 63 (3), 279–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wood, D. (1991) ‘Corporate social performance revisited’, Academy of Management Review, 16 (4), 691–718.Google Scholar
  49. Wood, D. and Jones, R.E. (1995) ‘Stakeholder mismatching: A theoretical problem in empirical research on corporate social performance’, International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 3 (3), 229–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Min-Young Lee
    • 1
  • Ann Fairhurst
    • 2
  • Scarlett Wesley
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of MerchandisingApparel, and Textiles, University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of RetailHospitality, and Tourism Management, University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of MerchandisingApparel, and Textiles, University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations