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STAKEHOLDER MISMATCHING: A THEORETICAL PROBLEM IN EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CORPORATE SOCIAL PERFORMANCE

D. Wood, R. Jones
Published 1995 · Economics

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This paper uses a stakeholder framework to review the empirical literature on corporate social performance (CSP), focusing particularly on studies attempting to correlate social with financial performance. Results show first that most studies correlate measures of business performance that as yet have no theoretical relationship (for example, the level of corporate charitable giving with return on investment). To make sense of this body of research, CSP studies must be integrated with stakeholder theory. Multiple stakeholders (a) set expectations for corporate performance, (b) experience the effects of corporate behavior, and (c) evaluate the outcomes of corporate behavior. However, we find that the empirical CSP literature mismatches variables in terms of which stakeholders are relevant to which kind of measure. Second, only the studies using market‐based variables and theory show a consistent relationship between social and financial performance, particularly those showing a negative abnormal return to the stock price of companies experiencing product recalls. Although this paper shows that the CSP construct is not yet well‐specified enough to produce stronger results, recent research suggests that much progress is being made both empirically and theoretically in developing valid and reliable measures of corporate social performance.
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