Red, blue, and purple firms: Organizational political ideology and corporate social responsibility

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Research summary: Why do firms vary so much in their stances toward corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Prior research has emphasized the role of external pressures, as well as CEO preferences, while little attention has been paid to the possibility that CSR may also stem from prevailing beliefs among the body politic of the firm. We introduce the concept of organizational political ideology to explain how political beliefs of organizational members shape corporate advances in CSR. Using a novel measure based on the political contributions by employees of Fortune 500 firms, we find that ideology predicts advances in CSR. This effect appears stronger when CSR is rare in the firm's industry, when firms are high in human capital intensity, and when the CEO has had long organizational tenure. Managerial summary: Why do firms vary in their stances toward corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Prior research suggests that companies engage in CSR when under pressure to do so, or when their CEOs have liberal values. We introduce the concept of organizational political ideology, and argue that CSR may also result from the values of the larger employee population. Introducing a novel measure of organizational political ideology, based on employees' donations to the two major political parties in the United States, we find that liberal-leaning companies engage in more CSR than conservative-leaning companies, and even more so when other firms in the industry have weaker CSR records, when the company relies heavily on human resources and when the company's CEO has a long organizational tenure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1040
Number of pages23
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management

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