How Trying To Look 'Socially Responsible' Can Completely Backfire On Companies

sustainability sprint

Photo: Baxter

Corporations attempt to build a reputation of social responsibility both to enhance their brands and prevent negative attention from activists.The theory goes that by making public commitments to things like sustainability, companies make it more likely that activists will work with, rather than against them.        

Kellogg School of Management Professor Brayden King’s blog pointed us to his recent paper in which he found that this ‘pro-social’ activity can actually backfire. 

Rather than preventing public boycott and protest, Dr. King and co-author Mary-Hunter McDonnell found that the firms that work the hardest to boost their reputation come under the most attack. 

The key is visibility.

Firms that publicly commit to social movements encourage activists to hold them to their promises and highlight any inconsistency. By targeting high profile, high reputation companies, people are able to stir up more controversy and more media coverage of their activities.

Companies that undertake such initiatives need to back them up with action, otherwise they won’t measure up to this harsher scrutiny.

Read the full paper here.  

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