Does the market respond to an endorsement of social responsibility? The role of institutions, information, and legitimacy

Jonathan P. Doh, Shawn D. Howton, Shelly W. Howton, Donald S. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

306 Scopus citations


A consensus has emerged in the burgeoning literature on corporate social responsibility (CSR) that "virtuous" firms are often rewarded by the marketplace. Unfortunately, the mechanisms through which those rewards materialize are not well understood. Furthermore, it is difficult for managers and investors to know whether a company is actually engaged in responsible behavior. Thus, many stakeholders rely on institutional assessments of a firm's social practices to inform their own judgments about that company's CSR reputation. In this article, we draw on institutional theory and research on reputation and legitimacy to investigate the relationship between institutional endorsements (and repudiation) of CSR and firm financial performance. Our empirical results indicate that institutional intermediaries influence market assessments of a firm's social responsibility and highlight the importance of the legitimacy-conferring function of expert bodies in understanding the relationship between social and financial performance. Our findings also illustrate the delicate interplay among different social performance assessments, reputation, and measures of financial and operating performance such that operating performance may serve as an advanced indicator of social performance and one type of social performance assessment may temper market reactions to another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1461-1485
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • corporate social responsibility
  • event study analysis
  • institutional theory (sociology)
  • socially responsible investing (SRI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


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