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How Can Top Management Encourage Middle Management Buy-In for Corporate Social Responsibility?


Bryan K. Church, Georgia Institute of Technology, (deceased)
Wei Jiang, Renmin University of China and Jinan University
Xi (Jason) Kuang, Georgia Institute of Technology
Adam Vitalis, University of Waterloo

Research Questions Addressed

Do managers invest more in CSR initiatives when investments are framed in a financial versus a non-financial way?

Do managers’ personal attitudes towards CSR initiatives play any part in the financial or non-financial decision-making process?

Primary Findings

Investment decisions can be framed financially or non-financially. This is known as the “measurement basis” of decision-making. In the case of CSR investments, local (“middle”) managers may be asked to make decisions based on dollar amounts or non-financial units, such as the number of trees planted or meals served to those in need.

Managers who personally support CSR will invest more in their organizations’ CSR initiatives when they are framed in non-financial units rather than as financial investments. This happens even if CSR negatively affects the managers’ personal economic well-being.

By comparison, managers who do not personally support CSR will not change their level of investment—regardless of whether the investment is framed in a financial or non-financial way.