Findings from prior studies regarding the relationship between government corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and firm CSR performance have been mixed. To address this research gap, we developed a dual-agency model incorporating both public agents (government officials) and private agents (corporate CEOs) to investigate when firms respond to government initiatives by increasing their CSR. We tested our model in a sample of 746 Chinese listed firms during the period 2009–2014 when a national CSR initiative, the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, took place. Our results show that firms responded positively to the plan by increasing their CSR performance, but their response varied according to the incentives of both public and private CSR agents. Firms were more likely to increase CSR when public agents were more motivated to seek promotion to the central government or when private agents had greater concerns for legitimacy. Our examination of the role of two different types of CSR agents within institutions contributes to the institutional view of CSR by highlighting the interplay of institutions and human agents in promoting firm CSR. It also advances public policy and managerial practices regarding the development and selection of CSR agents inside and outside firms in a given institutional environment.
- corporate social responsibility
- emerging economies
- institutional theory
- policy environment