Research summary: Building on economic geography and institutional theory, we develop and test theory relating geographic variables to the strength of corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagement and the cost of equity capital. For a large sample of U.S. firms over the period 1998–2009, we find strong and robust evidence that firms located in areas characterized by high levels of local CSR density score higher in CSR engagement. In addition, firms located close to major cities and financial centers exhibit higher CSR engagement compared to firms located in more remote areas. Moreover, the effect of CSR engagement on reducing equity financing costs is even greater for firms in high CSR density areas than for firms in low CSR density areas. Managerial summary: Does the location of CSR engagement by firms affect the strength of CSR engagement by their neighbors? Does the geography of engagement have an impact on financial performance? Our findings show that a firm's CSR engagement increases in areas where there is dense CSR engagement and when it is located near large cities. In these areas, norms, values, and knowledge related to CSR are transmitted to firms through face-to-face meetings and frequent social interactions with groups such as peers, labor unions, news media, universities, and community organizations, which tend to be concentrated in large cities. Our findings further highlight that CSR engagement reduces equity financing costs for firms in areas where CSR is widely practiced.
- corporate social responsibility
- institutional theory
- knowledge spillovers
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management
- Strategy and Management