Corporate social responsibility branding: the role of organisational identity and its impact on performance
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The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has received much attention over several decades, although its definition has splintered into different perspectives termed in this thesis as economic, socio-political, and managerial. Apart from perspective differences, a number of terminologies have been introduced to compete with the concept of CSR namely corporate social responsiveness, corporate social performance, corporate citizenship, corporate philanthropy, and cause-related marketing. These terminologies have added further definitional confusion, potentially contributing to a lack of adequate CSR measures which has resulted, in turn, in hitherto ambiguous research results regarding the impact of CSR on corporate performance.Given the lack of a generally agreed perspective and definition, CSR has been conceptualised in a number of different ways. This thesis conceptualises CSR using a managerial approach, emphasising the strategic importance of CSR and its potential to create mutually beneficial outcomes for organisations and their stakeholders. This approach runs the risk of treating CSR as a superficial exercise in impression management. Hence, this study emphasises the importance of embedding authentic CSR practices in the day-to-day operations of the firm. The concept of organisational identity represents a key theoretical underpinning of this study. This thesis proposes that firms can gain reputational benefits and enjoy superior performance by incorporating CSR as an integral component of their corporate brands, providing that the brand is perceived by stakeholders as authentic and truly representative of the organisation’s actual identity. This approach is referred to in this study as ‘CSR branding’. A new psychometrically robust, valid and reliable CSR branding scale is developed in this thesis, following Churchill’s (1979) eight-step scale development procedure. The new CSR branding scale is then used to investigate the impact of adopting such an approach on financial and non-financial firm performance.Two rounds of data collection were conducted targeting marketing managers from medium to large Australian organisations in order to validate the CSR branding scale and investigate the relationships between the constructs of interest. The first round data were subjected to exploratory factor analysis resulting in a four-dimensional conceptualisation of CSR branding: environmental awareness, community commitment, employee concern, and financial fairness. The purpose of the second round of data analysis was twofold: to perform confirmatory factor analysis for scale validation purposes and to use a structural equation model to examine the hypothesised relationships between CSR branding and firm performance. The results support the proposition that CSR branding has a direct and positive impact on firm performance (both financial performance and organisational identification). However, no evidence was found to support the mediating effect of organisational identification on the CSR branding/firm financial performance relationship. Similarly, hypotheses relating to the moderating effects of innovation (R&D intensity) and advertising intensity were not supported. Importantly, of the four dimensions of CSR branding, employee concern was found to make the greatest contribution to firm performance.In summary this thesis argues for a managerial approach to CSR, particularly with respect to the concept of CSR branding, which is found to enhance firm success in terms of both financial and non-financial performance. The findings of this study give rise to a number of theoretical and practical implications. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the limitations of the study and provides recommendations for future research.
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