Social responsibility beyond the corporate: Executive mental accounting across sectoral and issue domains

Razvan Lungeanu, Klaus Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Business elites influence the allocation of resources to a range of causes related to the social good, such as to corporate community or environmental programs. We extend research on executive influence on corporate attention to alternative causes by showing how chief executive officers' (CEOs') engagement in two distinct institutional domains, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and independent foundation philanthropy, are interrelated. We draw on the psychology of moral accounting to refine the assumption of personal consistency prevalent in studies of executives' corporate influence. Specifically, we show that executives use flexible means to realize an overall aspiration of doing good, resulting in divergent emphases in their CSR and philanthropic causes. Evidence comes from a panel of 677 corporations linked to 309 foundations through 1,109 CEOs during the period 2003-2011. CEOs compensated for deficits in their firms' CSR record by joining the board of trustees of specific nonprofit foundations, but subsequently advanced divergent cause priorities in the corporation and the foundation. Our work suggests that studies of CSR and of executive influence on organizations benefit from taking into account executives' cross-domain engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1473-1491
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • CEO
  • Corporate governance
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • ESG performance
  • Executives
  • Managerial cognition
  • Moral compensation
  • Nonprofit governance
  • Philanthropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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