Good Firms, Good Targets: The Relationship Among Corporate Social Responsibility, Reputation, and Activist Targeting
Much research on social movements and organizations contends that there is an empirical link between activists' contentious activity and corporate social responsibility (CSR; e.g., Bartley 2007; Campbell 2007; Soule 2009). Typically, we assume that activists influence firms' CSR practices directly. Activists target corporations in order to pursue their social change agendas, hoping to influence those companies to change their policies or practices (King and Pearce 2010). Targeting corporations give activists a way to directly address their grievances and influences a firm to amend an undesirable practice (King and Soule 2007; Walker, Martin, and McCarthy 2008; Lenox and Eesley 2009). For example, if a retail firm regularly sources its products from manufacturers that employ sweatshop labor, activists may raise concerns about this inflammatory practice by protesting the firm boycotting it. Getting in the activists' spotlight puts public pressure on firms to change their practices, especially inasmuch as movement tactics draw unwanted negative attention from the media that could influence the public's perceptions about a firm's level of social responsibility (King 2008, 2011; Bartley and Child 2011).