Edited by Ronald Paul Hill and Ryan Langan
Chapter 15: Good from ‘evil’: the polarizing effects of corporate social responsibility for controversial companies
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has received much attention as corporations attempt not only to earn profits (do well) but also to serve society (do good) (Bhattacharya and Sen 2004; Du et al. 2011). Doing good has the added benefit of ingratiating (potential) customers to the firm, thus increasing sales by having these customers feel better about themselves as they consume (feel good). Despite the popularity of CSR, it is clear that it is not always well received by consumer advocates (Einstein 2012) or consumer researchers (Ellen et al. 2006; Kim and Lee 2012; Klein and Dawar 2004; Nan and Heo 2007; Sen and Bhattacharya 2001; Yoon et al. 2006). Particular suspicion is cast upon companies whose products and/or services are considered to be controversial (Cai et al. 2012; Du and Viera 2012; Smith and Cooper-Martin 1997, p. 10; Webb and Mohr 1998). Historically, controversial companies were limited to those whose products were legal but considered to be sinful, deadly or both (Smith and Cooper-Martin 1997; Davidson 2003). Sautter and Oretskin (1997), among others, have labeled the merchandise produced and/or sold by these firms (e.g. alcohol, tobacco) as ‘potentially harmful products’ (PHPs) (Brenkart 2008, p. 86; Chang 2009). However, in recent history, the list of controversial firms has been expanded to include food companies such as fast-food restaurants and processed food producers (Grier et al. 2007; Schröder and McEachern 2005).
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