Corporate Social Responsibility and NGO Directors on Boards

Journal of Business Ethics 175 (3):625-649 (2020)
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In the years 2009 to 2016, approximately 35% of Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 firms had at least one director with a professional background in private, not-for-profit organizations (NGO director). Yet research provides little guidance on what kind of firms are more likely to have NGO directors on their boards, neither do we know these directors’ effects on firm strategic outcomes. Our study examines the above two questions in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR), taking the lens of resource dependence theory. Results from an analysis of all firms included in the S&P 500 index between 2010 and 2016 show that the number of NGO directors serving on a firm’s board in a certain year is positively related to the extent to which the firm displays poor CSR performance in the prior year. We also find that NGO directors on boards are not associated with immediate improvements in CSR performance; rather, their positive influence on CSR performance takes hold after 3 years. Our findings suggest that whereas NGO directors may potentially be appointed to a firm’s board for legitimization reasons, these directors are associated with enhanced CSR performance in the long term.



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