The Corporate Social Performance and Corporate Financial Performance Debate

Business and Society 36 (1):5-31 (1997)
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Abstract

This article extends earlier research concerning the relationship between corporate social performance and corporate financial performance, with particular emphasis on methodological inconsistencies. Research in this area is extended in three critical areas. First, it focuses on a particular industry, the chemical industry. Second, it uses multiple sources of data-two that are perceptual based (KLD Index and Fortune reputation survey), and two that are performance based (TRI database and corporate philanthropy) in order to triangulate toward assessing corporate social performance. Third, it uses the five most commonly applied accounting measures in the corporate social performance and corporate financial performance (CSP/CFP) literature to assess corporate financial performance. The results indicate that the a priori use of measures may actually predetermine the CSP/CFP relationship outcome. Surprisingly, Fortune and KLD indices very closely track one another, whereas TRI and corporate philanthropy differentiate between high and low social performers and do not correlate to the firm's financial performance.

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