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The Trouble with Being Average

Are corporate social responsibility programs beneficial to companies when they undertake overseas expansion? To address that question, the authors analyzed both financial and corporate social performance data for more than 800 U.S. public companies. In particular, the researchers set out to examine the relationship between corporate social responsibility and profitable international sales. The researchers found that those companies that had low or high levels of corporate social responsibility had significantly greater success internationally than those with moderate levels of corporate social responsibility. The authors suggest that companies with high levels of social performance may benefit internationally from their good reputation for corporate social responsibility, and companies with low levels may attain cost advantages from overseas expansion. However, companies in between may be "stuck in the middle"--and unable to obtain a competitive advantage internationally from their corporate social responsibility programs. Since retrenching from existing corporate social responsibility efforts can be viewed negatively by existing stakeholders, the authors recommend that companies that are "stuck in the middle" rethink their overseas corporate social responsibility programs--either to de-emphasize competitive advantage or to increase the programs' impact.
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