Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 413–429 | Cite as

What Makes CSR Communication Lead to CSR Participation? Testing the Mediating Effects of CSR Associations, CSR Credibility, and Organization–Public Relationships

  • Sun Young LeeEmail author
  • Weiwu Zhang
  • Alan Abitbol
Original Paper


This study examines consumers’ uses of corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication channels, the relationship of such uses to consumers’ CSR awareness, and the mechanisms through which consumers’ CSR awareness can lead to their intention to participate in CSR activities. Specifically, we explored the mediation effects of consumers’ CSR associations with a company, consumers’ assessment of the company’s CSR credibility, and consumers’ perceptions of their relationship with the company, applying the conceptual frameworks of the uses and gratification theory, source credibility theory, and organization–public relationship (OPR) scholarship. We conducted an online survey of a company’s customers (N = 394), and the results showed that their level of awareness of the company’s CSR activities was positively related to the degree of use of all communication channels through which they received CSR messages, except CSR reports. The degree of the customers’ awareness of the company’s CSR programs, however, did not always correspond to the customers’ intention to participate in the programs: a crucial condition mediating between the customers’ knowledge of CSR programs and their intention to participate in the programs was their associating the company with CSR. The CSR associations influenced CSR credibility and perceived OPR quality, which, in turn, led to CSR participation intention. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) CSR associations Organization–public relationships (OPRs) CSR participation intention Source credibility 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Relations, College of Media and CommunicationTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of DaytonDaytonUSA

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