Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 303–318 | Cite as

Bolstering Managers’ Resistance to Temptation via the Firm’s Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Cathy A. Beaudoin
  • Anna M. CianciEmail author
  • Sean T. Hannah
  • George T. Tsakumis
Original Paper


Behavioral ethics research has focused predominantly on how the attributes of individuals influence their ethicality. Relatively neglected has been how macro-level factors such as the behavior of firms influence members’ ethicality. Researchers have noted specifically that we know little about how a firm’s CSR influences members’ behaviors. We seek to better merge these literatures and gain a deeper understanding of the role macro-level influences have on manager’s ethicality. Based on agency theory and social identity theory, we hypothesize that a company’s commitment to CSR shifts managers’ focus away from self-interests toward the interests of the firm, bolstering resistance to temptation. We propose this occurs through self-categorization and collective identification processes. We conduct a 2 × 2 factorial experiment in which managers make expense decisions for a company with commitment to CSR either present or absent, and temptation either present or absent. Results indicate that under temptation, managers make decisions consistent with self-interest. More importantly, we find when commitment to CSR is present, managers are more likely to make ethical decisions in the presence of temptation. Overall, this research highlights the interactive role of two key contextual factors—temptation and firm CSR commitment—in influencing managers’ ethical decisions. While limited research has highlighted the positive effects that a firm’s CSR has on its employees’ attitudes, the current results demonstrate CSR’s effects on ethical behavior and imply that through conducting and communicating its CSR efforts internally, firms can in part limit the deleterious effects of temptation on managers’ decisions.


Corporate social responsibility Temptation Agency theory Social identity theory 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

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., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathy A. Beaudoin
    • 1
  • Anna M. Cianci
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sean T. Hannah
    • 3
  • George T. Tsakumis
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Business AdministrationUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.School of BusinessWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  3. 3.Tylee Wilson Chair of Business Ethics, Center for Leadership and Character, School of BusinessWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  4. 4.Department of Accounting and MIS, Alfred Lerner College of Business and EconomicsUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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