Pathways to Corporate Accountability: Corporate Reputation and Its Alternatives

  • Craig E. CarrollEmail author
  • Rowena Olegario
Editorial Essay


The aim of our themed symposium is to explore the limits and possibilities of corporate reputation for enabling corporate accountability. We articulate three perspectives on corporate accountability. The communicative perspective equates accountability with disclosure and stakeholder engagement. The phenomenological perspective focuses on stakeholder expectations and reputation management. The consequential perspective focuses on effects/consequences. We then examine how corporate accountability is understood, how it relates to ideals, mission, and purpose, alternative pathways to corporate accountability, reputational consequences, and the role algorithms play in relationships between corporate reputation and accountability. Using a multitude of organizational contexts, these papers advance our understanding of how corporate reputation can be used as a mechanism for creating greater corporate accountability, and for identifying alternative pathways when corporate reputation fails to do so.


Corporate reputation Accountability Disclosure 



  1. Barnett, M. L., & Pollock, T. G. (2012). Charting the landscape of corporate reputation research. In M. L. Barnett & T. G. Pollock (Eds.), The oxford handbook of corporate reputation (pp. 1–15). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Baudot, L., Johnson, J., Roberts, A., & Roberts, R. W. (2019). Is corporate tax aggressiveness a reputation threat? Corporate accountability, corporate social responsibility, and corporate tax behavior. Journal of Business Ethics. Scholar
  3. Beatty, R. P., Bunsis, H., & Hand, J. R. M. (1998). The indirect economic penalties in SEC investigations of underwriters. Journal of Financial Economics, 50(2), 151–186. Scholar
  4. Bergstresser, D., & Philippon, T. (2006). CEO incentives and earnings management. Journal of Financial Economics, 80(3), 511–529. Scholar
  5. Bowen-Craggs, & Observatory on Corporate Reputation. (2019). The Explain Yourself Index 2019: Which companies are best at using online channels to explain themselves? Retrieved from
  6. Buhmann, A., Paßmann, J., & Fieseler, C. (2019). Managing algorithmic accountability: Balancing reputational concerns, engagement strategies and the potential of rational discourse. Journal of Business Ethics. (special issue)Google Scholar
  7. Busuioc, M., & Lodge, M. (2017). Reputation and accountability relationships: Managing accountability expectations through reputation. Public Administration Review, 77(1), 91–100. Scholar
  8. Carroll, C. E. (2010). Corporate reputation and the news media: Agenda setting within business news in developed, emerging, and frontier markets. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Carroll, C. E. (2013a). Corporate reputation and the multiple disciplinary perspectives of communication. In C. E. Carroll (Ed.), The handbook of communication and corporate reputation (pp. 1–10). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Carroll, C. E. (2013b). The future of communication research in corporate reputation studies. In C. E. Carroll (Ed.), The Handbook of communication and corporate reputation (pp. 590–596). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Carroll, C. E. (2017). Corporate reputation and the news media: The origin story. Corporate Reputation Review, 20(3), 165–170. Scholar
  12. Carroll, C. E., & Einwiller, S. A. (2014). Disclosure alignment and transparency signaling in CSR reporting. In R. P. Hart (Ed.), Communication and language analysis in the corporate world (pp. 249–270). Hershey: IGI-Global.Google Scholar
  13. Cho, C. H., Guidry, R. P., Hageman, A. M., & Patten, D. M. (2012). Do actions speak louder than words? An empirical investigation of corporate environmental reputation. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 37(1), 14–25. Scholar
  14. Christensen, L. T., Morsing, M., & Thyssen, O. (2013). CSR as aspirational talk. Organization, 20(3), 372–393. Scholar
  15. Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2002). Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets. Management Communication Quarterly, 16(2), 165–186. Scholar
  16. Dahlsrud, A. (2008). How corporate social responsibility is defined: An analysis of 37 definitions. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 15(1), 1–13. Scholar
  17. Davis, K. (1973). The case for and against business assumption of social responsibilities. Academy of Management Journal, 16(2), 312–322.Google Scholar
  18. Deephouse, D. L., & Carter, S. M. (2005). An examination of differences between organizational legitimacy and organizational reputation. Journal of Management Studies, 42(2), 329–360. Scholar
  19. den Hond, F., Rehbein, K. A., de Bakker, F. G. A., & Lankveld, H. K.-V. (2014). Playing on two chessboards: Reputation effects between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate political activity (CPA). Journal of Management Studies, 51(5), 790–813. Scholar
  20. Dhiman, A., Sen, A., & Bhardwaj, P. (2018). Effect of self-accountability on self-regulatory behaviour: A quasi-experiment. Journal of Business Ethics, 148(1), 79–97. Scholar
  21. Dupont, Q., & Karpoff, J. M. (2019). The trust triangle: Laws, reputation, and culture in empirical finance research. Journal of Business Ethics. Scholar
  22. Elias, R. Z. (2002). Determinants of earnings management ethics among accountants. Journal of Business Ethics, 40(1), 33–45. Scholar
  23. Fang, L. H. (2005). Investment bank reputation and the price and quality of underwriting services. The Journal of Finance, 60(6), 2729–2761. Scholar
  24. Fombrun, C. J., & Shanley, M. (1990). What’s in a name? Reputation building and corporate strategy. Academy of Management Journal, 33(2), 233–258. Scholar
  25. Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. J. Poczkowski, & K. A. Foot (Eds.), Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality, and society (pp. 167–194). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  26. Greenwood, M. (2007). Stakeholder engagement: Beyond the myth of corporate responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 74(4), 315–327. Scholar
  27. Habermas, J. (1990). Moral consciousness and communicative action (trans: C. L. S. W. Nicholson). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Illia, L., Romenti, S., Rodríguez-Cánovas, B., Murtarelli, G., & Carroll, C. (2017). Exploring corporations’ dialogue about CSR in the digital era. Journal of Business Ethics, 146(1), 39–58. Scholar
  29. Jones, T. M. (1980). Corporate social responsibility revisited, redefined. California Management Review, 22(3), 59–67. Scholar
  30. Karpoff, J. M. (2012). Does reputation work to discipline corporate misconduct? In M L Ba T G Pollock (Ed.), The oxford handbook of corporate reputation (pp. 261–382). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Le Breton-Miller, I., & Miller, D. (2019). Ideals-based accountability and reputation in select family firms. Journal of Business Ethics. (special issue)Google Scholar
  32. Lewis, S. C., Sanders, A. K., & Carmody, C. (2019). Libel by algorithm? Automated journalism and the threat of legal liability. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 96(1), 60–81. Scholar
  33. Martin, K. (2018). Ethical implications and accountability of algorithms. Journal of Business Ethics.
  34. Minfee, I., McDonnell, M.-H., & Werner, T. (in progress). Getting caught and saving face: Disclosure of controversial covert corporate political activity. Working paper, Iowa State University. Working paper.Google Scholar
  35. Niemi, J. I. (2008). The foundations of Jürgen Habermas’s discourse ethics. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 42(2), 255–268. Scholar
  36. Pieczka, M., & Zorn, T. E. (2013). The reputation of corporate reputation: Fads, fashions, and the mainstreaming of corporate reputation research and practice. In C. E. Carroll (Ed.), The Handbook of Communication and Corporate Reputation (pp. 513–529). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  37. Roberts, J. (2003). The manufacture of corporate social responsibility: Constructing corporate sensibility. Organization, 10(2), 249.Google Scholar
  38. Romenti, S. (2010). Reputation and stakeholder engagement: An Italian case study. Journal of Communication Management, 14(4), 306–318. Scholar
  39. Salant, J. (2013). Mutual funds increasingly support corporate disclosure of donations. Bloomberg News. (special issue)Google Scholar
  40. Schlenker, B. R., Britt, T. W., Pennington, J., Murphy, R., & Doherty, K. (1994). The triangle model of responsibility. Psychological Review, 101(4), 632–652.Google Scholar
  41. Schweitzer, M. E., Ordóñez, L., & Douma, B. (2004). Goal setting as a motivator of unethical behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 47(3), 422–432. Scholar
  42. Skaife, H. A., & Werner, T. (2019). Changes in firms’ political investment opportunities, managerial accountability, and reputational risk. Journal of Business Ethics. (special issue)Google Scholar
  43. Stohr, G. (2015). Americans want supreme court to turn off political spending spigot. Bloomberg News. Retrieved from
  44. Sundaramurthy, C., & Lewis, M. (2003). Control and collaboration: paradoxes of governance. Academy of Management Review, 28(3), 397–415. Scholar
  45. Swift, T. (2001). Trust, reputation and corporate accountability to stakeholders. Business Ethics: A European Review, 10(1), 16–26. Scholar
  46. Taylor, M. (2010). Public relations in the enactment of civil society. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of public relations (2nd ed., pp. 5–15). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Tetlock, P. E. (1985). Accountability: The neglected social context of judgment and choice. Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 297–332.Google Scholar
  48. Tetlock, P. E. (1992). The impact of accountability on judgment and choice: Toward a social contingency model. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25, pp. 331–376). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  49. Tetlock, P. E., Vieider, F. M., Patil, S. V., & Grant, A. M. (2013). Accountability and ideology: When left looks right and right looks left. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 122(1), 22–35. Scholar
  50. Torres-Spelling, C. (2016). Shooting your brand in the foot: What Citizens United invites. Rutgers Law Review, 68(3), 1297–1365.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Observatory on Corporate Reputation, LLCNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Centre for Corporate ReputationSaïd Business School, University of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations