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Title: Do-no-harm versus do-good social responsibility : attributional thinking and the liability of foreignness
Authors: Crilly, D
Ni, N 
Jiang, Y 
Issue Date: Jul-2016
Source: Strategic management journal, July 2016, v. 37, no. 7, p. 1316-1329
Abstract: The efforts of multinational corporations to be socially responsible do not always engender positive evaluations from overseas stakeholders. Drawing on attribution theory, we argue that two heuristics guide stakeholders in evaluating firms' social performance: foreignness and the valence of firms' social responsibility. We provide evidence from a field study of secondary stakeholders and an experimental study involving 129 non-governmental organizations. Consistent with attribution theory, the liability of foreignness is minimized when firms engage in "do-good" social responsibility (focused on proactive engagement creating positive externalities) but is substantial when firms engage in "do-no-harm" social responsibility (focused on attenuating negative externalities). In online supporting information, Appendix S1, we demonstrate that these evaluations have consequences for whether stakeholders subsequently cooperate, or sow conflict, with firms. Managerial summary: There is no guarantee that efforts to be socially responsible will improve multinational corporations' relations with overseas stakeholders, such as customers, governments, and activists. In a field study and an experiment, we unpack when foreign firms suffer from harsh stakeholder evaluations. Foreign firms especially suffer from harsh evaluations when they conduct "do-no-harm" CSR rather than "do-good" CSR. Stakeholders attribute the motive for foreign firms' do-no-harm CSR to managerial interests and shareholder pressures, perceiving a wedge between managers and owners (who may be unmotivated to reduce the negative impacts of their business activities) and local stakeholders (who bear the social costs). A practical implication is that foreign firms gain more from highlighting do-good rather than do-(no)-harm CSR initiatives.
Keywords: Attribution theory
Corporate social responsibility
Liability of foreignness
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Journal: Strategic management journal 
ISSN: 0143-2095
EISSN: 1097-0266
DOI: 10.1002/smj.2388
Rights: Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Crilly, D., Ni, N., & Jiang, Y. (2016). Do‐no‐harm versus do‐good social responsibility: Attributional thinking and the liability of foreignness. Strategic Management Journal, 37(7), 1316-1329, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.
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