Author

KyuJin Shim

Date of Award

12-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

3-12-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communications

Advisor(s)

Dennis F. Kinsey

Keywords

Business ethics, Corporate communication, Corporate social responsibility, International PR, Issues management, Public relations

Subject Categories

Business | Communication

Abstract

Corporate hypocrisy refers to publics' negative perception of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as a result of ethical attribution of CSR to normative ethics, and thus can be a useful indicator of the disappointing and ineffective role of CSR programs geared toward raising publics' goodwill toward a firm. However, scant scholarly effort has been made to explore the concept of corporate hypocrisy in relation to corporate issues and crises, publics' ethical orientation, cultural and national influence, and polarized sentiments toward global business in the media landscape. These aspects collectively constitute the unpredictable, uncontrollable public opinion, in particular the opinion of the socially minded general public, and these aspects thus generate a turbulent business arena across the globe.

To fill this void, this dissertation concurrently conducted two sets of research: one used a survey methodology on a real company's CSR case and the other used an experimental method. First, Study 1 aimed to investigate how the perception of corporate hypocrisy connects publics' ethical attribution of CSR to subsequent positive/negative opinioned communication intention and pro-firm behavioral intention. With special attention to deontology and consequentialism in normative ethics of philosophy, the current study was to empirically test a theoretical model of perceived corporate hypocrisy with two causal antecedents (i.e., the evaluation of self-orientation and other-orientation in CSR), and the mediating role of corporate hypocrisy between such antecedents and subsequent publics' communication and behavioral intention toward a firm. Personal ethical orientation was suggested to moderate effects of corporate hypocrisy on dependent measures. Moreover, to explore the cultural and national effect in the theoretical model, this study compared U.S. and Korean data. To this end, a survey using a real company CSR case was conducted via Internet with a convenient sample (n = 603; the U.S.=406, Korea=256), including the general population (n=456) and a Northeastern university's student and alumni population (n=147).

Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to empirically test the hypothesized mediation model of corporate hypocrisy. The results indicate several key issues regarding the role of ethics on the strategic CSR communication. First, this study found sound measurement reliability and validity of the proposed four-item scale of four dimensions in ethical CSR evaluation (i.e., self-interested motives, self-interested outcomes, altruistic motives and altruistic outcomes). Further, this study also proposed a self-developed seven-item scales for deontology and consequentialism with acceptable reliability and validity as indicators of personal ethical orientation in the context of public's ethical judgment of global business practices. The current study also found significant mediation effects of corporate hypocrisy between ethical CSR evaluation and publics' communication and behavioral intention based on positive and negative opinions formed through CSR evaluation. Also, as assumed, personal ethical orientation and cultural/national difference were found to significantly moderate the role of corporate hypocrisy on dependent measures.

Study 2 aimed to test the theoretical validity of the attitudinal and behavioral influence of personal ethical orientation (i.e., deontology vs. consequentialism) and media framing of CSR approach (i.e., self-oriented CSR vs. other-oriented CSR); an experiment study (n=603) was conducted online for study 2. For the U.S. samples, the university student and alumni population was recruited (n= 347), and for the Korean samples, the general population (n=256) was recruited via an online survey system. Study 2 also found significant effects of personal ethical orientation and media framing. Deontological publics were more influenced by media framing of CSR approach rather tha n consequentialist publics; more significant was the differing interaction effect across nationalities. The Korean samples were more prone to be affected by media framing of CSR approach depending on their ethical orientation than the U.S. samples.

To summarize, across the findings of the two studies, deontological publics showed more ethically idealistic and rigorous traits whereas consequentialist publics displayed a more pragmatic and business-friendly inclination in CSR judgment. This result highlighted the role of virtue ethics perceived from corporate motives and outcomes of CSR, which can play a part in forming publics which have certain opinions toward global business and its CSR activities. Also, the findings indicated that these ethical traits can be related to the cultural and national background of publics targeted in the global market; thus CSR strategy should take the ethical and cultural traits of target publics into account. Limitations and suggestions for future research were discussed with implications for both public relations scholarship and practices.

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