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HOW MUCH INFLUENCE DO CEOS HAVE ON COMPANY ACTIONS AND OUTCOMES? THE EXAMPLE OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

How much influence do CEOs have on corporate social responsibility (CSR)? To answer this question, we apply the CEO in context (CiC) variance partitioning technique to estimate the CEO effect—the amount of the total variance in an outcome measure that can be attributed to CEOs—on CSR. Estimated across the two most widely used datasets of CSR in empirical research, namely KLD and Asset4, we find that CEOs explain about 30 percent of the total variance in CSR. The CEO effect is also remarkably stable when it is estimated individually across different subcategories of CSR or on a sample of exogenous CEO transitions. The CiC technique is unique in terms of how it distinguishes between contextual determinants and CEO-related determinants of firm outcomes. We therefore also provide estimates of the CEO effect that we derived from applying other commonly used forms of variance partition methodology (VPM) to the two datasets of CSR. We discuss the implications of our findings for the literatures on upper echelons, CSR, institutional theory, VPM, and research on CEOs’ bearing on company actions and outcomes in general.

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