Employee Volunteer Programs are Associated with Firm-Level Benefits and CEO Incentives: Data on the Ethical Dilemma of Corporate Social Responsibility Activities

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Ethical dilemmas arise when one must decide between conflicting ethical imperatives. One potential ethical dilemma is a manager’s decision of whether to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. This decision could pit the ethical imperative of honoring unwritten obligations to society against the ethical imperative of honoring contractual obligations to the firm. However, CSR activities might only be a minor ethical dilemma or none at all if they simultaneously benefit the firm and society. To examine this I test the association between future-period employee productivity and current-period use of one type of CSR activity: employee volunteer programs. I use a unique sample of 1428 firm-years, hand-collected from sustainability reports of 373 firms. I find evidence that the current-period use of an employee volunteer program has a positive association with future-period employee productivity (moderated by the firm’s current-period employee productivity). I find this result in future periods up to 6 years after a firm uses an employee volunteer program. I also find a positive association between incentives that focus CEOs’ attention on long-term firm outcomes and more extensive employee volunteer programs (also moderated by current-period employee productivity).