Taking pride in the company: Employees regard those well who do good in an authentic way

In addition to flexibility and development prospects, activities that endeavour to promote the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) also play an important role when it comes to looking for a job, especially in the case of young people. Organisations that recognise their social responsibility, for example by supporting the environment or social causes, convey values that are highly relevant to many employees. A team of researchers recently investigated how employees’ perception of CSR programmes affects organisational pride.

“Our study began with the following assumption: The more positive and authentic a company’s CSR programme is rated by its employees, the higher the level of CSR-related corporate pride,” explains Sarah Desirée Schäfer, who completed the doctoral programme “Health and Sustainability Communication and Management” at the University of Klagenfurt. Together with Peggy Cunningham (Dalhousie University, Canada), Sandra Diehl and Ralf Terlutter (both at the University of Klagenfurt), she developed and tested a model for her recently published study, which reveals that the evaluation and perception of the authenticity of the company’s CSR efforts by employees can produce positive results on many levels. CSR has a positive effect on loyalty to the company, trust in management and positive word of mouth, as well as job satisfaction and emotional well-being. Sandra Diehl underlines the unique aspect of this study: “The effects of CSR do not arise directly, but are conveyed through pride in the organisation.”

In addition to the comprehensive theoretical work carried out in relation to the research question, the research team also conducted an empirical study. The results are based in part on a survey of employees at the Canadian headquarters of a leading global branded goods manufacturer. A total of 135 employees completed the questionnaire.

Peggy Cunningham offers the following summary: “We were able to show that companies that do good things in an authentic way and communicate this can score points both cognitively and emotionally, i.e. in the hearts and minds of their employees. Anything that we assess as cognitively positive can also lead to emotional reactions to CSR, such as the investigated pride in the organisation.“

This finding, which complements a number of recent studies and closes previous gaps, also has important implications for practice. “From a management perspective, the company should not only communicate its CSR initiatives, but it should also actively promote working environments that embed CSR within the work of its employees,” Ralf Terlutter adds.

Sarah Desirée Schäfer, Peggy Cunningham, Sandra Diehl & Ralf Terlutter (2024). Employees‘ positive perceptions of corporate social responsibility create beneficial outcomes for firms and their employees: Organizational pride as a mediator. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/csr.2699.