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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Business Groups: An Examination of Korean Business Groups, Chaebols, and the Initiation of CSR Programs Open Access

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Are firms affiliated with business groups more or less likely to show socially responsible behavior than their counterparts? Moreover, how do intra-organizational factors and external pressures influence firms’ CSR engagement? This study seeks to understand the socially responsible behavior of business groups by focusing on the initiation of new CSR programs. Although business groups are prevalent world-wide, with significant impact on the economy and society, a systematic understanding of their socially responsible behavior remains understudied. This study specifically focuses on South Korea’s business groups, chaebols, and the socially responsible behavior of firms affiliated with chaebols in comparison to non-affiliated firms. Further, this study incorporates the complex nature of chaebols by examining CEO characteristics and governmental pressures in CSR engagement. The proposed questions are examined with a novel data-set based on CSR programs by firms operating in South Korea for the years 2008, 2010, and 2012. My findings suggest that chaebol-affiliated firms are less likely to initiate new CSR programs in 2008, that is, at the height of the global financial crisis. Further, the results weakly support the argument that chaebol-affiliated firms led by founding family CEOs are less likely to initiate new programs. There was no significant impact of chaebol-affiliated firms that are publicly listed (i.e., proxy for external, governmental pressures regarding CSR). The findings highlight the importance of how CSR engagement is related to the context of a firm.

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