Doing well by ‘doing good’ and ‘saying good’: The effects and mechanisms of environmental actions and language on employees’ taking charge


If firms make concerted corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, do employees make concerted efforts to improve firm performance? Our study takes a new way of seeing “firms doing well by doing good”. For “doing good”, we differentiate CSR efforts into CSR language (i.e. formal statements about the firm’s intentions to care for the environment) and CSR actions (i.e. pro-environment initiatives and programs). We theorize that CSR language and actions act as separate but interdependent communication tools to engage employees. Borrowing logic from communication and signaling theories, we argue that CSR language and actions help predict employees “taking charge” (a proactive behavior to improve organizational effectiveness) through distinct mediating mechanisms of goal clarity and pride. We find that while environmental language facilitates employee taking charge via goal clarity, the effect of environmental actions occurs both via goal clarity and pride. Importantly, larger gaps between CSR language and actions reduce both goal clarity and pride, and subsequently taking charge. A multi-level empirical analysis on a sample of 34,491 middle managers in 139 firms provides general support to our model.

Working paper