Sustainability (2019-07-01)

The Effect of Corporate Visibility on Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Frank Li,
  • Taylor Morris,
  • Brian Young

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 13
p. 3698


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Outside of direct ownership, the general public may feel it is an implicit stakeholder of a firm. As the public becomes more vested in a firm’s actions, the firm may be more likely to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. We proxy for the public’s stake in a firm with public visibility. Based on 3400 unique newspaper publications from 1994−2008, we measure visibility for the S&P 500 firms with the frequency of print articles per year concerning the firm. We find that visibility has a signficant, positive relationship with the CSR rating. Evidence also suggests this relationship may be causal and working in one direction, from visibility to CSR. While the existing literature provides other factors that influence CSR, visibility proves to have the most significant impact when tested alongside those other factors. Visibility also has a mediating effect on the relationship between CSR rating and firm size. CSR rating and firm size relate negatively for the lowest visibility firms and positively for the highest. This paper provides strong evidence that visibility is an important factor to consider for studies on corporate social performance.