Grey areas: irresponsible corporations and reputational dynamics

Gregory Jackson*, Stephen Brammer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

At the 2013 Annual Symposium of the Oxford University Centre of Corporate Reputation, a roundtable was convened to discuss the reputational dynamics surrounding corporations engaged in ethical ‘grey areas’, where actions are likely to be deemed as being socially irresponsible and often later result in public scandal. The presenters wrote up their comments in the form of short essays which are collected together in this forum. The introductory piece by Jackson and Brammer challenges the conventional wisdom that irresponsible behaviour by corporations is associated with strong reputational penalties. In various ways, the Discussion Forum contributors explore why this link may be weak or highly contingent, focusing on dynamics at different levels of analysis. Karpoff identifies grey areas of firm behaviour characterized by market failures around both negative and positive externalities, and reviews evidence showing prospects and limits of reputation in this context. The next two contributions by Lange and Zavyalova address problems with the social attribution of irresponsible behaviour at a micro level of analysis. Harrington shows further how micro-level attributions are shaped by wider historical and institutional contexts by presenting evidence on how individual investors responded to the widespread fraud in wake of financial crises in the USA. Partnoy and King stress the role of public and private forms of regulation, stressing the role of macro-level institutions in defining legitimate behaviour and framing expectations about what is responsible or irresponsible. Applying these various concepts, Deephouse reconstructs the history of Apple's encounters with grey areas and the reputational consequences thereof.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermwt021
Pages (from-to)154-166
Number of pages13
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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