Pretending to be Socially Responsible? The Role of Consumers’ Rewarding Behaviour

Margarida Catalão-Lopes, Joaquim P. Pina, Ana S. Costa

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Extant evidence on corporate social responsibility (CSR) shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium if they infer that the firm is truly "prosocial" (i.e if it is altruistic), but their valuation of the product will not increase as much (and may even decrease) if they believe the company has an ulterior motive for CSR (i.e. if the firm is opportunistic). We pose that the CSR level of investment can be strategically used as a signalling tool to help consumers identify the true nature of the firm and solve this incomplete information problem. Using a signalling game, where altruistic firms want to express their nature and opportunistic ones want to conceal it, we explore the relative effectiveness of consumers’ premiums and penalties (expressed as demand increases or decreases, respectively) in the promotion of corporate truth-revealing behaviour. We also characterize the conditions for market equilibria in which altruistic firms are distinguished from opportunistic ones, allowing consumers to solve the information asymmetry and, with that, influence firms’ profits. Contrary to what might be expected, we show that rewards for altruistic CSR and penalties for opportunistic CSR are not symmetrically effective. Our results help companies to improve their CSR decisions, by understanding how consumers solve the information asymmetry regarding the true nature of the CSR investments. Especially for altruistic firms, this may be important to guarantee that CSR effort and expenses are not just a cost but turn into higher revenues and profits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-183
Number of pages21
JournalScientific Annals of Economics and Business
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2023


  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • firm behaviour
  • consumers’ perceptions
  • consumers’ reactions


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