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Reaching an Optimally Distinctive CSR Strategy: Examining the Antecedents of CSR Scope Conformity and Emphasis Differentiation Among Chinese Publicly Listed Companies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2022

Yanlong Zhang
Peking University, China
Xiaoyu Zhou*
ShanghaiTech University, China
Marjorie A. Lyles
Florida International University, USA
Corresponding author: Xiaoyu Zhou (


Building on recent developments in optimal distinctiveness (OD) research, we identify two dimensions of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices – CSR scope conformity and CSR emphasis differentiation – and examine the antecedents of both. We theorize that private ownership and enhanced media coverage may increase scope conformity and emphasis differentiation, while such effects may be contingent on industrial context. In socially contested industries, the impact of private ownership on scope conformity will be mitigated, and the impact of media coverage on scope conformity will be amplified. Meanwhile, in highly competitive industries, the impact of private ownership and media coverage on emphasis differentiation will be mitigated. We test our predictions using a database of 942 Chinese publicly listed firms between 2008 and 2016. Our findings imply that the choice of optimal CSR strategy has to be made in accordance with the embedding context. The multidimensionality view of OD enables firms to better orchestrate firms’ strategic positioning along different dimensions of complex practices, which leads to better customization of societal expectations and the industrial competitive landscape.


本文根据最优区分理论的最新进展,聚焦于企业社会责任实践的两个维度,即合规一致性和重点差异度,来探索这两个维度的变化驱动因素。我们提出,企业私有制和高媒体关注度会增强企业社会责任活动的合规一致性和重点差异度,但这种影响会随着行业背景不同而发生变化。在具有高社会争议性的行业中,企业私有制对合规一致性的影响作用会被削弱,而媒体关注度对合规一致性的影响则会增强。同时,在竞争激烈的行业中,企业私有制和媒体关注度对重点差异度的影响也会被减弱。我们使用2008年至 2016 年间 942 家中国上市公司的数据库进行分析,结果表明,最优化的企业社会责任战略必须结合企业所在行业环境进行制定和调整。最优区分理论的多维度分析视角能够帮助企业更好地在复杂市场竞争中寻找到自己的最优定位,从而更好地服务于利益相关者。

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The International Association for Chinese Management Research

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ACCEPTED BY Senior Editor Dali Ma



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