When does a corporate social responsibility initiative provide a first-mover advantage?

Carol Ann Tetrault Sirsly, Kai Lamertz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Theory and research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) have been concerned primarily with identifying stakeholders, categorizing types of CSR initiatives, and linking corporate social performance to firm performance. In this conceptual article, the authors assess strategic CSR initiatives, inquiring into the conditions that might give rise to a sustainable competitive advantage in social performance. In what circumstances does a firm's CSR initiative create a first-mover advantage, and when should a firm prefer an early- or late-adopter position? Using the resource-based view and the asymmetries approach of first-mover advantages, the authors propose that for a CSR initiative to lead to a sustainable first-mover advantage, it must be central to the firm's mission, provide firm-specific benefits, and be made visible to external audiences. These strategic attributes generate internal sustainability and must be complemented to ensure external defensibility by a firm's ability to assess its environment, manage its stakeholders, and deal with social issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-369
Number of pages27
JournalBusiness and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep. 2008


  • Corporate social performance
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • First-mover advantage
  • Resource-based view
  • Stakeholder management
  • Sustainable strategic advantage


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