Corporate Social Responsibility Actions and Organizational Legitimacy at the Peak of COVID-19: a Sentiment Analysis

Giacomini, Davide; Martini, Mattia; Sancino, Alessandro; Zola, Paola and Cavenago, Dario (2021). Corporate Social Responsibility Actions and Organizational Legitimacy at the Peak of COVID-19: a Sentiment Analysis. Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/CG-09-2020-0389

Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to analyse stakeholder sentiment about the corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions implemented by Italian companies between February 20, 2020 and April 20, 2020, which was the first peak in the outbreak of the COVID-19 health emergency in Italy.

Design/methodology/approach: Using sentiment analysis, the impact of COVID-19 on CSR actions is analysed through reactions to the news published on Twitter by a sample of Italian news agencies.

Findings: The analysis indicates that the actions most appreciated are those that are more radical, e.g. where the company has converted part of its production to make goods that are useful in dealing with the COVID-19 emergency. The study identifies a new category of actions definable as “crisis-shaped CSR.”

Practical implications: This is one of the first studies concerning the effects of the pandemic on both CSR actions and organizational legitimacy.

Originality/value: This work explains which strategic approach to CSR is the most effective in supporting corporate reputation in times of crisis, this study identified which of the CSR initiatives adopted by companies in Italy were more effective in stimulating positive interactions and sentiment among the general public.

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