Connecting the two faces of CSR: Does employee volunteerism improve compliance?

Susan M. Houghton, Joan T.A. Gabel, David W. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


In 2004, the United States Sentencing Commission amended the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to allow firms that create "effective compliance and ethics programs" to receive better treatment if prosecuted for fraud. Effective compliance and ethics, however, appear to be limited to activities focused on complying with the firms' internal legal and ethical standards. We explored a potential connection between the firms' external corporate social responsibility (CSR) behaviors and internal compliance: Is there an organizationally valid relationship between these two firm activities? That is, when organizations demonstrate CSR with behaviors external to the firm, such as employee volunteerism, are their employees more likely to demonstrate uncompromised legal and ethical compliance behavior internally? We collected data from 164 working professionals enrolled in a top-tier MBA program in the southeastern United States regarding their employer-sponsored volunteer activities and their intentions to comply in various organizational compliance vignettes. We found that employer-sponsored volunteerism is associated with uncompromised compliance choices in one of the three vignettes. This finding indicates preliminary support for further inquiry into the relationship within the firm between external CSR behaviors and policies regarding organizational compliance. Post hoc analyses suggest that employer-sponsored volunteerism is strongly associated with a positive organizational identity, but organizational identity is not associated with the significant compliance vignette. This evidence suggests that the underlying mechanism that connects external CSR behaviors and internal compliance intentions is complex and requires future study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-494
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Compliance
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • McNulty Memo
  • Volunteerism


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