DOI: 10.1111/ijcs.12982 ISSN:

Responding to COVID‐19: The impact of corporate social responsibility on consumer behavior

Ashley Stadler Blank, Katherine E. Loveland, Andong Cheng, Scott Beck, Austin Rundus
  • Marketing
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Applied Psychology


Firms responded to the COVID‐19 pandemic by participating in an unprecedented level of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The authors build on the existing CSR and crisis response and disaster relief literatures by examining nine CSR types employed during the pandemic (donating in‐kind, donating money, creating content, free products, free services, communication of operational changes, employee support, financial support, and shifting production). Then, they test the impact of starting versus stopping each CSR type on consumer perceptions of authenticity, attitude, and purchase intentions in two experiments, replicated in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Consumers distinguish between CSR types and rate employee and financial support most favorably and creating content and communication of operational changes least favorably. Starting (vs. stopping or no) CSR increases authenticity and subsequent attitude and purchase intentions. Interestingly, stopping CSR is worse than no CSR in 2020, but no CSR is worse than stopping CSR in 2022. This indicates that consumers discredit firms for stopping CSR during the acute phase of the pandemic but discredit firms for not engaging in any CSR after the acute phase ends. Finally, consumers rate small (vs. large) firms more favorably for engaging in some CSR types. Taken together, these results help inform how firms should engage in CSR activities in response to crises and disasters.

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