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Good news about irresponsible presidents: CEOs become more socially responsible under them

Good news about irresponsible presidents: CEOs become more socially responsible under them
[Photos: Bet_Noire/iStock; Flickr user Ken Teegardin; Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons]

Yes, there is an upside to socially irresponsible presidents: CEOs push corporate responsibility when their values are at odds with those of the U.S. president.

Researchers studied the political donations of 752 CEOs from 1994-2005, while also tracking their corporate initiatives that both furthered the common good (beyond the company’s interests) and extended beyond legal requirements. Corporate initiatives for things like diversity, product safety, and environmental conservation spiked under administrations that did not share those values.

“Republican presidents aren’t as interested in those values, so business leaders think, ‘We need to do more to promote and protect these values,'” says Nara Jeong, an assistant professor of management at San Francisco State University.

Surprisingly, socially responsible behaviors dipped by 18% among liberal CEOs under left-leaning presidents. This is unexpected! Commitment to social responsibility seems like it would be stable. But no. It is not. Jeong’s study suggests that the dip is because executives assume that the government “will deliver on the social values they hold dear.”

Further good news: the study found no correlation between presidential affiliation and social irresponsibility. In other words, things like pollution and emission standards did not increase or decrease depending on the policies of who was in office. Corporate irresponsibility, it seems, is fairly dependable.

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