Accounts of stakeholder influence on corporate social responsibility (CSR), situated in the CSR domain, have recognized that activists mitigate information asymmetries between firms and consumers. However, depictions of activists as information disseminators do not explain how they perform their quintessential role – pressuring resistant firms to engage in responsible innovation that emphasizes the creation of socioenvironmental value. Drawing from social movement theory that identifies claims as the instrument of such pressure, we examine four activist organizations’ use of claims across six campaigns to drive firms to adopt more socially and environmentally responsible practices, a form of responsible innovation. Our core contribution is an empirically grounded theory of activist-driven responsible innovation (ARI) that proposes how activists use claims to drive firms to engage in responsible innovation, as well as how features of the two sides may shape this outcome. Our ARI theory primarily enriches accounts of stakeholder influence on corporate social responsibility in the CSR domain and, in doing so, secondarily enriches accounts of the influence of activists’ claims on firms in the social movement domain. These contributions also speak to the resolution of grand challenges, a core interest of the special issue.
- corporate social responsibility
- responsible innovation
- social movements