October 19, 2005

More Research on Corporate Responsibility

I just got a note from Donald Siegel, a professor of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and longtime researcher in the field of social responsibility. He and his colleagues have put the finishing touches on a special social responsibility issue of the journal Structural Change and Economic Dynamics. You can download copies of the papers here (subscription required, however). The first paper, by Paton and Siegel, summarizes the other papers in the issue. I first ran into Donald Siegel's work on corporate social responsibility in the 1990s when he and Abagail McWilliams were terrorizing researchers who, by misusing event study techniques, were reporting implausible relationships between social factors and stock prices. Their careful analysis showed that many impressive-looking studies needed to be reassessed, often reducing or eliminating claimed social impacts. Since then Dr. Siegel has played the role of informed skeptic, advocating a pragmatic theoretical view of the relationship between social responsibility and financial results. This paper provides an excellent overview of work he and McWilliams have done on social responsibility over the past 10 years. I have said in the past that to remain relevant social investors need more and better positive critics. Dr. Siegel is one of a small group of strong academics who have been willing to play that role.

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