How Activists Shape CSR: Insights from Internet Contagion and Contingency Theories Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose - This chapter proposes a framework for analyzing how stakeholder- initiated challenges through social media and traditional media can shape the meaning of responsible behavior and pressure organizations to alter irresponsible behavior in order to protect their reputations. Methodology/approach - Following a description of the nature of stakeholder challenges, concepts from Internet Contagion Theory and Contingency Theory are used to develop the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges, an analytic tool that can be used to provide insights into how specific digital and traditional public relations tactic can be used by activists. A case study demonstrating application of the framework is presented. Findings - The case study describes how the lens provided by the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges illustrates how Greenpeace's detox campaign built power, legitimacy, and urgency to draw attention to environmental and human problems associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in a manufacturer's supply chain. Research limitations/implications - The chapter offers one case study of Greenpeace's detox campaign against Zara to demonstrate the utility of the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges. Additional case studies are needed to further demonstrate how factors in the framework can account for the success and failure of activist challenges. Moreover, measurement of factors included in the framework, rather than conceptual analysis alone, could demonstrate the relative importance of the factors, as well as various constellations of factors, in accounting for organizational decision making about responses to the challenges. Practical implications - Concepts derived from Internet Contagion Theory and Contingency Theory provide a vocabulary and conceptual framework for describing and analyzing stakeholder-initiated challenges as well as assessing the potential threats posed by stakeholder challenges to an organization's reputation. Originality/value - This chapter proposes a new analytical tool, the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges, which can contribute to the analysis and evaluation of stakeholder efforts to influence corporate behavior.

published proceedings

  • Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility

author list (cited authors)

  • Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Coombs, W Timothy||Holladay, Sherry J

publication date

  • January 2015