Are Socially Responsible Firms With More Board Social Networks Resilient to COVID-19: A Global Study

Lu, Jing | $29,148

Ontario University of Guelph 2021 SSHRC

This project plans to understand whether socially responsible firms with more board social networks are resilient to COVID-19. Recent studies show mixed results whether firms with better corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance are subject to less of a negative impact from COVID-19. This creates an opportunity to investigate the importance of social networks and motivate changes to address environmental problems. Although COVID‑19 might be temporary, the research results could provide precious lessons to handle future crises. The project contributes to two frameworks identified in Policy Horizons Canada’s exploring social futures “How we connect to one another” and “How we relate to the land and ecosystems”.

Using a sample of 40+ countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America, this project plans to answer three research questions: (1) Are firms with more board social networks have better CSR performance? (2) Does CSR moderate the relationship between board social networks and financial performance? (3) Are firms with more board social networks and better CSR more resilient to COVID crisis?

It addresses three objectives: (1) board’s role in the COVID‑19 crisis (2) whether CSR provides firms some protection from the COVID‑19 crisis and (3) how firms in different countries respond to COVID differently.

The main contribution of this project is threefold: (1) expands the literature on how corporate governance affect CSR from static dimensions (e.g., board independence, board gender diversity) to dynamic dimensions (board social networks); (2) contributes to the CSR-Corporate Financial Performance literature by adding boards social networks to the relationship; (3) contributes to the crisis literature on what makes firms more resilient.

This two-year project uses secondary data from databases which could be accessed remotely from home and is in compliance with COVID‑19 restrictions. I will recruit one doctoral student for two years, and one master’s student for four months to complete this project. My project will result in three journal articles, three business reports written in plain language for practitioners, three YouTube videos, and a series of public presentations/webinars disseminating research results to diverse, interdisciplinary audiences in Canada, the United States, Asia and Europe.

I will use quantitative methods to answer the three research questions: ordinary least square (OLS) for RQ1, structural equation modelling (SEM) for RQ2, and difference-in-differences (DiD) for RQ3, which I have used regularly in my research.

This project will contribute to the national effort of promoting sustainable development and managing crisis. The findings of the project will provide empirical evidence for regulators such as Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) to decide whether they should mandate sustainability reporting in Canada or require companies to disclose financial and ESG performance in the same report (integrated reporting).

For academic peers, this project creates new knowledge on how board social networks and CSR affect firm performance in a cross-country setting. For practitioners and private sector firms, this project will contribute to the dialogue on what makes firms more resilient in the COVID‑19 and future crises. For two RAs, this project creates skill development and competency building opportunities to advance their knowledge in CSR, board social networks, sustainability accounting/finance, and corporate governance. The project experience will advance RAs’ career. Master’s RA will have better chance to be admitted to a competitive PhD program. And PhD RA will graduate with three journal publications and be ready to take on a position as an assistant professor.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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