CEO overconfidence and CSR decoupling

Steve Sauerwald, Weichieh Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Research question/issue: This study examines whether there is decoupling between how firms communicate about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and what firms do in terms of CSR. We argue that this CSR decoupling is driven by the CEOs' cognitive biases. Specifically, we propose that overconfident CEOs increase CSR decoupling. Research findings/insights: We tested our arguments in a sample of S&P 500 firms for the period of 2006–2014. We find that CEO overconfidence is positively related to the decoupling between the optimistic tone of CSR reporting and the firm's actual corporate social performance. However, the board of directors mitigates the effect of CEO overconfidence on CSR decoupling when outside directors have CSR expertise and ownership incentives. Theoretical/academic implications: Previous studies have suggested that CSR decoupling is a function of opportunistic management that can be constrained by external monitoring. We examine CSR decoupling as a function of cognitive biases (such as overconfidence) that can be constrained by internal monitoring. Practitioner/policy implications: This study provides insights into the conditions when CSR information released by the firm is symbolic. Practitioners may prevent such symbolic CSR reporting by imposing effective oversight by the board of directors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-300
Number of pages18
JournalCorporate Governance: An International Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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