Date of Award

Fall 9-10-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

First Advisor

James Alvarez Mourey

Second Advisor

Sue Fogel

Third Advisor

Al Muñiz


As consumers’ expectations for brands to “do good” continue to grow, companies are simultaneously increasing their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and communication. Communicating on the “good” a company is doing may seem like it would yield a positive outcome; however, such is not always the case. Companies face the challenge of wanting to engage in CSR activities that address topical issues while simultaneously avoiding the perception of engaging in CSR efforts for self-serving reasons, a phenomenon referred to as “virtue signaling,” where the company’s prosocial efforts are perceived as primarily self-motivated. Furthermore, as companies engage in greater brand activism, taking a more vocal position on social matters, the tension of prosocial engagement and the perceived motivation behind a company’s efforts is increasingly apparent. The purpose of this study was to understand how the level of commitment to a cause signaled that these efforts were intrinsically or extrinsically motivated (i.e., virtue signaling). Through experiments, this work explored how perceived commitment influences perceptions of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as a function of trust and transparency, or the degree to which stakeholders perceive CSR or brand activism practices and outcomes as open and publicly accessible. The current work extends the relevant literature by exploring traditional CSR and brand activist communication, commitment, transparency, consumer trust, and virtue signaling and provides evidenced-based guidance on how companies can participate in brand activism without fearing negative consequences, such as accusations of virtue signaling, when doing so. The results showed the importance of commitment to garnering trust and indicated that while similar, CSR and brand activism produce different outcomes.

Available for download on Thursday, January 11, 2024

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