A Processual Model of CEO Activism: Activities, Frames, and Phases

Laura Olkkonen*, Mette Morsing

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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Chief executive officers (CEOs) engage in activism when they take public stances on sensitive socio-political issues. In this study, we address the less-explored activities that constitute CEO activism beyond single stances as the activism is maintained over time. The data cover 6 years of campaign and media materials from a case company with several CEO-initiated activist campaigns. Our findings from an inductive analysis contribute to CEO activism theorizing in three ways. First, we extend CEO activism conceptually by identifying five underlying activities that support a public stance: anchoring motivations, modeling action, taking agency, enduring criticism, and normalizing activism. Second, we bridge individual- and organization-level analyses by depicting how a CEO involves a company in activism through activities that justify interrelated topic frame and role frame. Third, we develop a processual model that includes the pre-stance, stance-taking, and post-stance phases and explains how the underlying activities are interrelated and follow a pattern that serves to maintain CEO activism. Accordingly, CEO activism includes activities, through the pre-stance, stance-taking, and post-stance phases, whereby a CEO deliberately engages personally and through a company in public debate about sensitive socio-political issues and the role of businesses in addressing them.
TidsskriftBusiness & Society
Antal sider49
StatusUdgivet - 14 jul. 2022

Bibliografisk note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 14 Jul 2022.


  • CEO activism
  • Corporate activism
  • Frames
  • Processual model