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.
Bibliografisk noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: 14 Jul 2022.
- CEO activism
- Corporate activism
- Processual model