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Northwestern University, United States

Signing to signal: examining drivers behind proactive corporate activism


In an increasingly tumultuous political climate, norms of activism in the United States have been uprooted.  This paper examines the recent rise in proactive corporate political activism in support of a specific cause.  In particular, it focuses on participation in letter campaigns related to legislative proposals regarding climate change, human rights, and immigration. The drive behind organizations’ participation in cause-related letter campaigns is analyzed based on three areas of organizational theory.  Each area addresses strategic concerns related to a different aspect of the organization: its (1) internal values, (2) reputation, and (3) institutional expectations.  Results show mimetic isomorphism to be the strongest predictor of letter-campaign participation.  This paper serves to demonstrate shifts in societal expectations and organizations’ strategic approaches to address those changes.


Anna McKean is a joint PhD student in Management & Organizations and Sociology at Northwestern University. Her research interests include organizational change and influence, social movements, and non-market strategy. Her current projects focus on how corporations respond to, participate in, and influence social/political activism and policy change. 

Anna McKean

Anna McKean

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