Too Cold to Be Skeptical: How Ambient Temperature Moderates the Effects of CSR Communication
Authors: Wassili Lasarov, Robert Mai, Jan S. Krause, Ulrich Schmidt, Stefan Hoffmann (Ecological Economics , 2021, 183, Article: 106943)
Consumer reactions to firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication range from favorable approval to outright skepticism toward the company. This paper contributes to the CSR literature by introducing a so-far overseen but relevant variable that helps to explain why consumer sometimes react positively and sometimes negatively to CSR communication: the ambient temperature. With a controlled 2 (CSR communication with ecological vs. economic motives) × 3 (ambient temperature: warm vs. moderate vs. cold) between-subject laboratory experiment, the authors confirm that ambient temperature moderates consumer evaluations of CSR communications. In warmer ambient temperatures, reports of ecological (vs. economic) motives induce consumer skepticism toward the CSR communication from the firm; colder temperatures appear to have no influence, in line with prior findings suggesting that the human body has a greater tolerance for cold than heat. Our findings bear several implications for managers. If they lack knowledge about ambient temperature when placing CSR campaigns, firms may risk unexpected backfiring effects. If managers can control the ambient temperature (e.g., in retail stores), they are well-advised to be cautious when placing CSR-related advertisements in warm settings.
Keywords: Ambient temperature, Skepticism, Corporate social responsibility