Beware. Your good intentions might just come back to haunt you
: an exploratory study examining sensitive CSR initiatives’ influence on brand image

  • Jennifer Eriksson
  • Johanna Henriksson

    Student thesis: Bachelor


    The refugee crisis is a current and wildly debated topic in the Swedish society today. As a result, companies that engage themselves in the topic experience both positive and negative reactions. Theory suggests that CSR initiatives in a western context suffer a greater risk of being interpreted as political. However, research on political CSR’s influence on brand image is scarce.    


    The purpose of this thesis is therefore to explore if brand image is influenced differently when companies engage in sensitive issues than with other CSR initiatives. In order to do so, a conceptual framework was developed through an extensive literature review of previous theorization about political CSR and brand image. A qualitative approach were implemented using an exploratory design, applied on an experimental method using online focus groups. 


    The findings suggest that when CSR becomes politically sensitive, stakeholders have a hard time to see the purpose of the initiative. They question whether the company is involved because of genuine interest. When an initiative’s genuineness is questioned the positive responses in regards to brand image, weakens. This genuineness is determined by four themes: self-interest, consistency, public celebration and sensitivity. However, the results in this thesis are somewhat inconclusive making it difficult to determine whether there is a difference between sensitive CSR and other CSR. The fictitious cases, however, indicate that there are differences relating to all four themes, however, the real cases cannot verify this.


     For future research we suggest three different options. Firstly, to examine the relation between sensitivity and responsibility, quantitatively. Secondly, to conduct a study examining other politically sensitive topics. Lastly, to conduct a similar study in hindsight of the refugee crisis, evaluating the effect involvement in sensitive political CSR has on brand image.

    Date of Award2018-Aug-21
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKarin Alm (Supervisor), Jens Hultman (Examiner) & Lisa Källström (Examiner)

    Educational program

    • Degree of Bachelor of Science in Business and Economics

    University credits

    • 15 HE credits

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • Business Administration (50202)


    • corporate social responsibility (csr)
    • political csr
    • brand image
    • refugee crisis
    • sensitivity

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