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CEO activism : What do we know? What don’t we know? : a systematic literature review

  • Purpose Chief Executive Officer (CEO) activism, i.e. executives, publicly weighing in on sociopolitical debates, is an area of increasing interest in academia and business. This young research field provides valuable insights, but it still represents a scattered discussion in a variety of disciplines. Thus, this paper aims to present a guiding framework, integrate current knowledge, aggregate published findings and outline avenues for future research. Design/methodology/approach The authors conducted a systematic literature review building on a sample of 36 publications. In consequence, 1,146 lead themes were derived and studied in an in-depth qualitative analysis by deploying a pattern-inducing method. Findings Research on CEO activism can be placed on a time-oriented logic, giving insights into the realisation of activism, stakeholder reactions, moderators and perception effects. These four aggregate dimensions can be explained by 15 second-order themes and 48 more detailed first-order themes. Practical implications Considering the risks and benefits of CEO activism, top executives and communication professionals should be aware of its implications. This paper provides an integrated view of the different mechanisms and potential effects of CEO activism. Thereby, it proposes communicative planning from activism’s realisation to its perceptual results. Originality/value The study provides a holistic view of CEO activism as a starting point for further discussion. To the latest of the authors’ knowledge, this work is the first integrated conceptualisation of the discussion of CEO activism. The proposed avenues for future research stem from a detailed examination of published knowledge.

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Document Type:Article
Author:Franz RumstadtORCiD, Dominik K. KanbachORCiD
Chairs and Professorships:Chair of Strategic Entrepreneurship
Parent Title (English):Society and business review
Year of Completion:2022
First Page:307
Last Page:330
Tag:CEO activism; Literature review; Political CEO; Social impact
Content Focus:Academic Audience
Peer Reviewed:Yes
Rankings:AJG Ranking / 2
VHB Ranking / C
SJR Ranking / Q2
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt