Using a laddering approach to understand consumers opinions on corporate CSR and sustainability activities
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- Master Thesis 
This thesis builds upon the emerging area of corporate social responsibility (CSR) research termed Materiality Analysis, and examines in-depth interviews, to determine if there is the possibility of a set of universal ethical principles guiding stakeholder’s opinions of corporate social responsibility activities. An in-depth literature review exploring the current state of sustainability and corporate social responsibility in the business world, greenwashing and the consumer, and ethical theories were conducted. From this literature review, we were able to identify seven ethical principles which may guide consumers underlying opinions: (1) Show respect to people, (2) Tell the truth, (3) Do-good social responsibility, (4) Practice participation, not paternalism, (5) Always act when you have the responsibility to do so, (6) Obey the law and (7) Act in the interest of the common good. The meaning of these principles will be discussed and operationalized later in the paper and will be used to guide our research. The analysis was completed by administering 20 semi-structured, in-depth laddering interviews where participants were probed on their opinions about corporate social responsibility, using two different companies in different industries, providing a total of 40 data sets. Participants were probed to elicit value-level associations from attributes and consequences of different corporate social responsibility activities. Next, a meansend chain analysis was conducted to create an implication matrix tracking the various direct and indirect links between associations, and finally, a hierarchical value map was created to map the most commonly elicited association paths among participants. From this analysis, we determined six primary ethical principles which were underlying participants’ opinions on corporate social responsibility activities, which are mentioned above. The two most identified principles were (1) Show respect to people and (2) Tell the truth. Based on our findings, we suggest conducting further research to identify the impact of industry and culture on the results, explore how consumers make purchase decisions based on a company’s corporate social responsibility, and how brands are marketing corporate social responsibility/sustainability branding. The country in which participants are in has a large impact on their moral and ethical values, and therefore should be addressed in future research.