Comparing Corporate Financial ​Growth with Philanthropic Pursuits

Emily Fischman, Maximillian Mathers, Stephanie Miller, Ashley Sepulveres, Kiran Shah, and Yang Zhao

Authors:  Emily Fischman, Maximilian Mathers, Stephanie Miller, Ashley Sepulveres, Kiran Shah, Yang Zhao

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Anne Donnelly and Michelle Leonard

College: Warrington College of Business


Modern business has recently trended towards a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) due to a growing sense that companies should uphold ethical standards to society at large. This study therefore investigated whether a relationship between companies’ CSR/philanthropic efforts and financial growth exists. Six public companies (Alphabet, Apple, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Kroger, and Walmart) were selected by their rank on the 2019 Fortune 500 List and 2018 Change the World List. Philanthropic efforts for each company were selected and recorded. Financial statements from the year before, during, and after the philanthropic efforts began were examined and sales revenue was recorded. The results of this study are intended to prepare future research involving the potential relationship between corporate social responsibility and sales revenue, by providing a framework for related statistics and information among top philanthropic public corporations. If a correlation is found between a consumer-facing company’s financial success and its philanthropic efforts, this indicates that CSR is a strong factor in how customers perceive the companies they are buying from. If there is a weak correlation found between these two variables, or no correlation at all, then it can be inferred that the relationship is weak or nonexistent.

Poster Pitch

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8 Responses
  1. Elizabeth Estep

    Great poster! Quick question – why do you think that there was such a wide range of effects on the chosen companies? Could there have been other factors that contributed to the differences (like you mentioned the act of handling of money for banks) for why the philanthropic efforts help some and hurt others?

  2. Yang Zhao

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you so much for your question. Because these are large companies, there were definitely other factors that contributed to the differences in why some philanthropic efforts did not help some companies. For instance, Bank of America was caught in a mortgage fraud in 2009, affecting their future sales revenues in 2010 and 2011. During Apple’s philanthropic efforts in 2014, Apple also announced the Apple Watch Series 1, which was later released in 2015. This product was a huge commercial success, which was a contributing factor in Apple’s increase in sales revenue.

  3. Paul Snider

    Do you think that different trends could be found across different service or product based industries regarding a firms CSR and financial success?

    1. Stephanie Miller

      Great question!! As we showed, there was a slight difference in the consumer response to the philanthropy specifically between the banks and the other companies, with sales revenue decreasing for JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, yet increasing for the companies in the other industries. Thus, we have set up our research to hopefully open the door for future studies that may examine companies from a wider range of industries to better determine if consumer response to philanthropic initiatives differs specifically by service or product based industry!

  4. Lorca Stainton

    Your poster is very impressive! My question is, do you believe the types of philanthropies have a large effect on the CSR, whether that be negative or positive?

    1. Maximilian Mathers

      Hi Lorca,

      Thank you for your question! I would say philanthropies have a tremendous positive effect on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Companies have taken philanthropic efforts and charitable actions under the umbrella of CSR as CSR has become an important aspect to companies. Overall, this is a win for corporate business and a win for the people–it is nice to see corporations giving back!

  5. Grace Tovkach

    Interesting presentation! I would be curious to look at more businesses, or only businesses from a certain sector, and see if there are general trends. Do you think that some companies only do philanthropic pursuits because they think it will help their financial growth, rather than just upholding corporate social responsiblity?

    1. Ashley Sepulveres

      Hi Grace,
      Thanks for your question! There is definitely plenty of opportunity for further study in this field. It is tough to know for sure what a firm’s motivations are regarding CSR efforts, but recent trends towards focus on the triple bottom line–social, environmental, and financial–suggest that businesses can implement CSR without compromising profit. While this doesn’t seem to have been the case for some of the firms in our study, we recognize that other factors influenced the trends we recorded. So, firms likely choose to pursue CSR due to a combination of altruism and desire for profitability.