To trust or not to trust? The interplay between labor-related CSR claim type and prior CSR reputation of apparel retailers

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Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services


Prevalent human rights violations in supply chains have tarnished apparel retailers' reputations, heightening skepticism toward CSR communication. We examine the effect of labor-related CSR claim type (associative vs. substantive) on message credibility, skepticism, and retailer trust. Moreover, to determine whether CSR reputation plays a role in vulnerability to criticism, we investigate how a retailer's prior CSR reputation moderates the effect of CSR claim type on consumer evaluations. Applying the framework of decoupling and cognitive dissonance theory, we propose hypotheses and test them with an online experiment. We reveal that associative CSR claims, which communicate image-oriented rather than concrete information, significantly diminish message credibility and retailer trust, while triggering skepticism. A significant interaction effect further demonstrates that when a retailer's prior CSR reputation is negative, associative claims exacerbate message credibility. Our findings also indicate that positive CSR reputations do not always create a buffering halo effect. We discuss implications to develop optimal CSR communication strategies for apparel retailers.


Management, Marketing, and Logistics

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