A recent study led by a team of scholars from the University of New Hampshire and prominent universities in the People's Republic of China delves into the intricate dynamics of firm Corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices and the ethical decisions made by their leaders. This study reveals that leaders in such firms do not invariably make ethical choices; in fact, they sometimes make unethical decisions. This variability is closely tied to how these leaders perceive the firm's CSR practices.

Jun Li, an associate professor of strategic management at UNH Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, along with his co-authors Leying Wang (Nanjing Audit University, P.R. China), Yiyuan Mai, and Zhuxin Ye (Huazhong University of Science and Technology, P.R. China), conducted a comprehensive study on the above topic. Their research demonstrates that a firm's CSR practices does not consistently correlate with ethical decisions made by its leaders. Surprisingly, it can sometimes yield the opposite effect. Their study involved two components: an experiment and a three-round survey conducted among Chinese entrepreneurs.

The research unveiled that CSR practices can trigger either a moral licensing process or a moral imagination process in leaders, each of which exerts distinct influences on their ethical decision-making. Furthermore, the activation of either cognitive process—moral licensing or moral imagination—depends on the leaders' inherent altruistic values.

The scholars discovered that leaders with strong altruistic values tend to respond to firm CSR practices with moral imagination, resulting in fewer unethical decisions. Conversely, leaders with weaker altruistic values tend to respond to CSR practices with moral licensing, leading to more frequent unethical decisions.

This research, entitled as "Blessing or curse? The link between firm CSR practices and leaders’ unethical decisions: The mediating role of moral cognition",  has been published online first in the Asia Pacific Journal of Management, a premier journal recognized for its contributions to management and organizational research in the Asia Pacific region. With a 2020 Scopus CiteScore of 5.4, it ranks 51st out of 399 journals in Business & International Management. Furthermore, it boasts a Google Scholar h5 index of 35, making it ranked the 9th in journals dedicated to International Business research.