By using historical books and data of A-Share listed companies in China from 2007 to 2016, this paper examines the effect of Confucian culture and its implicit value norms on corporate philanthropy from the perspective of informal institution. The results show that Confucian culture has a significant promoting influence on corporate philanthropy. Specifically, the greater the influence of Confucian culture on enterprises, the greater the likelihood and extent of corporate giving. Further analysis indicates that comparing with state-owned enterprises, Confucian tradition has a more positive effect on corporate philanthropy in non-state-owned enterprises. Meanwhile, we also find a stronger relationship between Confucian culture and corporate philanthropy when enterprises encounter weaker pressure from peers’ giving. Moreover, the promoting effect of Confucian culture on corporate philanthropy has a continuous character, and it presents a typical “altruism” color beyond the purpose of utilitarianism.
This study combines macro-regional cultural characteristics with micro corporate decision, revealing the impact of Oriental Confucian tradition and its implicit value norms on corporate charitable donation behavior. Our study broadens the understanding of the determinant factors of corporate philanthropic donations, and enriches the literature on “culture and corporate decision-making” which has emerged in recent years. Furthermore, the existing research on Confucian ethical value is mainly based on the philosophical and sociological aspects, and most of them adopt the normative analysis paradigm. In contrast, this paper combines Confucian thought with empirical methods to test the positive role of Confucian ethics in promoting corporate philanthropy. It also expands the research paradigm of Confucian ethical value and deepens the theoretical understanding of the economic consequences of Confucian culture. In addition, General Secretary Xi has repeatedly stressed “cultural confidence”, seeking solutions to practical problems from excellent traditional culture (especially Confucianism). Our findings also provide a necessary theoretical basis and policy reference for promoting and exerting the excellent traditional culture in guiding the unique role of corporate philanthropy.