• Yun Liu
  • Elvis Cheng Xu

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Previous research has addressed the effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives on consumer purchase intention (CPI). However, most of the empirical evidence is based on the analysis of mature large-scale firms; much less examines the effects of CSR initiatives on CPI in entrepreneurial contexts. In this study, we address this gap by investigating whether entrepreneurial start-ups' declaration of CSR engagement affects consumers' purchasing intent. We assert that consumers may consider firms' CSR engagement as a signal for unobserved product quality. We exploit a vignette experimental approach to test our theoretical predictions. In our experiment, participants received online invitations to subscribe to an electronic catalog that advertised various products supplied by entrepreneurial start-ups. The invitations are of five types, some of which presenting different CSR-related information on the suppliers to the participants. Overall, we find that the displayed information on CSR engagement promotes participants' willingness to subscribe to the electronic catalog, indicating that consumers will increase their purchase intentions for ethically oriented suppliers. Moreover, we find that among all the initiatives, external CSR initiatives (social contribution and environmental responsibility) promote consumers' intentions to purchase most effectively. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to explore the effects of different CSR initiatives on entrepreneurial start-ups in entrepreneurship literature. We highlight the heterogeneous effects of CSR initiatives on CPI, contributing new insights to research on CSR and consumer behavior.