Professors Feng Gao (center left) and Divya Anantharaman (center right) with Aslihan Cakmak, president of the New Jersey Collegiate Business Administration Association (left) and Leigh Onimus, associate dean of the Stillman School of Business (right).

Two professors receive Bright Idea Award for their accounting research

The research by Rutgers Business School professors Feng Gao and Divya Anantharaman found that pension freezes and other corporate actions that may hurt stakeholders are often drivers of corporate social responsibility actions.

Two Rutgers Business School accounting professors received a 2023 Bright Idea Award from Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business for their academic research exploring some of the reasons that drive corporate social responsibility activities.

Professors Feng Gao and Divya Anantharaman worked with another co-author from Indiana University on the research paper titled, “Does social responsibility always begin at home? The relation between firms’ pension policies and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.”

The research found companies that announced defined-benefit pension freezes increased corporate social responsibility engagement. The professor’s research found stronger CSR responses to more severe pension freezes, to more controversial cash-balance conversions and in larger sponsors.

“Collectively,” the authors wrote, “our findings highlight an important driver of CSR: the need to restore or manage reputation, especially, in the face of corporate actions that can hurt stakeholders.” The paper was published in 2022 in the Review of Accounting Studies.

The paper was among 10 chosen by Stillman School of Business for its 22nd annual volume of the Publications of New Jersey’s Business Faculty. Stillman received 114 total submissions.

The academic researchers were recognized at a Nov. 17 awards ceremony. “We are proud of your work and the intellectual capital that resides within our state,” Joyce Strauser, the dean of Stillman School of Business said in a letter to the Rutgers professors. In addition to doing research and teaching, Gao is vice chair of the business school's Department of Accounting and Information Systems. Anantharaman is a dean's research professor on the accounting and information systems faculty.

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