Ruthless Exploiters or Ethical Guardians of the Workforce? Powerful CEOs and their Impact on Workplace Safety and Health

Jesper Haga, Fredrik Huhtamäki, Dennis Sundvik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The allocation of resources among different stakeholders is an ethical dilemma for chief executive officers (CEOs). In this study, we investigate the association between CEO power and workplace injuries and illnesses. We use an establishment-level dataset comprising 31,924 establishment-year observations between 2002 and 2011. Our main result shows that employees at firms with structurally powerful CEOs experience fewer workplace injuries and illnesses and days away from work. We reason that CEOs derive a private benefit from low injury and illness rates and that powerful CEOs are better at influencing employees to take workplace safety and health seriously. Additional analyses reveal fewer injuries and illnesses in firms led by CEOs with expertise power. However, increased injuries and illnesses were linked to firms controlled by CEOs with ownership power. Moreover, we find that structurally powerful CEOs mitigate injury and illness differences in relation to geographical proximity to corporate headquarters. We contribute with both research and practical implications on the topics of CEO power and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in general and workplace safety and health in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)641-663
Publication statusPublished - 07.02.2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • CEO power
  • corporate social responsibility
  • real effects
  • workplace safety and health

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Financial management, accounting, and governance


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