© Tobias Tanzyna / Leadership Forum 2022



Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller

Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller

About the research project

Title: CEOs in the midst of activism: Exploring stakeholder reactions to different issue types.

Team: Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller, Vanja Bojanic (University of Vienna)

Project duration: December 2023 June 2024

Today’s chief executive officers (CEOs) are increasingly expected and willing to take a public stance on contentious social issues such as racial justice, diversity, or environmental protection. And more and more CEOs are also taking a public stance. Whether CEO activism is effective or not often depends on the choice of issue.

This research project by the University of Vienna will examine how reactions to CEO activism vary depending on the type of issue. Understanding this will provide companies with insights into how far activist CEOs inspire constructive discussions or whether they exacerbate disputes in times of continued polarized politics and society.


Study objective: The objective of this research project is to investigate the preferences of the general public regarding CEOs taking a stance on sociopolitical issues.

Research question: To what extent do the thematic context and communication style influence public preferences regarding CEOs’ statements on sociopolitical matters?

Methodology: The core of this study is a choice-experiment, more precisely, conjoint analysis where participants rate their preferences for various statements made by CEOs on sociopolitical topics. This analysis enables a systematic comparison of preferences across a range of issues (for example, climate change, gender equality, migration policy) and different communication styles (such as formal, social, expressive-charismatic). Essentially, the study aims to understand which communicative approaches are most effective for CEOs when publicly positioning themselves on significant societal issues.

The study is planned to be conducted with a representative sample of the German population, approximately 600 individuals.

Research results are expected for mid 2024.