Even Google has its dry spells—those stretches when the otherwise innovative Internet company launches nary a new product. During those times, Google’s informal motto “Don’t be evil” and its generous corporate foundation may protect the company’s coffers, says Clyde Hull, an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business. Being socially responsible “helps companies ride out the troughs when innovation flags,” he finds in research he recently...

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