Business Cases for Sustainability – A Stakeholder Theory Perspective

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Stefan Schaltegger and Jacob Hörisch of Leuphana University, Luneburg and Edward Freeman of Darden Business School.  Schaltegger, Hörisch and Freeman recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Business Cases for Sustainability: A Stakeholder Theory Perspective,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, the three authors reflect on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

33048305825_efac4c4770_oWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

More and more private companies are voluntarily releasing statistics concerning how often they receive requests for their subscribers’ information, on what grounds the requests are made, and how many subscribers’ data has been disclosed. These statistics are bundled in transparency reports and their release has generally been seen as shedding light on otherwise secretive government activity, be it surveillance practices undertaken by intelligence agencies, by security intelligence agencies, or by law enforcement agencies. I wanted to understand a few things in my course of research: would companies that were not facing intense socio-economic pressures produce voluntary transparency reports that robustly revealed government surveillance practices? How effective are voluntarily produced transparency reports, generally, in shedding light on corporate and government activity? And what might be the impacts of standardizing these sorts of voluntary reports, and how might such standardization come about?

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Countries around the world are grappling with the issue of government access to telecommunications data. The issue has become particularly poignant given revelations of international spying undertaken by Western countries, as well as a range of existing and proposed laws in Europe and North America that would facilitate police and security services’ access to communications information. However, governments have tended to be deeply secretive in how they use existing powers or how they would actually use proposed powers. Private companies’ voluntarily produced transparency reports, which provide statistics and narrative accounts of how often and on what grounds governments request access to companies’ data, act as a novel way of shining a light upon government practice. I was motivated to understand just how much these reports genuinely shed light on government practice and how much they cast shadows over the politics and policies of communications surveillance.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
There is an extensive literature on corporate social responsibility documents and the extent to which those documents make private firms transparent, as well as a literature discussing the importance of rendering government surveillance transparent to the public. What is novel about my research is it explores how private firms’ reports are produced in contravention of state desires or interests and, thus, how transparency reporting can happen outside of situations where the market or government are clamoring for revelations of firm behavior. Core to my findings is that voluntarily produced reports could potentially be standardized to enhance comparability across firms and the reports’ revelatory nature, but that any such standardization may conceal as much about firm behavior as it reveals. Ultimately, this research advances the scholarly and public policy debate over how (in)effective private firms’ reports’ are in advancing the state of knowledge of government surveillance activities versus concealing some aspects of such activities.

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Embodied organizational routines: Explicating a practice understanding

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alex Wright of The Open University, UK. Wright recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Embodied Organizational Routines: Explicating a Practice Understanding, which is currently free to read for a limited time.” Below, Wright reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

The recent interest in exploring organizational routines has increased our knowledge and understanding considerably, informing and enhancing how we view organization and organizing. In existing studies, people are acknowledged as contributing to the unfolding of routines when they are described as accomplished by specific people, at specific times, in specific places. My motivation for writing this study was to construct a deeper understanding of what is meant by specific people. Present research, I considered, held the view that while people were important they were inter-changeable without any discernable consequential impact on how routines progress. This was problematic for two reasons. First, I felt it reduced the human actors involved in routines to some machine-like existence. People have been shown to take part in organizational routines, but their influence had been largely underexplored. Second, the claim made that a practice theory of routines has been established always seemed to me to be premature. Too many empirical studies to date have been conducted at a level too abstract from where practice unfolds for such a claim to be accepted. Therefore, the two concerns that provoked my research were focused on the related issues of people and practice.6791821469_13fab38503_z.jpg

One assumption that underpinned my work was that people are inherently unstable. That is, their bodies differ. Routines, therefore, are accomplished by people with bodies, embodied actors, and their very embodiment makes a difference in how routines unravel. Such a nuanced appreciation of routines is only possible if the level of analysis focuses on the human and nonhuman relational inter-acting that sustains them. It is here where a practice understanding of routines can be formed. A further assumption I worked within is that bodies communicate and through such communication do routines emerge. This means that it is not just talk that matters, but gesture, facial expression, movement and silences can also be essential for routines to evolve. The empirical examples from such diverse situations as a police interrogation encounter and an operating theatre I use help illustrate this. A focus on embodied people takes us closer to the promise of a practice theory of routines as it helps depict how: power is exercised through gesture and bodily movement; the spaces where routines unfold cohere with human bodies making a difference in how they are constituted and experienced; and, the routineness of routines is made manifest when mutual intelligibility is discerned in the silences that characterize how embodied actors inter-relate.

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Communication photo attributed to shakakahnevan (CC).

New Podcast: Chris Grey on Organizations


Chris-Grey_opt.jpgWhat is an “organization?” According to Chris Grey, the guest in this Social Science Bites podcast, in many ways it’s a moment in time. “An organization,” he tells interviewer David Edmonds, “is also a momentary crystallization of an ongoing process of organizing.”

Click here to listen to the podcast now!

Grey is a professor of organizational studies in the school of management at Royal Holloway University in London and a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. And while he’s been heavily involved in management studies – he’s actually part of the School of Management at Royal Holloway – he makes clear that the rubric of ‘an organization’ extends far beyond business alone. “A huge amount of life is organized,” Grey explains, “and is therefore under the ambit of organizational studies.” In fact, the field itself, which essentially emerged from work on bureaucracy by Max Weber, was usually located in an institution’s sociology or psychology departments until the advent of business schools in the 1960s exerted a magnetic draw on the discipline.

One of Grey’s best examples of not being solely a business study is detailed in his 2012 book — Decoding Organization: Bletchley Park, Codebreaking and Organization Studies — about the (now) famous British World War II codebreaking campus. As he describes in this podcast, Bletchley Park harnessed many of the current cultural trends and personality traits of its selected workforce so well that even spouses didn’t know of each other’s wartime exploits for decades after V-E Day.

Even if organizational studies is boiled down to issues of economic efficiency, he continues, “we have to open up the question of what does efficiency mean and for who?” He adds: “We needn’t give the answer, ‘efficient for the powerful’.” And while admitting that his “take” is far from universal among his colleagues, “Fundamentally the problems of organization are not soluble and they’re not amenable to the kind of prediction and control that is sometimes promised.”

While he has wide ranging research interests and a love of detective novels, Grey remains well-represented in the management field. He was editor-in-chief of Management Learning for six years. Grey co-edited the 2016 book Critical Management Studies: Global Voices, Local Accents and was co-author of another 2016 volume, Secrecy at Work: The Hidden Architecture of Organizational Life.

His most recent book for SAGE is the cleverly named A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Organizations.

For a complete listing of past Social Science Bites podcasts, click HERE. You can follow Bites on Twitter @socialscibites and David Edmonds @DavidEdmonds100.

New Podcast from the Journal of Management Inquiry!

We are pleased to feature a new podcast from the Journal of Management Inquiry’s series entitled “Six Degrees” with participants Deepak Patil and Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson.

Please click here to listen to the podcast directly, where Anderson discusses her life and career in organization transformation.JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg

Deepak Patil is currently pursuing his doctorate in OD with California School of Professional Psychology. He has 16 years of rich work experience in the field of Leadership development and OD. Before rejoining student in Aug 2015, he was VP and Head of Leadership Development at Firstsource for their global operations. He is actively engaged with Indian Society for Applied Behavioral Sciences, Group Relations India, Silicon Valley OD Network and South Asian Association of Transactional Analysis. Deepak aspires to research in Strategic Change Management and Systems Thinking. After doctorate, he desires to consult for profit and not for profit organizations across the globe. Deepak enjoys travelling, reading and experiencing life to its fullest. He can be reached at deepakpatil76@gmail.com

linda.jpgDr. Linda Ackerman Anderson, Co-Founder of Being First, Inc., specializes in facilitating transformational change in Fortune 1000 businesses, governments, the military, and large not-for-profit organizations. Industry experts regard Linda as a founding leader of Organization Transformation and a godparent to the Organizational Development community.

As one of the pioneers of Conscious Change Leadership, Dr. Ackerman Anderson brings decades of expertise in developing conscious change leaders and equipping them with the insights and methods to become experts in their fields. She specializes in assisting leaders to sort through the chaos of transformation, develop change processes that produce extraordinary business outcomes, transform organizational mindset and culture, and personally model the changes they seek to create. Linda is an international speaker, co-wrote two best-selling books, Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results through Conscious Change Leadership, and The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization’s Transformation and co-created the renowned 9-phase change model; The Change Leader’s Roadmap™. Dr. Ackerman Anderson was granted an honorary doctorate from Chapman University (Brandman University) for her life’s work in transformational change and leadership.

You can also view the entire JMI Six Degrees podcast series here.

 

Aesthetic Rationality in Organizations

[We’re pleased to welcome author David Wasieleski of Duquesne University, USA. Wasieleski recently published an article in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled, “Aesthetic Rationality in Organizations: Toward Developing a Sensitivity for Sustainability,” co-authored by Paul Shrivastava, Gunter Schumacher, and Marco Tasic. From Wasieleski:]

As a rationale for what inspired us to get interested in this topic was the realization that the environmental crisis is in part caused by the emotional disconnection between humanJABS_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgs and nature. Art is a vehicle for emotional connection.  And, using art based values and methods we can emotionally reconnect people and organizations with nature.

Art influences the sustainability of companies through architecture, aesthetics of work-spaces, design of products and services, design of work and organizational systems, graphic art in advertising, and arts-based training methods. Self-expressiveness and authenticity that are hallmarks of art can also enhance organizational productivity and employee motivation. Sustainable organizations need arts to enhance employee creativity, innovation, attract creative workers, improve worker satisfaction, design eco-friendly and innovative products and services.   Arts also allows us to study those aspects of organizational sustainability which are a strength of aesthetics inquiry, such as sensory and emotional experiences often ignored in traditional management studies.
For more information, please see: ircase.org

The abstract for their article is below:

This article explains the coexistence and interaction of aesthetic experience and moral value systems of decision makers in organizations. For this purpose, we develop the concept of “aesthetic rationality,” which is described as a type of value-oriented rationality that serves to encourage sustainable behavior in organizations, and to complete the commonly held, “instrumentally rational” view of organizations. We show that organizations regularly exhibit not only an instrumental rationality but also an “aesthetic rationality,” which is manifested in their products and processes. We describe aesthetics, its underlying moral values, its evolutionary roots, and its links to virtue ethics as a basis for defining the concept of aesthetic rationality. We examine its links with human resources, organizational design, and other organizational elements. We examine these implications, identify how an aesthetic-driven ethic provides a potential for sustainable behavior in organizations, and suggest new directions for organizational research.

 

The full article is currently free to read for a limited time, by clicking here. Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts so you never miss the latest research.

Benefits and Costs of Covert Research: An Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome author Thomas Roulet of King’s College, UK.  Roulet recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled Reconsidering the Value of Covert Research: The Role of Ambiguous Consent in Participant Observation, co-authored by Michael J. Gill, Sebastien Stenger, and David James Gill. From Roulet:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? We were inspired by recent ethnographic work relying heavily on covert observation – for example the recent work by Alice Goffman on low income urban areas, or the paper byORM_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg Ethan Bernstein on the pitfalls of transparency in a Chinese factory.Alice Goffman’s work was attacked for the ethical challenges associated with the work of ethnographer.

So we went back to the literature and looked at research in various fields that relied on covert observation – the observation of a field of enquiry by a researcher that does not reveal his or her true identity and motives. This methodological approach has progressively fallen into abeyance because of the ethical issues associated with it- in particular the fact that covert observation implies not getting consent from the people observed by the researcher.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? Our review of covert research reveals that:
– all observations have issues with consent to different extent. It is obtain the full consent of all subjects. We put forward a two dimensions
– covert research can be ethically justified when tackling taboo topics, or trying to uncover misbehaviors.
– there is a wide range of ways and practices that can be used to minimize ethical concerns and limit the harm to subjects.

How do you see this study influencing future research? We hope that the ethical guidelines of some associations can evolve to offer more room for covert or semi covert research, and acknowledge the difficulties of obtaining full consent. We also think that ethical boards in universities may be willing to offer a more flexible perspective on covert research.

Finally our work is a call to researchers to consider covert observational approaches… with care!

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Call for Papers: Organization & Environment

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Organization & Environment is currently accepting manuscripts for an upcoming special issue on the topic: Financial Markets and the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy.

Please click the picture above or here to view additional guidelines for submitting.

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