Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategies

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Chelsie Hunt and Dr. Olaf Weber of the University of Waterloo. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Fossil fuel divestment strategies: Financial and carbon-related consequences,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the inspirations, challenges, and related papers to their research:]


The research on this paper has been motivated by the discussion about whether fossil fuel divestment decreases financial returns. This question is discussed controversially in academia and practice. Since the Canadian financial market is very fossil fuel heavy, it was interesting to understand both, financial and carbon related consequences of different fossil fuel divestment strategies.

Another influence is the intensive public discussion about how to mitigate climate change. As divestment is proposed as one way to address the problem, we wanted to understand the effect of this type of socially responsible investment that has been promoted by the NGO However, divestment moved from being a niche political activity of NGO to the center of institutional investing with a number of big institutional investors announcing divestment from fossil fuels.

A challenging part of this research is the quality of climate related corporate data. Though many firms disclose their carbon related data, there are still gaps and the risk of biases because often those with higher carbon performance publish their data. However, I think we used an innovative approach that correlated both financial and carbon related performance to analyze whether divestment really has an effect on the decarbonization of financial portfolios.

The results might influence investors with regard to divestment decisions and also contributes to finance research by adding non-financial risks to the equation. Maybe they also influence younger scholar to conduct research in this field though it is still often seen as a niche in general corporate and financial performance research.

Finally, we would like to mention three other papers in the field that have been extremely interesting. First, it is a paper that discusses why financial implications of climate risks are not discussed in conventional financial journals (Diaz-Rainey, Robertson, & Wilson, 2017). Second, there are two more papers that discuss the consequences of fossil fuel divestment that suggesting no negative financial effects from fossil fuel divestment (Henriques & Sadorsky, 2017; Trinks, Scholtens, Mulder, & Dam, 2018)

Diaz-Rainey, I., Robertson, B., & Wilson, C. (2017). Stranded research? Leading finance journals are silent on climate change. Climatic Change, 143(1), 243-260. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1985-1

Henriques, I., & Sadorsky, P. (2017). Investor implications of divesting from fossil fuels. Global Finance Journal. doi:

Trinks, A., Scholtens, B., Mulder, M., & Dam, L. (2018). Fossil Fuel Divestment and Portfolio Performance. Ecological Economics, 146, 740-748. doi:


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What Motivates Board Members of Founder-Owned Companies?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Alexander Libman of Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Tatiana Dolgopyatov of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, and Andrei Yakovlev the National Research University Higher School of Economics. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “‘Board Empowerment: What Motivates Board Members of Founder-Owned Companies?” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations of this research:]


Our study emerged from a puzzling observation we made looking at the development of Russian (and, more generally, emerging markets) companies after the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The crisis reduced the benefits of having an advanced and transparent corporate governance structure: international investors (who in many cases demanded better governance practices in the first place) became cautious and unwilling to engage even the most transparent companies. Since maintaining a well-functioning formal corporate governance system is costly, we would expect emerging market companies to abandon it in favor of informal management mechanisms. AFK Sistema – the company we study in our paper – did exactly the opposite. After the crisis, it invested substantial effort into improving the corporate governance, including empowering the board of directors, going well beyond the Russian standards in this respect.

Our paper, therefore, was an attempt to understand how does the company benefit from improving its corporate governance, even if it is created not for investor’s sake? It appears that empowering boards of directors could have another, equally important function: it can increase the motivation of board members, making them eager to invest their time and effort in advancing the cause of the company. This, in turn, opens new business opportunities and new possibilities for growth. These opportunities can be challenged by changes in external environment: after 2014, for example, AFK Sistema faced challenges in Russia related to Bashneft case, which could also influence the further pathway the company will follow in terms of developing the corporate governance. But fundamentally, the approach of empowering boards to improve motivation appears to be sound and beneficial for achieving long-term business growth.

Our argument applies even to companies with concentrated ownership, which traditionally pay less attention to transfer real authorities to the board of directors. In the AFK Sistema, it was the founder, who controls more than 60% of the company’s stock, who triggered and consistently implemented the change towards a more transparent and better organized corporate governance structure.

From this case study, two conclusions follow. First, we show how important it is to go beyond the simple generalizations and to look at more nuanced factors explaining the choices made by individual companies. In some cases, personality and convictions of the key decision-makers can push the company in a new direction, creating avenues from achieving success. Capturing these nuanced factors was, in fact, the main challenge of our research: we had to gain insight into the motivation and the perceptions of the highest echelons of the AFK Sistema (which is one of the biggest Russian companies). It was not enough that the managers and the board members agreed to talk to us to verify facts and to respond to specific questions – we needed to gain insights in their view of how the company develops and why certain decisions are made, without biasing the respondents by our own preconceptions and ideas.

Second, the case of AFK Sistema also shows that the business experience of emerging markets can be used to draw valuable lessons for companies operating elsewhere – the logic of board empowerment as a tool for increasing motivation of directors could be of value for companies in mature markets as well. Emerging markets are not only about hostile business environment – they are (potentially) about managerial innovations with broader relevance

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When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Mieke Koeslag-Kreunen of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, Piet Van den Bossche of the University of Antwerp, Michael Hoven of Maastricht University, Marcel Van der Klink of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, and Wim Gijselaers of Maastricht University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss some of the findings of this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

We are fascinated why some leaders succeed and others don’t in getting the most out of their teams. Knowing that team processes determine team effectiveness we wanted to know how leadership makes a difference in teams. Keeping in mind that one of the fundamental team processes is sharing knowledge and discussing what is shared to build advanced or new knowledge that enable developing the necessary solutions as a team. We were intrigued by the question how team leaders can facilitate this process of team learning without over-structuring it and leaving no space for team members to exhibit the necessary behaviors themselves. Many different leadership behaviors can be effective, but team leaders simply cannot display all necessary behaviors by themselves. Moreover, what can you do as a team leader when your team faces a task that is unstructured or for which you also do not have the answers? What is the best advice for these team leaders? In answering this question, we wanted to identify when leadership propels teams in building new or advanced knowledge.

In what ways is your research innovative and can it impact the field?

After synthesizing the 2000+ scientific hits on the topic, we showed that encouraging, structuring and sharing team leadership behaviors all support team learning. Interestingly, we also found new evidence that the type of team task determines which leadership behaviors can best be displayed to support teams in building new or advanced knowledge. As a consequence, the advice for team leaders is to vary their behavior depending on the team task and to ascertain the specific team situation in their choice. If pioneering ideas and new products of teams are aimed for, team leaders should mainly invest in building trust, creativity and enthusiasm, and not inhibit teams from learning by putting too much emphasis on the task. If advancing existing knowledge and adaptation of the products is enough to reach team success, team leaders who focus on the task, methods and outcomes are beneficial because such behaviors reinforces using known protocols.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

It would be interesting to dig into the reciprocal effect of the team process and leadership behavior, as well as how leadership behavior may shift in style and source over time. We mainly found cross-sectional studies that covered just one or two types of team leadership behavior and examines its influence on team learning behavior. Experimental and longitudinal studies on this topic may bring new perspectives on how team leaders can vary their behavior, what kind of effect that has on team learning, and what team leaders can do to use that information in future team interactions, subsequently.

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The Role of Creative Mediums in Enhancing Management Research Representation

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Lakshmi Balachandran Nair of Utrecht University, Pauline Fatien Diochon of Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Reka Anna Lassu of the University of Central Florida, and Suzanne G. Tilleman of the University of Montana, Missoula. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Let’s Perform and Paint! The Role of Creative Mediums in Enhancing Management Research Representation,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below,  They reflect on their research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointA video of an indigenous tribe member with colorful body paint and a heavy beaded necklace filming his peers with a camera in the middle of the Amazon rainforest…

An analogy of a cocktail party used to represent the complex Higgs boson phenomenon in the simplest way possible…

What do these have in common?

They are creative mediums used by scholars to display research findings in an evocative, yet informative way. Expanding on examples such as these, our article advocates for the use of creative mediums to showcase the product of an inquiry, either alone or as a supplement to traditional reporting. We provide a rationale for how these mediums trigger interest, foster a multisensory experience, convey complex meaning, and spark contemporary, inclusive dialogues.

How did we have this idea?

“Here are markers and a poster. Show us a new research idea you think will generate curiosity, conversation, and collaboration and is emblematic of The Journal of Management Inquiry’s spirit”

This was the prompt we were given by Dr. Hannah and Dr. Stackman at the concluding workshop session of the 2016 Western Academy of Management Conference after they had introduced an example of recent research about how the presence of animals influences people at work. The few of us at our table began brainstorming.

“Did you know that some PhD students dance their dissertation?” said Dr. Balachandran Nair.

This question started a discussion about how management researchers are familiar with the use of creative mediums to illustrate intricate and dynamic organizational environments. However, the majority of the researchers tend to restrict the use of creative mediums to facilitating the process of inquiry. What if these creative mediums could showcase the findings?

We quickly sketched our idea on a poster (see left).
All the participants showed each other their posters and voted on their favorites.

JMI Initial PosterThe initial poster presenting our ideas

The enthusiasm from the workshop motivated us to examine the creative practices in other fields and to see whether and how we can adapt ideas for reporting research findings to the management field. Voilà, the project was born. The article inspired by the workshop is innovative in its idea and format. While using creative mediums for research representation certainly contrasts with dominant text-based vehicles, we believe in the potential of creative mediums to increase engagement, retention, and impact – not only with fellow researchers but also with practitioners and the general public. We see creative mediums as a way to build bridges with several communities around researchers. None of us are professional artists, but we had to practice what we preach, so we challenged ourselves to include a poem, cartoon, and a collage along with our article.

Now, it is your turn to get creative!

Lakshmi Balachandran Nair, Pauline Fatien Diochon, Reka Anna Lassu, Suzanne Tilleman

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The Emergence of “Solidarity Recycling” in Brazil

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Silvio Eduardo Alvarez Candido, Fernanda Veríssimo Soulé, and Mário Sacomano Neto of the Federal University of Sao Carlos. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “The Emergence of “Solidarity Recycling” in Brazil: Structural Convergences and Strategic Actions in Interconnected Fields,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Candido reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]


The paper is part of my PhD thesis, presented at the Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar) in 2016. I invited Fernanda Soule and Mário Sacomano, close colleagues who intensively participated in the elaboration of the argument, to co-author this specific result. The idea to study recycling is associated with my long standing interest in environmental and social issues. The perception that in Brazil environmentalism was very commonly tied to issues of social justice always impressed me and I decided to study one of the cases in which these two categories were also very entangled with economic practices, what lead me to recycling. I was lucky enough to be part of a Research Center very specialized in Bourdieu’s sociology, the Center of Economic and Financial Sociology of UFSCar, coordinated by Professors Roberto Grün, who actually studied with the French sociologist, and Julio Donadone, also a great specialist in his work. I was also lucky to read the book “A theory of fields”, from Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam, right after its release in 2012, while beginning the research, and discussing it in a group led by Professor Mauro Rocha Côrtes. The considerations of the authors about the little attention given by scholars to the issue of the interconnection of fields encouraged me to carry the “though experiment” of building my research object as an ensemble of fields. With the progress of the research, I also noticed that neither their approach or Bourdieu’s alone could account my case completely, what directed me to cross-fertilize the perspectives.

These choices implicated in great theoretical challenges, since the topic of the interconnection of fields is considered to be a very complicated one by the authors, implicating in extensive data collection about several different spheres of practice. The presentations and discussions of preliminary research results in meetings of the Society for Advancements of Socio Economics, in colloquiums of the European Group of Organization Studies, and in a period of six months I spent in the University of Alberta, under the supervision of Professor Michael Lounsbury, were certainly decisive so that these challenges could be overcome. I believe that in the paper we demonstrated that the concept of field may be used as a very flexible research tool, capable of capturing at the same time the more structural and situational dynamics of social life. The case of the rise of solidarity recycling in Brazil was actually very rich and great to demonstrate this. It was clear that this emergence process was conditioned by the broad social structures of Brazil. It was also very surprising to discover how the genesis of these very heterodox practices was attached to progressive branches of the Catholic Church, its spread depended on the collaboration of UNICEF and of critical academics and how its consecration is associated to the support of both left wing governments and beverage industry. I hope this put forward novel ways to understand the cultural-political dynamics underlying social change and, specifically, transitions to sustainability.

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Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Robert Sroufe of Duquesne University Pittsburgh and Dr. Venugopal Gopalakrishna-Remani of The University of Texas at Tyler. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships: An Empirical Examination of U.S. Firms,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sroufe discusses the motivations for this research:]

O&E_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe motivation for this study on Management, Social Sustainability and Reputation can be found in our profound interest in how innovative organizations integrate sustainability. We developed a unique sample of top ranked Fortune 500 multinational companies to better understand how sustainability practices lead to improved performance. In doing so, we propose new constructs and item development while testing relationships to tradition measures of financial performance. This study looks at exemplary MNCs as identified by Newsweek, The Corporate Knights, and Best Corporate Citizens rankings. Firm level performance is assessed during the time of country level cuts to GHG emissions set by the Kyoto Protocol, and during a period of time in which there was a difficult recession in the U.S. The uniqueness of our study and the results operationalize multiple dimensions of sustainability and ask the question has social performance lived up to the promises made on its behalf?

A challenging aspect of this study is the development of new sustainability constructs involving management, social performance and reputation. We were able to utilize multiple measures from both Newsweek and Bloomberg to develop and assess new constructs. We found there are significant benefits to sustainability management practices, yet there is more to explore and learn about the practices and relationships involving social sustainability performance. We hope this study provides a foundation for future research into social sustainability and evolving management practices.

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Argument Complexity and Discussions of Political/Religious Issues

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointPolitical and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.

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