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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Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Organization & Environment and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Text Classification for Organizational Researchers: A Tutorial

baby-84626_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Stefan Mol of the University of Amsterdam. Dr. Mol recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled “Text Classification for Organizational Researchers: A Tutorial,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Mol reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

07ORM13_Covers.inddWhat motivated you to pursue this research?
Machine Learning assisted text analysis is still uncommon in organizational research, although its use holds promise. Most manual text analysis procedures conducted by researchers in this field are about the assignment of text to categories such as in thematic and template analyses. However, manual classification of text becomes laborious and time consuming (and sometimes subject to reliability issues) when one needs to do this for a sizeable amount (hundreds of thousands or millions) of pieces of text. An alternative is to use automatic text classification systems that can be constructed by researchers, which allow them to speed up the process of labeling or coding large sets of textual data. The design and building of text classifiers could be of use for various areas of organizational research. Our aim was to illustrate how this could be done and provide a tutorial. We used the example of building a text classifier to automatically sort job type information contained in job vacancies. The importance of validating the results of text classification was demonstrated through data triangulation, using expert input. We believe that the use of this procedure among organizational researchers can improve reliability and efficiency in analysis that involves classification.
What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?
Building classifiers involves several rounds of training, testing, and validation before they can be deployed in practice and the most challenging aspect is training the classifier and choosing the parameters in such a way that the results are valid from the standpoint of application. The classifier we built for the job analysis task was able to recover job task sentences with high precision as assessed by an expert in the field, although the classifier was initially trained with minimum expert input. Our results thus suggest that job vacancies are a reliable alternative source of job information that can augment existing approaches to job analysis. More generally, we believe this also suggests that wider use of text classification holds promise for organizational research in a broader sense.
What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?
One class of techniques that are now increasingly applied in the area of text classification are word embeddings. Word embeddings map each word to vectors of real numbers. The similarities among word vectors can be used to quantify and categorize the meaning of words in specific contexts. We initially planned to include a short discussion about this but we decided not to because these techniques warrant more in depth discussion which go beyond the scope of our current article. However, organizational researchers interested in recovering context specific meaning of words may benefit from the specific approach taken with word embeddings and we recommend them to get to know these techniques as well.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Organizational Research Methods and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

 

 

 

Is Business Ethics Too Important to be Left in the Hands of Business: A Democratic Alternative?

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[We’re pleased to welcome author Carl Rhodes of the University of Technology, Sydney. Rhodes recently published an article in Organization Studies entitled “Democratic Business Ethics: Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal and the Disruption of Corporate Sovereignty,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Rhodes reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

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When people think of business ethics they normally imagine what businesses can or should do to be judged as ethical.  Whether the focus is on breaches of ethical norms by corporations, or models for the achievement of ethical business, the common approach is that it is organizations themselves who are the ethical agents.

This assumption is limited because it fails to account for how corporate responsibility does not necessarily arrive through the voluntary actions of corporations themselves. In response, in my own research I have been exploring a more democratic and socially focussed understanding of how business ethics is practiced.  The results were recently published in my article in Organization Studies called ‘Democratic Business Ethics: Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal and the Disruption of Corporate Sovereignty’

The 2015 Volkswagen emission scandal illustrates what I call democratic business ethics; an ethics where citizens and the institutions of civil society hold corporations to account for their actions, and in so doing disrupt the self-interested abuse of corporate power.  At the time the scandal broke, Volkswagen was the world’s largest auto manufacturer, and a company widely heralded for its environmentalism and its corporate social responsibly activities.  Despite impeccable ethical credentials, the scandal revealed a corporation whose success had been boosted by sophisticated cheating on fuel emission tests.

The paper shows how Volkswagen was brought to justice for its actions not because of its own proclaimed ethics or moral hubris, but because of the interaction of individuals and institutions from outside of business, in this case NGOs, scientists, law makers, government agencies, the media, and the general public.  This was a demonstration how business ethics manifested in the interruption of a flagrant case of corporate fraud, deceit and criminality.

The paper develops the idea of democratic business ethics by focussing on how civil society in particular can and should ensure that corporations are made morally responsible for what they do. This is an ethics made practical through forms of dissent and contestation that redirect power away from centres of organized wealth and capital, returning it to its democratically rightful place with the people.

The conclusion is that business ethics is far too important to be left in the hands of business, and needs to be exercised in the democratic sphere so that corporations are serving society rather than the other way around.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Organization Studies and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

 

 

 

Join SAGE at AOM 2017 to Provide Your Feedback!

2017_AOM-AttheInterfaceLogoCompsv2_061616The Academy of Management 2017 Annual Meeting is going on now in Atlanta! This year’s theme, Making Organizations Meaningful, is all about interfaces and how they define human interaction. In the present day, mobility and freedom of movement have become traits of our society. The ability for people to go almost anywhere with ease both physically and digitally have changed how society and business interact. How do business engage with these new, changing interfaces and what effect do they have on uniting or dividing people? You can find the full program for this year’s conference, including the scheduled events that will speak to organizational meaningfulness, by clicking here.

If you’re attending AOM, don’t forget to stop by SAGE’s booths, where we’ll have the latest scholarly research from  Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management, Organization StudiesFamily Business Review, Human Relations and other top-tier SAGE journals, as well as plenty of friendly faces willing to answer all your publishing inquiries. So come by to booths #224, 226, 228, 230!

Whether or not you’ll be able to attend this year’s Academy of Management Annual Meeting, please feel free to peruse the latest from SAGE’s management and business journals represented at AOM:

ASQ_v59n3_Sept2014_cover.inddAdministrative Science Quarterly This top-tier journal regularly publishes the best theoretical and empirical papers based on dissertations and on the evolving and new work of more established scholars, as well as interdisciplinary work in organizational theory, and informative book reviews.

 

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Business & Society
In this fast-growing, ever-changing, and always challenging field of study, BAS is the only peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted entirely to research, discussion, and analysis on the relationship between business and society.

 

FBR_C1_revised authors color.inddFamily Business Review provides a scholarly platform devoted exclusively to exploration of the dynamics of family-controlled enterprise, including firms ranging in size from the very large to the relatively small. FBR is focused not only the entrepreneurial founding generation, but also on family enterprises in the 2nd and 3rd generation and beyond, including some of the world’s oldest companies.

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Group and Organization Management
publishes a broad range of articles, including data-based research articles, research review reports, evaluation studies, action research reports, and critiques of research. In addition, GOM brings you articles examining a wide range of topics in organizations from an international and cross-cultural perspective.

Human Relations publishes the highest quality original research to advance our understanding of social relationships at and around work. Human Relations encourages strong empirical contributions that develop and extend theory as well as more conceptual papers that integrate, critique and expand existing theory.

 

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The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science JABS is continually breaking ground in its exploration of group dynamics, organization development, and social change, providing scholars the best in research, theory, and methodology, while also informing professionals and their clients.

 

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Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies produces high-quality, peer-reviewed research articles on leadership and organizational studies, focusing in particular on the intersection of these two areas of study.

 

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Journal of Management is committed to publishing scholarly empirical and theoretical research articles that have a high impact on the management field as a whole and cover such field as business strategy and policy, entrepreneurship, human resource management, organizational behavior, organizational theory, and research methods.

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpointJournal of Management Education is dedicated to enhancing teaching and learning in the management and organizational disciplines. JME’s published articles reflect changes and developments in the conceptualization, organization, and practice of management education.

 

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointJournal of Management Inquiry is a leading journal for scholars and professionals in management, organizational behavior, strategy, and human resources. JMI explores ideas and builds knowledge in management theory and practice, with a focus on creative, nontraditional research, as well as, key controversies in the field.

Management Learning, the ‘Journal for Critical, Reflexive Scholarship on Organisation and Learning’, publishes original theoretical, empirical and exploratory articles on learning and knowing in management and organizations. Now in its fifth decade of publication, Management Learning continues to provide a unique forum for critical inquiry, innovative ideas and dialogue.

07ORM13_Covers.inddOrganizational Research Methods brings relevant methodological developments to a wide range of researchers in organizational and management studies and promotes a more effective understanding of current and new methodologies and their application in organizational settings.

Organization Studies publishes top quality theoretical and empirical research which promotes the understanding of organizations, organizing and the organized in and between societies. OS is a multidisciplinary journal with global reach, rooted in the social sciences, comparative in outlook and open to paradigmatic plurality. It is included in the Financial Times Top 50 journals list.

Organization is a peer-reviewed journal whose principal aim is to foster dialogue and innovation in studies of organization. The journal addresses a broad spectrum of issues, and a wide range of perspectives, as the foundation for a ‘neo-disciplinary’ organization studies.

Strategic Organization (SO) is devoted to publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed, discipline-grounded conceptual and empirical research of interest to researchers, teachers, students, and practitioners of strategic management and organization.

 

How Do Individuals Judge Organizational Legitimacy?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Melanie Eichhorn of the ESCP Europe Business School. Eichhorn recently published an article in Business and Society entitled “How Do Individuals Judge Organizational Legitimacy? Effects of Attributed Motives and Credibility on Organizational Legitimacy,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Eichhorn reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:

 

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Almost all of the leading scholars in the field of organizational legitimacy perpetually emphasize the need for empirical studies that investigate how individuals judge whether or not organizations are legitimate, i.e. whether they are perceived to comply with social norms and values. The current lack of such studies creates an unpleasant situation. Our knowledge about what goes on in our minds when judging the legitimacy of corporate behavior basically rests on theoretical models. To close this gap there is hardly a way around insights from social psychology research. Social psychological reasoning does not only allow comprehending cognitive processes of individuals but also demonstrates how individuals influence institutions.

At the end of the day it was the match between the given research gap and our interest in psychological research that motivated us to work on this project.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

The belief-attitude approach applied in our study explains that collective and individual judgments are not necessarily congruent and that two individual beliefs—attributed motives and the perceived credibility of the organization—lead to a change in individuals’ legitimacy judgment.

Being cautiously optimistic we hope that our study will be only one out of many future studies that experimentally investigate individual legitimacy judgements in organizational research. Experimental vignette studies are a promising data collection technique because they combine the advantages of a laboratory experiment—high internal validity—with those of a field experiment—high external validity. Currently such studies are quite rare in business and society research. Hence, our study hopefully promotes the use of experiments in studies dealing with such issues. Thereby, legitimacy is only one out of many fascinating objects of research.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

We would like to seize this opportunity and highlight a recently published article by Finch et al. (2015). For our research area we regard this study as important. It deals with individual legitimacy judgements in regard to the oil sands industry in Canada. Even so the study was overlooked by recent reviews—we deem it the most promising approach to further explore how people judge organizational legitimacy.

The key element of their study is the definition of legitimacy as an attitude. This allows for applying an abundance of scholarly work from decades of social psychology research to the investigation of individual legitimacy judgments. These various existing insights on attitude formation and attitude change as well as those on belief building and belief adjustment provide several fruitful avenues for future research.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Business and Society and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

#OSEditorPicks: Behind Smoke and Mirrors: A Political Approach to Decoupling

[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

In the #OSEditorPicks for August, Behind Smoke and Mirrors: A Political Approach to Decoupling, Anja Kern, Aziza Laguecir, and Bernard Leca respond to calls for more attention to power and politics within institutional theory. They conducted an in-depth study of policy implementation by a Regional Health Authority (RHA) in a French Hospital, and found different patterns of response between surgeons and cardiologists. Surgeons used their sources of power to openly reject the proposed casemix approach. Cardiologists engaged in means/ends decoupling to implement casemix as a way to improve their own interests. Ultimately, the RHA acquiesced to the powerful surgeons and renounced their previous decision to base funding on casemix performance at the clinical level. The authors draw on power dependency theory to explain different types of decoupling that occurred and different ways in which power and politics played out for each group.

I am intrigued with this article for a couple of reasons. First, it is great to see an empirical article that brings power and politics back into institutional theory by revealing important aspects of decoupling. Such an approach is long overdue. Second, this article reminds me of Selznick’s detailed and fascinating account of institutional change in the Tennessee Valley Authority (1949).  Kern, Laguecir and Leca tell a similarly captivating story that holds twists and turns, highlighting the ways that people can act in pursuit of their own interests. I believe that this article holds real value, and I encourage people interested in processes of institutional change to read it.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #OSEditorPicks

You can read Behind Smoke and Mirrors: A Political Approach to Decoupling by Anja Kern, Aziza Laguecir, and Bernard Leca free for the next 30 days. 

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.