BAS Best Paper Award

basa_57_7_cover.pngCongratulations to the winners of Business & Society 2017 Best Paper Award:

Natalie Salwinski of Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Jonatan Pinkse of the University of Manchester, Timo Busch of University of Hamburg, Germany, and Subhabrata Bobby Banerjee of City University London.

Check out the award winning article free for a limited time: “The Role of Short-Termism and Uncertainty Avoidance in Organizational Inaction on Climate Change

You can find the abstract of this article below.

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Despite increasing pressure to deal with climate change, firms have been slow to respond with effective action. This article presents a multi-level framework for a better understanding of why many firms are failing to reduce their absolute greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. The concepts of short-termism and uncertainty avoidance from research in psychology, sociology, and organization theory can explain the phenomenon of organizational inaction on climate change. Antecedents related to short-termism and uncertainty avoidance reinforce one another at three levels—individual, organizational, and institutional—and result in organizational inaction on climate change. The article also discusses the implications of this multi-level framework for research on corporate sustainability.

Thank you for your outstanding contribution!


Business & Society invites you to submit your research for their special issue entitled, New Perspectives on Bottom of the Pyramid Strategies. For more information, check out the guidelines.


Climate Change Photo attributed to Free Photos.

When Is There a Sustainability Case for Corporate Social Responsibility?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Minna Halme of Aalto University School of Business, Jukka Rintamäki of City University of London, Jette Steen Knudsen of Tufts University, Leena Lankoski of Aalto University School of Business, and Mika Kuisma of Aalto University School of Business. They recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “When Is There a Sustainability Case for CSR? Pathways to Environmental and Social Performance Improvements,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Miklian reflects on the impact and innovations of this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

While this article focuses on sustainability performance, it is based on a joint research project of 12 universities which originally set out to study societal impacts of CSR. We were motivated by the fact that there is so little research on societal impacts CSR, and so much need for it among policy makers and non-governmental organizations.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

The difficulty of getting data on impacts of companies’ CSR activities took us by surprise. We had chosen a sample of companies that – based on publicly available ratings – were either leading or good CSR performers, but data on societal impacts of CSR was still scarce. And not only scarce: CSR practices, performance and impacts were often also confused with one another in the company reporting and in managers’ oral accounts. It took massive cross-checking of interview data, and public and internal document data to get the study done.

It also became strikingly evident that in the end of the day researchers as well as sustainability ratings are at the mercy of companies’ self-reported sustainability data. Databases and ratings such as the KDL, Asset4 or the like tend to be viewed as reliable data. Investors and management academics measuring corporate sustainability performance widely use these ratings as if they were drawn from “hard objective data”. In reality such data is self-reported by companies.

Aggravating the risk of mismeasurement is that these schemes are untransparent: users (researchers, investors) do not necessarily know what data exactly composes each indicator. This is paradoxical as for research purposes it is considered positive if “the performance data is from an external source” – a statement which effectively closes the door from discussion about validity problems of performance data used. Sustainability databases should make their performance measurement data more transparent so that users have a means to assess what has been measured as environmental and social performance.

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

We separated CSR activities (antecedents of sustainability performance) from the performance itself, and did not rely on narrow data but instead constructed performance schemes for assessing both environmental and social performance. In addition to management researchers, our team had wide sustainability performance knowledge base from natural science to social sustainability studies. We used both externally available and internal document data, interviewed companies as well as met with their stakeholders to complement and verify the data. In other words, we went beyond analysts adhering to data sets like KDL, Asset4 or TRI.
Our configurational approach makes it possible to discover that different pathways are associated with environmental and social performance (non)improvements, and that pathways to success and failure are for the most part not symmetrical, which has not been shown before with any larger dataset.

We expect that our research will encourage more informative future research on the influence of CSR policies and practices onto sustainability performance. We hope it raises the bar for more comprehensive future measurement of sustainability performance of companies, making the research in the field more useful for policy makers who seek to steer corporate performance and for company managers, who struggle to understand what kind of CSR is beneficial for improvement of sustainability performance.

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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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Evaluating Social Marketing Campaigns

[We’re pleased to welcome author Diogo Veríssimo of Johns Hopkins University. He recently published an article in Social Marketing Quarterly entitled “Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Veríssimo provides insight on impact evaluation and behaviour change:]

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Measuring change is hard. But it is also critical to programs hoping to influence human behaviour towards more positive societal outcomes. In a newly published paper, Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns, we tackle the challenge of evaluating social marketing campaigns targeting fishing communities in the Philippines with the goal of driving the adoption of more sustainable fishing practices at the community level.

Research on impact evaluation is vital to improve implementation, particularly in high uncertainty high complexity environment such as those in which social marketing operates. By measuring our impact we can first ensure we do no harm and then learn what works, to improve with each iteration. This is even more pressing in the environmental context, as we have lagged far behind sectors such as public health or international development in impact evaluation. Therefore, our goal with this paper was to showcase how we can raise the bar on the evaluation of behaviour change efforts, in this case social marketing, in a particularly changing subject, that of fisheries management in the tropics.

Our work focused on the evaluation of three social marketing campaigns in the Philippines, using a quasi-experiments design of match campaign and control sites. We measured both social indicators through surveys and biological indicators using underwater ecological surveys. We found limited evidence of behaviour change amongst fisherman and no evidence of change in fish biomass as a result of the campaigns. Yet, we also discussed the fact that this last result is fully expected, given how long fisheries take to recover, a timeline often measured in decades, not years. This has implications not only for the way that we plan and implement social marketing campaigns but also for donors who should be aware that expecting biological change in the often short project cycles may just be unrealistic.

Moreover, our research hopes to highlight the difficulties of carrying out competent impact evaluations in a context where both social and biological indicators need to be measured and where both terrestrial and in-water data is needed. This has obvious implications in terms of cost, not only in terms of money, time and staff but also in terms of required technical expertise. Project budgets need to reflect this reality if we are to be truly evidence-based and take responsibility for the interventions we implement. After all it is not about success and failure, it should most of all be about learning.

Balancing Profit and People: Corporate Social Responsibility in Business Education

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Shannon Deer of Mays Business School, and Jill Zarestky of Colorado State University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Balancing Profit and People: Corporate Social Responsibility in Business Education,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Deer discusses the research:]

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Together several events and circumstances motivated us to research sustainability education in business schools.

  1. My co-author, Jill, and I have PhDs in Education and Human Resource Development, with an emphasis in adult education. Jill has a background in mathematics and mine is accounting and finance.  Our experience in the PhD program really highlighted for us the lack of attention to issues of social justice in business and STEM disciplines. I could see a strong desire in my business students to make a difference in the world by addressing significant problems. This study, and the associated business solutions to social problems class, were one way for us to give them an outlet for exploring such issues.
  2. Mays Business School just developed a new strategic vision. Our vision statement is advancing the world’s prosperity.  To achieve this vision, we are challenging our students to broaden their focus from primarily profit driven to all three Ps – people, planet, and profit.  In the class studied in this article, students explored profitable ways to address problems we don’t always talk about in business schools – hunger, literacy, and human trafficking.  At Mays, we believe businesses can help fill the gap left by government and nonprofit organizations in solving the big economic, environmental, and social problems facing the world.  We are excited to see our students make an impact in this area in the future.
  3. At the same time, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) updated their requirements to require sustainability education in business curriculum. As instructors and researchers, we wanted to make an impact, but we were developing a new course with a paucity of research related to incorporating sustainability into business curriculum.  There are some programs that have done it well for a while, but limited information on how they did it and to what effect.  We wanted to research our process in implementing this curriculum to help others starting this journey.

A happy accident in the research was finding sustainability curriculum is also a great vehicle for teaching critical thinking.  The students chose problems they were motivated to solve – big problems without simple solutions.  The students gained confidence in their ability to solve big problem through exposure to the curriculum.  The course culminated in a case competition. The winning team developed a prototype for a backyard cricket farm using repurposed food barrels.  Families, especially in developing countries, can use the system to produce a quality protein source.  Though unconventional, cricket flour is becoming a popular, healthy alternative to wheat, even the US.  This was an innovative use of existing materials and technology to solve an emerging problem, which demonstrated the critical thinking skills we hoped students would develop.

As scholars, we took away a renewed hope in our students. Despite some faculty who grumble about Millennials, we saw a students who are truly committed to doing the work to help improves the lives of others was really heartening. These rewards are what make teaching worthwhile.

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Refugee Resettlement Volunteers: Committed or Compelled?

map-of-the-world-1005413_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Kirstie McAllum of the Université de Montréal, Canada (Ph.D, University of Waikato, New Zealand). McAllum recently published an article in Human Relations entitled “Committing to refugee resettlement volunteering: Attaching, detaching, and displacing organizational ties,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below McAllum summarizes her research and findings:]

HUm coverBy summer 2015, one in every 122 human beings was a refugee, internally displaced person or asylum seeker. Volunteers play an essential role in helping newly arrived refugees adapt to their new country and local community, but sometimes volunteering can be difficult or disappointing when refugees do not want to be helped or expect volunteers to deliver the help differently. When this happens, volunteers can find staying committed difficult, and they often drop out.

This study focused on how the network of people around refugee resettlement volunteers influenced their involvement: the non-profit organization that recruited and supported them; the refugees they worked with; and their own families, friends, and work colleagues. These ‘others’ made a difference in decisions about committing depending on their presence (they were there for volunteers or they expected volunteers to ‘be there’ for them) or absence (they were not there when volunteers needed them).

Volunteers felt forced to be present at the beginning of their six month placement because of the small number of volunteers and the needs of highly vulnerable families. The organization focused on how volunteers could manage this pressure by creating ‘boundaries’ that would protect them from getting over-involved. Over the course of the placement, volunteers found these boundaries hard to manage. Over-worked and under-funded staff at the non-profit organization were frequently ‘absent’ or unavailable to help volunteers to furnish refugees’ new homes or deal with crises like the arrest of a family member. Their absence pushed volunteers to step in to make sure that refugees received support. Refugees, on the other hand, encouraged volunteers to be continually present. Volunteers were pulled toward the relationship for several reasons: the learning and pleasure involved in the placement; awareness of refugees’ needs; and at times, refugees’ demands that they visit more often, stay longer, or support them in a range of activities, even including driving lessons. Volunteers were only able to maintain their presence when their own family and friends supported them.

After six months, only a few volunteers kept up their relationships with families and the organization, because the organization had been there in difficult moments. Most volunteers stopped volunteering for the organization, but kept in touch with the family. They did not think they needed the organization’s help, since they had managed so far without it, but they felt guilty about stepping back from a rich, rewarding relationship with a family who needed ongoing emotional support or had major problems. A third group of volunteers abandoned the role completely. Guilt didn’t ‘work’ for the last group of volunteers, for whom volunteering had been a highly negative experience: the organization had been absent, their own social networks pressured them to be present elsewhere, and refugees had made too many unreasonable demands on them to be present.

Although the non-profit organization cannot influence the quality of the relationships that volunteers develop with refugees, the findings suggest that having professional staff to help volunteers deal with crises and manage day-to-day boundaries might stop experienced volunteers from dropping out. To do this, this non-profit organization needs to lobby decision-makers for more resources for volunteer support.

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Migration photo attributed to kalhh. (CC)

 

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!