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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Is It Possible to Reduce Poverty and CO2 Emissions Simultaneously?

15489395937_f27a2e30e7_z[We’re pleased to welcome Denis Collins. Denis recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Managing the Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox: The Case of China and EU” with co-author Chunfang Zheng.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

We are greatly concerned about both the unhealthy amount of CO2 in the atmosphere contributing to climate change and poverty in developing nations. As a global community, we are quickly approaching an environmental tipping point that already contributes to social and political problems throughout the world, and threatens the human species. Also, as a global community, we need to do all that we can to help eradicate extreme poverty in developing nations. China has had tremendous success reducing poverty from 1990 to 2015, but in the process they have become, by far, the world’s largest CO2 emitter. This article examines the “Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox,” wherein reducing poverty through economic growth simultaneously increases carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from increased production and consumption, at a time in history when CO2 emissions must be reduced to avoid climate change catastrophes. Which is the lesser of two evils, people living in extreme poverty or catastrophic climate change impacts caused by increased CO2 emissions? How should the Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox be managed at the national and international levels? These are the questions our article explores.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Key economic and environmental indicators tell a sad story. Economically, 1.0 billion people (14.5%) lived in extreme poverty in 2011, and India had Gross National Income per capita of only $1,610 in 2014. Environmentally, the 2001-2010 decade was the warmest on record, reflecting a 0.85°C (1.53°F) increase since 1880. Global CO2 emissions increased by 51% between 1990 and 2012, and CO2 atmospheric concentrations have increased from a steady level of 280 parts per million in the pre-industrial era to more than 400 ppm. Absent additional mitigations, preventative O&E_Mar_2012_vol26_no1_Cover_Final.indd2050 benchmarks will not be achieved. To put a human face on those impacted by this potential catastrophe, scholars and researchers need to look no further than the traditional undergraduate students we currently teach: they will be about 55 years old in 2050.

How do we escape this dangerous quagmire? A well-established alternative norm continually raised by China is that of fairness. Fairness claims have shaped Kyoto Protocol’s development and evolution. During the 1990s, it was considered fair to hold developed nations accountable for reducing their CO2 emissions, and to allow developing nations to use a carbon intensity, rather than an emission reduction, metric. Kyoto’s inability to generate international agreements that adequately limit carbon emissions is also rooted in fairness claims. All claims of unfairness and injustice associated the Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox must be acknowledged and engaged, rather than ignored or discounted. Table 4 summarizes the major unfairness/injustice claims raised in this article.

Addressing the injustices associated the Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox will entail international, regional, national, and sub-national regulatory engagement.    At the international level, the UN and WTO must become even more involved without threatening national sovereignties. Individuals tend to resist, or very slowly accept, externally imposed procedural processes and outcomes. Fairness and transparency are particularly essential because people employed in high-carbon industries and ancillary businesses will have to change their livelihoods, and those living high-carbon lifestyles must make adjustments. Regulatory policymakers must acknowledge the Table 4 injustices, empathize with those impacted, and commit to seeking justice. This process involves extensive dialogue within and between nations, wherein experiences are expressed and heard. Historically, this has been difficult to achieve due to tendencies toward autocratic abuse of political power and perceiving opposing viewpoints as threatening. Private party rule-making can be helpful input, even if often prone to participant biases.

The Kyoto Protocol, despite its defects, has fostered convergence between the EU and China’s environmental policies and processes. The challenge is resolving economic growth and environmental sustainability conflicts through win-win, integrative, and paradox approaches, rather than trade-off resolutions. Unfortunately, the behavioral outcomes to date are record high carbon emissions and temperatures. Incremental and drastic policy changes are required. Future economic successes in developing and developed nations are dependent on reducing CO2 emissions. Leadership from many societal sectors, including higher education, is essential.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

The principle of fairness/justice is offered to guide efforts to resolve the paradox in a way that avoids irreversible climate changes projected to begin around 2050. Prominent stakeholder injustice claims are highlighted for future scholarship and policymaking considerations.

Even if affordable clean technologies were available to achieve low-carbon economic growth, integrative and 6558076321_81207b6dd7_z.jpgwin-win resolution approaches need to be undertaken to determine linkages among economic and environmental injustices to generate long-term justice benefits. Similarly, these resolution approaches need to be pursued to generate short-term justice benefits, such as protecting the poor from climate change related damages.

Business organizations have too often addressed the paradox between economic growth and the environment with a trade-off resolution approach strongly favoring economic growth to the detriment of the environment. More recently, some organizational leaders have been pursuing win-win opportunities. In the decades ahead, organizational leaders seeking competitive advantages will need to delve deeper into the tension points between profits and the environment, and develop integrative resolutions where their own economic growth and environmental performance are naturally balanced without favoring one over the other.

The regulatory rules and initiatives associated with the Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox must happen quickly. India, with 24% of its population living in extreme poverty, is following China’s lead. Despite already having some of the most polluted cities in the world, India’s energy minister stated in 2014 that (Harris, 2014, November 17): “India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future…The West will have to recognize we have the needs of the poor.”

Researchers must determine how to care for the needs of the poor in a way that does not threaten life on Earth for future generations.

The abstract for the paper:

This article examines the “Poverty–CO2 (carbon dioxide) Reductions Paradox,” wherein reducing poverty through economic growth simultaneously increases CO2 emissions from increased production and consumption, at a time in history when CO2 emissions must be reduced to avoid climate change catastrophes. Paradox theory and integrative social contracts theory are applied to help understand the evolving behaviors of China, the world’s largest CO2 emitter, and the European Union, a CO2 reduction leader, from 1990 to 2015 at the national and international levels. The environmental results of these activities have become species-threatening. The principle of fairness/justice is offered in order to guide efforts to resolve the paradox in a way that avoids irreversible climate changes projected to begin around 2050. Prominent stakeholder injustice claims are highlighted for future scholarship and policymaking considerations.

You can read “Managing the Poverty-CO2 Reductions Paradox: The Case of Chine and EU” from Organization & Environment free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Organization & EnvironmentClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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*Face mask image credited to Global Panorama (CC); Beijing smog image credited to egorgrebnev (CC)

Denis Collins (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) is a professor of management, Business School, Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin. His latest books—Business Ethics: How to Design and Manage Ethical Organizations (2012; John Wiley) and Essentials in Business Ethics: Creating an Organization of High Integrity and Superior Performance (2009; John Wiley)—provide practical “how-to” examples and best practices for improving an organization’s ethical performance. He has published many articles; conducted hundreds of business ethics workshops, talks, and consulting projects; and won several teaching and service awards.

Chunfang Zheng (PhD, Renmin University of China) is a professor of economics, Business College, Beijing Union University, Beijing, China. She is Second Director of the Department of International Economy and Trade, and teaches courses in macroeconomics and international economics and trade. Her research interests include international economics and trade, border tax adjustments, and sustainable development. She has published several articles and monographs in these areas, including Applicability and Application of Strategic Trade Policy in China’s Industries (2012; Economic Science Press).

 

Applying a Business Model Perspective to Sustainability Solutions

[We’re pleased to welcome Caroline Gauthier of Grenoble Ecole de Management. Professor O&E_Mar_2012_vol26_no1_Cover_Final.inddGauthier co-authored an article with Bettina Gilomen of Grenoble Ecole de Management in Organization & Environment entitled “Business Models for Sustainability:
Energy Efficiency in Urban Districts”.]

  •  What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

The disruptive nature of many sustainability solutions may be the main barrier to their implementation and dispersal: adopting a business model perspective may help address this problem.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The implementation of sustainable solutions often relies on projects being implemented and managed collectively, so that organizations need to adapt their business models to deliver value propositions collectively. Some actors are working collectively to deliver innovative solutions for energy efficiency and therefore completely change the rules of the energy supply game.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Sustainability issues should be addressed with a collective business models perspective.

The abstract:

The disruptive nature of many sustainability solutions may be the main barrier to their implementation and dispersal: adopting a business model perspective may help address this problem. Previous literature has explored how organizations can convert their supply chains and customer interfaces toward a sustainability focus, but has generally not considered links to other business model elements—such as value propositions and financial models—in exploring business model transitions. Moreover, the implementation of sustainable solutions often relies on projects being implemented and managed collectively, so that organizations need to adapt their business models to deliver value propositions collectively, a phenomenon that research on business models for sustainability should address. This article addresses these issues by exploring changes in business model elements in detail via an in-depth qualitative study of two French sustainable urban projects—Caserne de Bonneand IssyGrid®. Our results show, first, that it is worth considering the role played by business model elements (the value proposition and the financial model) that literature does not usually discuss in enabling the management of or transition to business models for sustainability. Second, considering all four business model elements allows us to develop a typology of their transformations in organizations working toward sustainable solutions. Third, introducing the necessary collective dimension of sustainable solutions highlights the role of agency in facilitating their development and adoption.

You can read “Business Models for Sustainability: Energy Efficiency in Urban Districts” from Organization & Environment free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research from Organization & Environment? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

The Business of Bumble Bees: A Look at the Relationship Between Business and Biodiversity Loss

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Small though they may be, bumble bees play a large part in the environment. As pollinators, bees assist in the reproductive process of flowering plants, including crops that produce food, fiber, drugs, and fuel. More than a third of the world’s crops rely on bees as pollinators, which makes the population decline of bees in recent years particularly alarming. In their article, “Invisible Compromises: Global Business, Local Ecosystems, and the Commercial Bumble Bee Trade,” published in Organization & Environment, authors Carol Reade, Robin Thorp, Koichi Goka, Marius Wasbauer, and Mark McKenna use the bumble bee trade as a lens to explore the complex relationship between global business and ecosystem health, including biodiversity loss. In addition, the article explores ways that businesses can adopt more sustainable practices.

The abstract:

The purpose of this article is to challenge organizational scholars, management educators, and business leaders oae coverto consider more deeply the impact of global business activities on local ecosystems. Drawing on the management, sustainability, and entomology literature, we illustrate the complex relationship between global business and biodiversity loss through the lens of the commercial bumble bee trade. Global firms in this trade rear and supply bees for greenhouse crop pollination. We build on a well-known global strategy framework used in management education by adding a sustainability dimension, and offering propositions for the relationship between global business strategy and the strength of environmental sustainability. We conclude that a locally responsive, place-sensitive business strategy supports the strongest degree of environmental sustainability, and addresses the invisible compromises to ecosystem health that may result from the efforts of global firms to provide otherwise beneficial products and services.

You can read “Invisible Compromises: Global Business, Local Ecosystems, and the Commercial Bumble Bee Trade” from Organization & Environment by clicking here. Want to be notified of all the latest research like this from Organization & Environment? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Organization and Environment Seeks New Editor

study-4-993326-mOrganization & Environment invites applications for the position of Editor. The term of office is three years beginning January 1, 2017 with the March 2017 issue and ending December 31, 2019. The incoming editor will begin processing new manuscripts six months prior to the full transition date.

Published since 1987, Organization & Environment is an SSCI listed refereed journal recognized as a leading international journal unique in its emphasis on the connection between the management of organizations and the multiple dimensions of the general environment.

Desired qualifications for the Editor include:

  • A strong record of scholarly contributions, including contributions to sustainability research, reflected in publication in scholarly journals and presentations at professional conferences
  • oae coverEvidence of a strong network of scholars in other sub-disciplines of business
  • The ability to articulate and operationalize a vision for the journal that sustains and builds upon its visibility, legitimacy and scholarliness
  • The ability to inspire creativity and enthusiasm in an editorial team, editorial board and authors
  • Service on editorial review boards, preferably at the Associate Editor level and experience with editing Special Issues
  • Familiarity with and an understanding of Organization & Environment’s mission and audience
  • Superb organizational and project management skills, including the ability to meet deadlines and work as part of a team as a team leader
  • A level of computer literacy sufficient to manage a web-based manuscript submission and tracking system
  • Full professor rank at an accredited institution
  • Written evidence of institutional support and commitment from the applicant’s institution to support the applicant via release time and administrative support

Applications should include four items:

  1. A letter of application that addresses how the applicant meets each of the selection criteria
  2. A current curriculum vita
  3. A one-page vision statement for the journal
  4. A letter of institutional support from the applicant’s dean and/or provost reporting evidence of institutional support and commitment via release time and administrative support

Upon appointment, the editor will participate in a comprehensive virtual editorial orientation conducted by the publisher. A stipend is provided. Please note that it is the policy of the journal that the editor does not publish in Organization & Environment during his/her tenure.

The successful applicant will have an advanced degree in management/organizational studies and a working familiarity with sustainability research. Demonstrated experience with the editorial process (as editor, associate editor, or editorial board member) is preferred.

For more information please click here.

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