The Just World Fallacy as a Challenge to the Business-As-Community Thesis

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Matthew Sinnicks of Northumbria University. Dr. Sinnicks recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Just World Fallacy as a Challenge to the Business-As-Community Thesis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sinniscks reflects on the impact and innovations of this research:

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint

What motivated you to pursue this research?

To be honest, I stumbled upon the idea by chance. There has been some really interesting work done on ethics and the results of personality psychology over the past few decades, and I was perusing some of this literature in a quite unsystematic way when I came across a few articles on the just world fallacy. It struck me as an interesting topic, and one worthy of more philosophical reflection than it has received.
Once I got going, in addition to the fact I found the idea interesting, I was motivated by the frustrating fact that organisations, which most self-consciously regard themselves as virtuous communities, are, in fact, often furthest from that ideal, and so it seemed to me to be worth thinking about the conditions under which Aristotelian community might flourish within organisations.

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

Not consciously, but the fact that people who occupy positions of power and prestige often do so despite their lack of merit, and often deserve anything but deference, is a depressing lesson to be drawn from recent political events.

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

I hesitate to speculate on how my article will affect the field, but I would be delighted if it helped to start a conversation about the implications of the just world fallacy for human relationships both in organisations and perhaps in society generally. Furthermore, there are a number of business ethics scholars who I admire enormously, but who are far more optimistic than I am about the possibility of community within organisational life under contemporary capitalism, so I would also be delighted if my article encouraged them to address the egalitarian challenge I raise in their future work.

However, the more one reads about psychological biases, the more one becomes aware of how poor most people are at evaluating themselves, and how prone most people are to be unwarrantedly optimistic about their chances of success, so it’s important to note that these are hopes rather than expectations!

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

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:]

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint

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.

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

Theorizing Business and Local Peacebuilding

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Jason Miklian of the University of Oslo, and Juan Pablo Medina Bickel of the Universidad de los Andes. They recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “Theorizing Business and Local Peacebuilding Through the “Footprints of Peace” Coffee Project in Rural Colombia,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Miklian reflects on the impact and innovations of this research:

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint

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

We see this article having three major impacts. First, the role of business in peacebuilding is an exciting but still emerging field, carrying many more questions than answers for scholars at present. These questions cut to the core of business roles in society, asking if, how and why firms can make a positive impact in some of the most fragile and conflict-affected parts of the world. Colombia is in many ways the ideal country to study such interactions, as it is perhaps the world’s most significant policy ‘laboratory’ for national and multinational private sector involvement in peace. Business scholars could use this case as a springboard to explore other such cases in Colombia, or similar cases in other countries, to help us collectively better refine the conditions for successful business engagement in peaceful development.

Second, we (the authors) tend to lean critical in our understandings of where and how the private sector can and should play a peacebuilding role, backed by a substantial amount of research by ourselves and others on how well-intended ventures can fail in practice. Despite our skepticism, we found that the Footprints of Peace (FOP) project made a measurable, positive, and significant positive impact on thousands of people in Colombia. Thus, a case like FOP can help show peacebuilding scholars (who also tend to lean critical) that businesses can indeed play positive peace roles in peacebuilding. The next wave of research on this topic will hopefully further refine the conditions for such to improve the likelihood for more business-peace success stories.

Third, this article uses a rigorous qualitative model as its foundation with quantitative analysis in a supporting fashion. We hope that this structure can help show the added value that qualitative and mixed-methods research can have in research on business and society, delivering deeper and richer findings than a quantitative model alone can express.

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

(JM) I’m of course biased, but I truly feel that the role of business in peace and development is one of the most important and yet least researched fields of study today. Part of the reason for this, frankly, it’s that it’s hard work. As practitioner Mary Anderson is fond of saying, “Peace is not for amateurs.” Peacebuilding is a complex, messy, non-linear task filled with conceptual and practical potholes, and the same goes for research on peacebuilding. Adding in the private sector complicates matters even more, as it carries its own set of interests, aims and needs. Further, research in conflict environments carries its own set of ethical considerations and issues both for the subjects of study as well as for the researchers themselves – before, during and after such research is done.

Nevertheless, these interactions are a cornerstone of business involvement in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Institutions) in particular, representing some $2 trillion in business investment globally. Those wishing to look at these issues will be rewarded by being on the forefront of business and society topics today, and I deeply and warmly encourage business scholars in particular to do so. One way to help bridge the knowledge gap is through co-authorship. This article was much stronger as a joint effort than anything that either Juan Pablo or myself could have written alone. Beyond the natural advantages that co-authorship can provide in expanding ideas, rationales, and providing checks and balances, we brought complementary knowledge and expertise to the project, not only across disciplines but also across cultures. I see a great opportunity for deeper engagement between peace and business scholars in just these sorts of studies, helping bridge conceptual divides and not least help unite these two communities on a topic that both are increasingly drawn towards.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

(JPMB) All the beautiful people that I got to meet. Their smiles, their interest to be heard and their willingness to share some of their deepest and most painful personal experiences. The charm with which I was embraced with at some farms, and of course the dozens of cups of coffee that people offered to me, including many made from home-cultivated coffee, picked, toasted and finally prepared with the same hands that I shook. In academia, large conflict databases can blur the meaning and stories behind the numbers, so fieldwork is an extremely important way to build knowledge and scholarship in a more personal and human way. Getting to know the meaning behind a single data point, and the person that is represented behind it and their life stories, can lead to research that better respects and honors those that we study. Moreover, I am a Colombian citizen who has lived most of his life in a violent country. Due to this, I’m aware of many social, political and economic struggles throughout my daily life, and my country requires a new generation of people aiming to change the current political climate.

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

Understanding How Business Influences Public Policy

congress-column-1018004_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors David Coen of University College London and Matia Vannoni of the Università Bocconi. They recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Strategic Management of Government Affairs in Brussels,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Vannoni reflects on the motivations and innovations of this research:

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint

What motivated you to pursue this research?

Business touches every aspect of regulation and as such, understanding how business influences public policy and how it organizes political affairs is important. While government affairs have been well studied in the US and concepts such as revolving doors are now the accepted norm, we decided to focus on government affairs in the EU and explore how a different political institutional structure and business culture may affect business political action and organization.

As such, we decided it was time someone started to unbox the company and look at what is going on inside. This project seeks to study the day to day functioning of government affairs inside firms, asking questions like: who works in government affairs in companies, where these managers come from (where they studied and where they worked previously), which role they have inside the firm and so on.

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

Traditional approaches in management, political science and economics help us understand many aspects of corporate political activity, but not how government affairs are organized within the firm. This project studies how the political institutional environment affects the firms’ micro strategic decisions, such as the size, political functions and staffing of government affairs.

The project is innovative in both its data collection and empirical focus. First, the paper seeks to build an original data set on EU business political organization. Previous studies have tended to focus on single case studies and have been US focused. In this project, for the first time, we create a sample of more than 300 companies from different countries and industries and, by relying on different sources, we map their EU corporate political activities and the organization of their government affairs. We gathered data on how much companies spend in lobbying activities, whether they use external consultancies, how many individuals they employ in their government affairs office, who these individuals are, what their functions are and so on. As such, this is the first study of this kind.

It terms of findings, we show that in Brussels we see less “revolving doors” between business and EU institutions, rather the process is more a “sliding door” mechanism, where influence is a function of expertize, credibility and reputation. As such, the staff in government affairs is more likely to be technical experts, with long run careers in the industry rather than former politicians and civil servants.

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

The advice we give to new scholars who wish to study corporate political activity is to always try to create bridges between disciplines, both theoretically and empirically. For instance, this project bridges the gap between the political science literature on lobbying and the management literature on capabilities. Yet, this is not enough. Future research in this field should continue this cross-fertilization, by, for instance, looking at how the public management literature might help explain the interaction between business and society. At the empirical level we would encourage the collection of large-N data, increased comparative research and potentially the introduction of experiments, which are currently in vogue in public management.

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

Monument photo attributed to ssalae. (CC)

The Impact of Religion-Based Caste System on the Dynamics of Indian Trade Unions

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Jatin Pandey and Biju Varkkey of the Indian Institute of Management. They recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “Impact of Religion-Based Caste System on the Dynamics of Indian Trade Unions: Evidence From Two State-Owned Organizations in North India,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Pandey reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Caste and trade unions are two important stratification schemas prevalent in India but their interaction has been under-researched. Ramaswamy’s study in South India, which was conducted in 1976, had dealt with the issue of caste and trade unions directly and was based on empirical data collected from the unions of textile workers in Coimbatore. After that, there has been passing references to caste as an important facet in unions or opinion pieces by authors based on their personal observations; but there had been a paucity of studies, which look at the interface of caste and unions based on systematic data collection and analysis.

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

Gathering data on the sensitive topic of caste was the most challenging. The political undertones of the topic make people skeptical about discussing it freely. In our research, initially, the trade union members negated the influence of caste in modern times however as we continued with the interview they revealed that caste not only had an impact in the workspace but their social space as well.

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

Caste is a very sensitive and politically active topic in India and while interviewing researcher must be aware of these controversies and tensions. Continuous engagement with the respondents, developing trust and having an open communication regarding your intentions as a researcher aids during the interview process. Once the respondents get to understand that you are a “researchers” and not “politicians”; they open up easily and reveal data in the form of lived experiences and actual stories that provide rich data useful for in-depth studies. Also, it is not a good idea to start with the questions on caste during the initial phase of the interview, it’s better to start with topics like trade unions and then move on to caste

 

 

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

Business and Society Special Issues on Digital Technology and Business Responsibilities

ball-63527_1920Business and Society just recently published its new special issue titled “The Governance of Digital Technology, Big Data, and the Internet: New Roles and Responsibilities for Business.” This Issue features a collection of articles that explore how new technologies and innovations have changed the social responsibilities of businesses. What does the digital age hold for corporate social responsibility?

BAS_56_7_Covers.indd

Business & Society aims to be the leading, peer-reviewed outlet for scholarly work dealing specifically with the intersection of business and society. They publish research that develops, tests and refines theory, and which enhances our understanding of important societal issues and their relation to business. It is the official journal of the International Association of Business and Society.

To read more about the issue click here.

 

 

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

Data photo attributed to geralt. (CC)

Want to Be a Reviewer for Business and Society?

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointBusiness and Society is extends an invitation to review for the journal.

Business and Society, peer-reviewed and published bimonthly, is the official journal of the International Association for Business and Society, the only independent professional association dedicated to business and society teaching and research. This journal focuses on original research relating to business ethics, business-government relations, corporate governance, corporate social performance, and environmental-management issues. Business and Society publishes rigorously reviewed original research and occasional invited works by top scholars. Over the course of a year, over 100 experts and scholars are engaged by the journal to review every piece submitted for consideration. Each issue is comprised of traditional, easy-to-read, referenced formats including articles, book reviews, and dissertation abstracts.

Reviewers will evaluate articles in the peer-review process and provide reports to the editorial office.

For more information on becoming a reviewers for Business and Society, click here. To sign up right now, click here to go to directly to the manuscript submission site.

Want to know about all the latest news and research from Business and Society? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!