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)

 

Stages of Corporate Sustainability: Integrating the Strong Sustainability Worldview

[We’re pleased to welcome author Nancy E. Landrum of Loyola University Chicago. Landrum recently published an article in Stages of Corporate Sustainability: Integrating the Strong Sustainability Worldview,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Landrum reflects on the inspiration for conducting her research and her contribution to the field:]

O&E_72ppiRGB_powerpointI recently read sustainability reports produced by mining companies.  The reports stated the companies were balancing economic, social, and environmental responsibilities, their environmental impact was minimized while their social benefits were maximized, and they were striving to be environmental leaders.  Yet the dictionary describes sustainability as using a resource in a way that it is not depleted or permanently damaged.  I thought it was ironic that mining companies could claim they were operating sustainably since resource depletion is the purpose of mining.

I went back to the literature on the sustainability spectrum which suggests that sustainability is a continuum that ranges from weak to strong sustainability.  It occurred to me that while the mining companies’ activities did not match my understanding of sustainability, there could, in fact, be multiple interpretations of sustainability.  Companies’ activities could be placed along the sustainability spectrum to define whether they were following the principles of weak sustainability, strong sustainability, or somewhere in between.

This lead to the integration of 22 micro- and macro-level models of stages of development in corporate sustainability which were then aligned with the sustainability spectrum.  I found that existing models had numerous stages that aligned with weak sustainability but did not include stages that aligned with strong sustainability.  The integration of existing models and subsequent alignment with the sustainability spectrum resulted in the creation of a new unified model for stages of corporate sustainability that now included strong sustainability.

This new model allows us to see that companies can be at varying points along the sustainability spectrum and reveals multiple interpretations of sustainability.  While mining companies might be at one end of the spectrum, more progressive companies might be further along the spectrum; they are at different stages based upon their differing interpretations of corporate sustainability.  Most importantly, with the inclusion of strong sustainability, this new model expands our view beyond what currently defines corporate sustainability and opens new territory for the pursuit of a more sustainable future.

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How Coca-Cola Uses Social Media to Promote Corporate Social Initiatives

19792301106_fa09faba36_zWhat is the most effective way for companies to implement corporate social marketing (CSM)? In the Social Marketing Quarterly article “Examining Public Response to Corporate Social Initiative Types: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Social Media,” authors Lucinda L. Austin and Barbara Miller Gaither suggest that the effectiveness depends upon the the corporate social initiative (CSI) type and the message content more than anything else. The abstract for the paper:

Corporate social initiatives (CSIs) are increasingly important in boosting public acceptance for companies, and emerging research suggests corporate social marketing (CSM) could be Current Issue Coverthe most effective type of CSI. However, scholars caution that CSM is not a one-size-fits-all. Through a content analysis of Coca-Cola’s social media posts on potentially controversial topics related to sustainability, health, and social change, this study explores how CSI type and message content influence public response to an organization’s social media corporate social responsibility posts. Posts emphasizing socially responsible business practices generally received the most favorable public response, while posts focused on cause promotion were received the most negatively. Findings also suggest that CSM is less effective when the issue and advocated behavior change appears to be acting against the company’s interests.

You can read “Examining Public Response to Corporate Social Initiative Types: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Social Media” from Social Marketing Quarterly free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Social Marketing Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Coca-Cola image attributed to Aranami (CC)

Rethinking How We Measure Corporate Social Responsibility

10617765806_b7f4f4ca12_z[We’re pleased to welcome Gunther Capelle-Blancard. Gunther recently published an article in Business & Society with co-author Aurélien Petit entitled “The Weighting of CSR Dimensions: One Size Does Not Fit All.”]

Companies could develop eco-friendly products or support social programs, and meanwhile damage the environment or experiment governance failures. Corporate Social Responsibility is multidimensional. Often, though, responsible investors (and customers) are interested in synthetic rankings that sum up the ESG (Environmental, Social and corporate Governance) scores.  Such composite scores raise fundamental questions which, surprisingly, are widely overlooked by academics and practitioners.

If the question of fungibility (“do good actions compensate bad ones?”) is essential and has been discussed in the literature, this article focuses on commensurability (the “apples and oranges” problem). For instance, Oil & Gas companies are mostly criticized on environmental issues, while corporate governance is the main stake for Banks. Overall ratings that sum equally environmental, social and corporate governance marks would not reflect the sectors’ concerns. One size does not fit all.

We develop a new method of CSR rating, based on news disclosed by the media and nongovernmental organizations. Thanks to the Covalence EthicalQuote database, we BAS Coveranalyze more than 70,000 positive or negative ESG news, regarding the world’s largest companies. Our results suggest that rating agencies and previous academic research underweight the environment and corporate governance. Mostly, our method allows fitting the ratings to the sectors’ specific stakes. It can be used to assess Corporate Social Performance better.

The abstract for the paper:

Although the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is fundamentally multidimensional, most studies use composite scores to assess corporate social performance (CSP). How relevant are such composite scores? How the CSR dimensions are weighted? Should the weighting scheme be the same across sectors? This article proposes an original weighting scheme of CSR strengths and concerns, at the sector level, which is proportional to media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) scrutiny. The authors show that previous CSP assessments underweight environmental and corporate governance concerns. Moreover, findings suggest that firms that are exposed to the closest scrutiny are usually criticized on one single dimension: for instance, banks for bad corporate governance, and basic-resource firms for environmental damage. Composite scores based on equal weights hence misrepresent CSP and the difference in CSR between sectors.

You can read “The Weighting of CSR Dimensions: One Size Does Not Fit All” from Business & Society free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Business & SocietyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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*Highrise image credited to Sonny Abesamis (CC)

gunther_IMG_20150922_164249_b41bfe265c.jpgGunther Capelle-Blancard (PhD, University of Paris 1) is professor of economics at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and research fellow at the Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne and Labex RéFi (Regulation financière). His research examines socially responsible investment, corporate social performance, and financial market regulation. His articles have appeared in such journals as Business Ethics: A European Review, European Financial Management Journal, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, and Journal of Investing.

Aurélien Petit

Aurélien Petit (PhD, University of Paris 1) is research fellow at the Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne. His research interests focus on corporate social responsibility and information disclosure strategies.

Good in Theory, Bad in Practice: Corporate Social Marketing in the Alcohol Industry

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Corporate social marketing (CSM) campaigns are used to improve the image of a wide variety of companies. Each CSM initiative is unique, but when it comes to companies in the alcohol industry, CSM campaigns seem to share a certain moral ambiguity. In sharp contrast to the other CSM initiatives, which demonstrate how an organization contributes positively to the community, similar campaigns for companies in the alcohol industry have drawn criticism for the way they promote “responsible drinking.” In their article, “Smokescreens and Beer Googles: How Alcohol Industry CSM Protects the Industry,” published in Social Marketing QuarterlySandra C. Jones of Australian Catholic University, Austin Wyatt of Swinburne University of Technology, and Mike Daube of McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth delve into why CSM campaigns for organizations in the alcohol industry can prove to be problematic, particularly for the community.

The abstract:

Corporate social marketing (CSM) is one of several initiatives companies can undertake to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility (CSR). While there are many motivations for CSR and CSM, all are linked to profit in some way, including promoting the reputation of the organization. While CSM is often seen as evidence of SMQ Jan 2016organizations making a contribution to their community, there are some industries whose CSM campaigns have drawn considerable controversy and criticism. This article discusses the role of the alcohol industry in developing and disseminating “responsible drinking” CSM activities. It discusses some of the problems identified with alcohol industry CSM campaigns—including evidence that industry education campaigns communicate ambiguous messages; improve public perceptions of the industry but do not discourage harmful or underage drinking; and divert attention from more effective approaches, such as controls on price and availability. The paper also addresses the issue of other CSM/CRM activities undertaken by the alcohol industry, such as encouraging consumers to purchase a brand by donating a proportion of the profits to health and social causes (including those that are exacerbated by alcohol consumption). It discusses the value of these activities for the industry and their potential negative impact on the health of the community. In summary, the evidence suggests that industry CSM and CRM activities protect the industry (from restrictive policies and declining sales) but may in fact be detrimental to the community.

You can read “Smokescreens and Beer Goggles: How Alcohol Industry CSM Protects the Industry” from Social Marketing Quarterly by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Social Marketing Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Mixing Business and Ethics: How the Rotary Club Encouraged Ethical Business Practices

connected-people-988001-mLarge corporations have long been the focus of corporate social  responsibility (CSR) studies. Such studies seem to support the separation thesis, which suggests that business and ethics are mutually exclusive. However, reexamining the role of small businesses in the history of CSR challenges the separation thesis and provides a new perspective on the relationship between business and society. A historical case study of the Rotary Club demonstrates how mixing business and moral decision making has benefited small business owners in the past. Mark Tadajewski recently explored this topic in his article “The Rotary Club and the Promotion of the Social Responsibilities of Business in the Early 20th Century” from Business & Society.

The abstract:

The separation thesis states that business and moral decision making should and can be differentiated clearly. This study provides empirical support for the competing view that the separation thesis is impossible through a BAScase study of the Rotary Club, which fosters an ethical orientation among its global business and professional membership. The study focuses attention on the Club in the early to middle 20th century. Based on a reading of their service doctrine, the four objects of Rotary and the Four Way Test, the author argues that the example of the Rotary Club undermines the separation thesis. The Rotary message was conceptually ambiguous: it did not clearly differentiate business roles from social activities; rather both fed into each other, with the business tools developed by members and disseminated by Rotary, utilized in nonbusiness contexts with a view to enhancing societal well-being.

You can read “The Rotary Club and the Promotion of the Social Responsibilities of Business in the Early 20th Century” from Business & Society by clicking here. Want to be notified of all the latest research like this from Business & Society? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!