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Article

The board of directors serves multiple corporate governance functions, including monitoring management, providing oversight on strategic issues, and linking the organization to the broader external environment. Researchers have become increasingly interested in board interlocks and how content transmitted via these linkages shapes firm outcomes, such as corporate structure and strategies. As influential mechanisms to manage environmental uncertainty and facilitate information exchange, Board interlocks are created by directors who are affiliated with more than one firm via employment or board service and allow the board to capture a diversity of strategic experiences. One critical corporate decision that may be influenced by interlocks and strategic diffusion is diversification (i.e., in which products and markets to compete). Directors draw on their own experiences with diversification strategies at other firms to help guide and manage ongoing strategic decision-making. There is broad scholarship on interlocks and the individuals who create them, with extant research reporting that some firms are more likely to imitate or learn from their interlock partners than others. Prior findings suggest that the conditions under which information is transmitted via interlock, such as an individual director’s experience with diversification strategies at other firms, may make that information more influential to the focal firm’s own strategic decision-making related to diversification. A more holistic framework captures factors related to the individual interlocking director, the board and firm overall and the context surrounding these linkages and relationships, helping to promote future research. Understanding the social context surrounding board interlocks offers opportunities to more deeply examine how these interconnections serve in pursuit of the board’s fundamental purpose of protecting shareholder investment from managerial self-interest. Overall, integrating multi-level factors will offer new insights into the influence of board interlocks on firm strategies on both sides of the partnership. Expanding knowledge of how inter-firm linkages transmit knowledge influential to board decision-making can also improve our understanding of board effectiveness and corporate governance.

Article

James Mattingly and Nicholas Bailey

Stakeholder strategies, or firms’ approaches to stakeholder management, may have a significant impact on firms’ long-term prosperity and, thereby, on their life chances, as established in the stakeholder view of the firm. A systematic literature review surveyed the contemporary body of quantitative empirical research that has examined firm-level activities relevant to stakeholder management, corporate social responsibility, and corporate social performance, because these three constructs are often conflated in literature. A search uncovered 99 articles published in 22 journals during the 10-year period from 2010 to 2019. Most studies employed databases reporting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings, originally created for use in socially responsible investing and corporate risk assessment, but others employed content analysis of texts and primary surveys. Examination revealed a key difference in the scoring of data, in that some studies aggregated numerous indicators into a single composite index to indicate levels of stakeholder management, and other studies scored more articulated constructs. Articulated constructs provided richer observations, including governance and structural arrangements most likely to provide both stakeholder benefits and protections. Also observed were constraining influences of managerial and market myopia, sustaining influences from resilience and complexity frameworks, and recognition that contextual variables are contingencies having impact in recognizing the efficacy of stakeholder management strategies.

Article

Rodrigo B. DeMello

Firms deploy value-based strategies to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace. However, processes of value creation and appropriation do not happen in a vacuum but are structured by a set of formal market institutions that define, among other things, policies and regulations on standards, privacy, safety, trade, and access to resources. Corporate political strategies are the ways firms use to shape these policies and regulations in favorable ways that help them achieve competitive advantage. The political activities include lobbying, participation in hearings, campaign contributions, the use of revolving-door personnel, advocacy, grass-roots mobilization, and nurturing and exploiting political ties. Firms interact with government officeholders in different government arenas, such as national and local legislatures, government agencies, and the judiciary branch. For most corporations, being able to deploy effective political strategies is, therefore, necessary for achieving sustainable competitive advantage. The research into corporate political strategies has tried to explain why firms engage in political strategy, when, and which political activity would yield the best results. The usual theoretical framings draw from Resource Dependence Theory, Institutional Theory, Resource-Based View, Agency Theory, and Stakeholder Theory. While the strategic logic underlying each theoretical approach varies, they are better seen as complementary to each other. The fact that the phenomenon of political strategies is complex, dynamic, and an important part of daily business of several corporations favors the integration of different theoretical approaches. Although the literature on corporate political strategies has considerably advanced, there are still areas that could benefit from future research: the integration of market and political strategies, especially the use of market actions as political influence; the integration of social and political strategies; the role that individual and managerial aspects play in choice of political strategies; and multicountry comparative studies, especially focusing on ideological turnarounds and state capitalism.

Article

Abagail McWilliams

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a legitimate responsibility to society, based on the principle that corporations should share some of the benefit that accrues from the control of vast resources. CSR goes beyond the legal, ethical, and financial obligations that create profits. In the research literature, corporate social responsibility is defined in a variety of ways, depending on the aspect of CSR being examined. An inclusive definition is that social responsibility requires the firm to take into account the interests of all stakeholders, where stakeholders are defined as everyone who affects or is affected by the firm’s decisions and actions. A firm-focused definition holds that social responsibility includes actions that further a social goal, beyond what is required by ethics, law, and profitability. A political economy–oriented definition posits that firms have a responsibility to correct market failures such as negative externalities and government failures such as limits to jurisdiction that result in worker rights violations. When implemented, altruistic CSR implies that firms provide a social good unrelated to the firms’ business that does not benefit the bottom line. Strategic CSR implies that firms are simultaneously profitable and socially responsible. To achieve this, CSR must be a core value of the firm and must be integrated into processes and products. When employed strategically, CSR can be an element of a differentiation strategy, leading to premium prices, enhanced brand and firm reputation, and supportive community relations. Corporate environmental responsibility often takes the form of overcompliance with regulation, improving the environment more than is required. A primary benefit of this is to stave off further regulation. To capture the benefits of being socially responsible, the firm must make stakeholders aware of its record. This has led to triple bottom line reporting—that is, reporting about firm performance in terms of profits, people, and the planet. Social enterprises go a step further and make social responsibility the primary goal of the organization.

Article

Sustainable corporate governance has been defined as corporate governance that ensures corporations are run in such a way that they are sustainable over the long term. Note that for corporations to be sustainable in the long run, they need to ensure the preservation, as well as possibly the enhancement, of their ecosystem. This not only includes establishing and maintaining good relations with their shareholders and stakeholders but also preserving their environment. Here, the term environment should be understood as taking on a broader meaning. Indeed, corporations preserving their environment should not be reduced to mere environmentalism but they should also operate in harmony with the broader economic and social system. Put differently, sustainable corporate governance should also ensure that corporations are run in such a way to avoid future crises, such as the Great Recession. This would require a move away from business models that focus on short-term shareholder value while endangering the survival of the corporation over the long term. Whereas much of the existing literature suggests that corporations should merely maximize shareholder value and that a stakeholder approach will result in vague and often contradictory objectives for the management, long-term shareholder value creation is nevertheless compatible with the corporation looking after the interests of its immediate, as well as possibly more remote, stakeholders. Ultimately, sustainable business practices will not only benefit the corporation’s employees, customers, and the broader society but also its owners. The key question that arises is whether there is a link between various types of owners and sustainable corporate governance. A number of related questions emerge. What different types of owners are there and how influential are they in putting their stamp on how their investee firms are managed? Attempting to answer these questions requires revisiting the premise of the principal-agent theory that owners are typically disinterested from engaging with their investee firms. The main critique of this premise is that, even within the Anglo-Saxon corporate governance system, firms tend to have block holders, and there exist activist shareholders. Further, since the 1980s there has been an emergence—as well as an increase in the prevalence—of activist shareholders. Are some types of owners or shareholders more likely to enhance and maintain sustainability than others? A review of extant evidence on the effects of various types of shareholders on long-term financial and non-financial goals suggests the following. While some types of owners are found to promote and support sustainable corporate governance, the effect of other types is less clear or even negative. This difference in effects could be due to three reasons. First, context, including the national setting, is important. Second, some types of investors, such as sovereign wealth funds, show great diversity in their characteristics and objectives. Finally, the goalposts are shifting with an increasing number of investors embracing corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance issues. Importantly, given the increasingly visible consequences of global warming and societal unrest caused by a worsening of wealth inequality, the transition to a more sustainable society should not merely be the responsibility of corporate owners. Others, including corporate executives and business schools, are key to achieving this transition.

Article

Sanjay Sharma

At a macro level, innovation for society refers to innovation of societal institutions. At a micro level, it refers to innovations undertaken by social entrepreneurs as start-ups with a social and/or environmental mission and innovations undertaken by firms in products/services, processes, operations, technologies, and business models to address social and environmental challenges while achieving core economic objectives. The focus here is on firm-level innovations and the drivers for such innovations. Exogenous drivers include institutional-level influences such as regulations, societal norms, and industry best practices (mimetic forces) and stakeholder-level influences including shareholders, investors, customers, regulators, nongovernmental organizations, media, and others that have power, legitimacy, and urgency of their claims directly or indirectly via other stakeholders. The endogenous drivers include institutional ownership, activist shareholders, boards of directors, ownership, and competitive strategy focused on developing profitable businesses that address societal challenges. Even when the firm is motivated due to exogenous and endogenous drivers to undertake investments in innovating for society, it needs the capacity to generate and implement such innovations. Innovations for society require motivated managers, managerial capacity, and organizational capabilities that go beyond routine innovations that firms undertake to improve products and processes and enter new markets. This capacity enables firms to reconcile their performance on economic, social, and environmental metrics to address societal challenges while achieving core economic objectives. Managerial capacity requires firms to overcome cognitive biases and create opportunity frames that convert negative loss bias, where managers perceive lack of control over outcomes, to a positive opportunity bias, where managers perceive the ability to control their decisions and actions. Opportunity framing involves legitimization of innovation for society in the corporate identity, integration of sustainability metrics into performance evaluation, creation of discretionary slack, and empowerment of managers with a relevant and ongoing information flow. Innovating for society also requires major changes in a firm’s decision-making processes and investments in new organizational capabilities of engaging stakeholders and integration of external learning, processes of continuous improvement of operations, higher order or double-loop organizational learning by integrating external learning with internal knowledge, cross-functional integration, technology portfolios, and strategic proactivity, all leading to processes of continuous innovation. Knowledge about the role of firms in addressing societal challenges has grown over the past three decades as scholars in multiple disciplines have explained the motivations of firms to undertake innovations for society, processes to build organizational capabilities to adopt and implement sustainability strategies, and linkages of such strategies to financial performance. Nevertheless, such innovations and strategies are far from a universal norm.

Article

Organizational diversity is regarded positively, but haphazardly embraced. The absence of a cultural mandate at work (one which includes an emphasis on managing differences) can result in minority assimilation, and in either unintended bullying or in intentional abuse. Declining stock price, loss of goodwill, inability to recruit qualified candidates, and internal havoc marked by perpetuation of firm dysfunction may occur. These outcomes are especially alarming in the face of transformative population growth, in which minorities are predicted to become the demographic majority within the United States. Inattention to employee misconduct prevents firms from experiencing enhanced productivity. Encouraging civil behavior is thus essential to engendering camaraderie in a diverse workforce, in which incivilities, or micro-inequities, are disproportionately targeted at minority groups. Management modeling of appropriate behavior (and swift action toward perpetrators for non-compliance) are necessary to achieve human capital integration.

Article

John Bryson and Lauren Hamilton Edwards

Strategic planning has become a fairly routine and common practice at all levels of government in the United States and elsewhere. It can be part of the broader practice of strategic management that links planning with implementation. Strategic planning can be applied to organizations, collaborations, functions (e.g., transportation or health), and to places ranging from local to national to transnational. Research results are somewhat mixed, but they generally show a positive relationship between strategic planning and improved organizational performance. Much has been learned about public-sector strategic planning over the past several decades but there is much that is not known. There are a variety of approaches to strategic planning. Some are comprehensive process-oriented approaches (i.e., public-sector variants of the Harvard Policy Model, logical incrementalism, stakeholder management, and strategic management systems). Others are more narrowly focused process approaches that are in effect strategies (i.e., strategic negotiations, strategic issues management, and strategic planning as a framework for innovation). Finally, there are content-oriented approaches (i.e., portfolio analyses and competitive forces analysis). The research on public-sector strategic planning has pursued a number of themes. The first concerns what strategic planning “is” theoretically and practically. The approaches mentioned above may be thought of as generic—their ostensive aspect—but they must be applied contingently and sensitively in practice—their performative aspect. Scholars vary in whether they conceptualize strategic planning in a generic or performative way. A second theme concerns attempts to understand whether and how strategic planning “works.” Not surprisingly, how strategic planning is conceptualized and operationalized affects the answers. A third theme focuses on outcomes of strategic planning. The outcomes studied typically have been performance-related, such as efficiency and effectiveness, but some studies focus on intermediate outcomes, such as participation and learning, and a small number focus on a broader range of public values, such as transparency or equity. A final theme looks at what contributes to strategic planning success. Factors related to success include effective leadership, organizational capacity and resources, and participation, among others. A substantial research agenda remains. Public-sector strategic planning is not a single thing, but many things, and can be conceptualized in a variety of ways. Useful findings have come from each of these different conceptualizations through use of a variety of methodologies. This more open approach to research should continue. Given the increasing ubiquity of strategic planning across the globe, the additional insights this research approach can yield into exactly what works best, in which situations, and why, is likely to be helpful for advancing public purposes.

Article

Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of current and future generations while operating in the safe ecological space of planetary boundaries. Against this background, companies can contribute to sustainability in both positive and negative ways. In a world of scarce resources, the positive contribution of businesses is to create value for diverse stakeholders (i.e., goods in the actual sense of good services and things with value) without social shortfalls or ecological overshooting with regard to planetary boundaries. Yet, when value-creation processes cause negative social or ecological externalities, companies create disvalue for current or future stakeholders, thus undermining sustainable development. Sustainability in business therefore aims at the integrative management of value creation and disvalue mitigation. Various institutions, such as sustainability laws as well as quasi-regulatory and voluntary sustainability standards, aim at providing an enabling environment in this regard yet are often insufficient. Corporate sustainability therefore calls for proactive management. Neither value nor disvalue fall from heaven but are rather co-created or caused through the interaction with stakeholders. Transforming from unsustainability to sustainability thus requires transforming the underlying relational arrangements. Here, market and non-market stakeholder relations need to be distinguished. In markets, companies transact with customers, employees, suppliers, and financiers who typically have voluntary exchange relationships with the firm. As a result, stakeholders can use the exit option when the relationship causes them harm. Companies therefore need to know and respect their value-creation partners, their potential contributions, and above all their needs. Sustainability can influence these market relationships in two ways. First, as sustainability addresses environmental, social, and ethical issues that are otherwise often overlooked, sustainability can relate to specific goals and motivations that stakeholders pursue when they care about these matters. Second, sustainability can be linked to transaction-specific particularities. This can be the case when sustainability features lead to information asymmetries, higher transaction costs, or resource dependencies. Non-market relationships, however, can differ in that stakeholders are involuntarily affected by the firm. In many cases, such as environmental pollution, stakeholders like local communities experience disvalue but cannot simply walk away. From a sustainability perspective, giving voice to non-market stakeholders through dialogue and participation is therefore crucial to identify early-on potential issues where companies cause disvalue. Such a proactive dialogue does not necessarily present a constraint that limits value creation in the market. Giving a voice to non-market stakeholders can also help create innovations and mobilize valuable resources such as knowledge, legitimacy, and partnership. The key idea is to find solutions that create value not only for market stakeholders but also for a larger circle, including non-market stakeholders as well. Such stakeholder business cases for sustainability aim at the synergistic integration of value creation and disvalue mitigation.