Why engage in sustainability management? This week’s articles consider the issues involved.
Is it time to jump off the sustainability bandwagon?
Almost thirty years after its initial use in the Brundtland Report, the concept of “sustainability” has become ubiquitous within business, with virtually every company division across a broad range of industries developing “sustainable” models and practices. While the original Brundtland idea of sustainable development has the potential to do much good in guiding business practice, this potential is being undermined by the systematic misuse, misunderstanding, and flawed application of the concept in many business settings.
Under the guise of sustainability, business is being asked to do both less than and more than what should be required by a commitment to sustainable development. As a result, serious ethical and practical questions go unanswered, questions that must be addressed before sustainability can become a meaningful business strategy.
This article situates sustainable business within its original context of sustainable development and argues against attempts to convert sustainability either into a narrow concept of risk management or into a broad concept of social responsibility. It then lays out a sustainability research agenda that helps us understand how to create businesses that can meet present and future needs without jeopardizing future generations via the destruction of the biosphere.
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Joseph DesJardins. 2016. Is it Time to Jump off the Sustainability Bandwagon?
Business Ethics Quarterly, 26(1), 117-135.
Corporate social performance: A review of empirical research
This article reviews empirical research of corporate social performance (CSP) using Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini (KLD) social ratings data through 2011. The review synthesises 100 empirical studies, noting consistencies and inconsistencies among studies examining similar constructs. Notable consistencies were that, although accounting measures of financial performance were a positive outcome of CSP, the same was not often true of stock returns.
Also, demographics of top management teams (TMTs) increased CSP strengths, but did not reduce concerns, whereas organisational decentralisation reduced CSP concerns. Notable inconsistencies were that CEO demographics were not as often related to CSP as were TMT demographics, indicating that managerial discretion may be an important mitigating factor shaping managerial effects on CSP.
Although CSP for some organisations seemed influenced by institutional pressures, other organisations appeared to be less influenced, perhaps suggesting that some organisations are more able than others to resist institutional pressures. Future research should attempt to probe observed consistencies and inconsistencies, and to test the boundaries of observed relationships, toward a disciplined program of middle-range theory development.
James E. Mattingly. 2017. Corporate Social Performance: A Review of Empirical Research Examining the Corporation–Society Relationship Using Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini Social Ratings Data.
Business & Society, 56(6), 796 – 839.
When does it pay to be good? A critical review
In this paper, Grewatsch and Kleindienst review the literature on moderators and mediators in the corporate sustainability (CS)–corporate financial performance (CFP) relationship. The authors provide some clarity on what has been learned so far by taking a contingency perspective on this much-researched relationship.
Overall, they find that this research has made some progress in the past. However, the writers also find this research stream to be characterised by three major shortcomings, namely low degree of novelty, missing investment in theory building, and a lack of research design and measurement options. To address these shortcomings, Grewatsch and Kleindienst suggest avenues for future research. Beyond that they also argue for a stronger emphasis on the strategic perspective of CS.
In particular, they propose future research to take a step back and aim for an integration of the CS–CFP relationship into the strategic management literature.
Sylvia Grewatsch and Ingo Kleindienst. 2017. When Does It Pay to be Good? Moderators and Mediators in the Corporate Sustainability–Corporate Financial Performance Relationship: A Critical Review.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(2), 383–416.
How many points of contact are there between science and practice?
The paper aims to analyse the structure of the formed models of congruence of personal and organisational values, opportunities of their application in order to conceptualise the guidelines for the formation of an integrated model. The models for analysis were selected from the articles published in international databases with the keywords associated with value congruence models and grouped by the types of models: models that represent the origin of the phenomenon of value congruence and methodology of evaluation, and models, which depict the impact of value congruence on the employee and activities of the organisation.
The main result of this research is a complex analysis of all models of congruence of personal and organisational values presented in the scientific literature, in the aspect of their structure, content and practical application. It was found that the essential elements of the models analysed are personal values, organisational values, congruence of personal and organisational values and the influence of congruence on the person and the organisation.
However, the models lack not only the scientific substantiation of the influence of the phenomenon of value congruence on the person and the organisation, but also practical recommendations on how to achieve strong value congruence in the organisation. This article exclusively presents the analysis of models developed by different scientists, but the obtained results of empirical studies are not compared statistically, applying certain models in practice. Such criteria as the sample size, the nature of activities of the organisations were not analysed and the states, in which the studies were carried out with the application of the analysed models, are not emphasised. This study also does not aim to determine the most appropriate diagnostic instrument for evaluation of value congruence, leaving the open way for the further discussions.
The originality of this research is presupposed by the fact that it presents most of the models described in the scientific literature that evaluate the congruence of personal values of employees and the values prevailing in the organisation. This will help the researchers of value congruence form a clear view about the models published in scientific literature, not to be disorientated in the diversity of the presented models and look for new directions for improvement of models of value congruence.
A newly developed complex model of value congruence also offered to executives of organisations will help perceive the process of formation of this phenomenon and its benefits, and understand how to manage this phenomenon in practice.
Jolita Vveinhardt & Evelina Gulbovaite. 2017. Models of Congruence of Personal and Organizational Values: How Many Points of Contact are There Between Science and Practice?
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 111–131.
Why engage in sustainability management: Legitimacy- or profit-seeking?
The academic debate why and how companies are dealing with sustainability is dominated by two main arguments—the profit-seeking and the legitimacy-seeking view. While the first argues that companies (only) establish sustainability management measures if this helps to increase their economic success, others emphasise that companies predominantly react on societal pressure dealing with sustainability (only) to secure legitimacy.
Whereas both lines of argument have gained a lot of attention in academia, little is known about their relative importance in shaping corporate practice. This papers aims to fill this gap with an empirical analysis of corporate practices of large companies in ten countries worldwide. To capture the organisations’ rationale in sustainability management practice, the authors systematically applied various measures related to actors and operational activities focusing on the companies’ intention to pursue sustainability management, the integration of sustainability management to the core business, and the actual implementation of related measures.
Overall the findings indicate that seeking legitimacy dominates corporate sustainability management practices.
Stefan Schaltegger and Jacob Hörisch. 2017. In Search of the Dominant Rationale in Sustainability Management: Legitimacy- or Profit-Seeking?
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(2), 259–276.
Neuroscience debates in leadership
The domain of organisational neuroscience increasingly influences leadership research and practice in terms of both selection and interventions. The dominant view is that the use of neuroscientific theories and methods offers better and refined predictions of what constitutes good leadership.
What has been omitted so far, however, is a deeper engagement with ethical theories. This engagement is imperative as it helps problematise a great deal of the current advocacy around organisational neuroscience.
In this article, the authors draw upon John Stuart Mill’s Theory of Utility as a theoretical framework to this end. Discussion reveals several negative psychological and physical side-effects, which undermine the prevailing view that neuroscientific methods can be used without risk at work. The writers discuss the theoretical and practical ramifications of their analysis.
Dirk Lindebaum and Effi Raftopoulou. 2017. What Would John Stuart Mill Say? A Utilitarian Perspective on Contemporary Neuroscience Debates in Leadership.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(4), 813–822.