Our research tidbits this week looks at some different drivers used to achieve CSR.

Bolstering managers’ resistance to temptation via the firm’s commitment to CSR 
Behavioural ethics research has focused predominantly on how the attributes of individuals influence their ethicality. Relatively neglected has been how macro-level factors such as the behaviour of firms influence members’ ethicality. Researchers have noted specifically that the authors know little about how a firm’s CSR influences members’ behaviours.

The authors seek to better merge these literatures and gain a deeper understanding of the role macro-level influences have on manager’s ethicality. Based on agency theory and social identity theory, the authors hypothesise that a company’s commitment to CSR shifts managers’ focus away from self-interests toward the interests of the firm, bolstering resistance to temptation.

The authors propose this occurs through self-categorisation and collective identification processes. The authors conduct a 2 × 2 factorial experiment in which managers make expense decisions for a company with commitment to CSR either present or absent, and temptation either present or absent. Results indicate that under temptation, managers make decisions consistent with self-interest. More importantly, the authors find when commitment to CSR is present, managers are more likely to make ethical decisions in the presence of temptation.

Overall, this research highlights the interactive role of two key contextual factors—temptation and firm CSR commitment—in influencing managers’ ethical decisions. While limited research has highlighted the positive effects that a firm’s CSR has on its employees’ attitudes, the current results demonstrate CSR’s effects on ethical behaviour and imply that through conducting and communicating its CSR efforts internally, firms can in part limit the deleterious effects of temptation on managers’ decisions.

Cathy A. Beaudoin, Anna M. Cianci, Sean T. Hannah & George T. Tsakumis. 2019. Bolstering Managers’ Resistance to Temptation via the Firm’s Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
Journal of Business Ethics, 157(2), 303–318.


The Ubuntu challenge to business: From stakeholders to relationholders 
This paper addresses whether, and to what extent, the African ethic of Ubuntu can contribute to ethical thinking in general and provide an alternative to stakeholder theory specifically. The conception of Ubuntu that is employed to further the analysis is Thaddeus Metz’s Ubuntu principle of right action, which focuses on promoting harmonious social relations premised on a shared identity and solidarity amongst people.

This principle is used to develop an Ubuntu heuristic for organisational decision-making, which serves as the basis for a relationholder theory. It is argued that this relationholder theory can overcome the weaknesses identified with a libertarian account of stakeholder theory, as well as serve as a profitable framework for determining both the purpose of the firm, and the responsibilities that management has towards those parties who affect, and who are affected by, the firm.

Minka Woermann & Schalk Engelbrecht. 2019. The Ubuntu Challenge to Business: From Stakeholders to Relationholders.
Journal of Business Ethics, 157(1), 27–44.


CSR and feminist organisation studies
Although corporate social responsibility (CSR) practice increasingly addresses gender issues, and gender and CSR scholarship is expanding, feminist theory is rarely explicitly referenced or discussed in the CSR literature. The authors contend that this omission is a key limitation of the field.

The authors argue that CSR theorisation and research on gender can be improved through more explicit and systematic reference to feminist theories, and particularly those from feminist organisation studies (FOS). Addressing this gap, the authors review developments in feminist organisation theory, mapping their relevance to CSR.

With reference to six major theoretical perspectives in CSR scholarship, the authors note feminist research relating to each. Drawing upon FOS theory and CSR theory, the authors then develop an integrated theoretical framework for the analysis of gender issues in CSR. The framework enables us to identify research strengths in the gender and CSR literature, as well as gaps therein, to open new conversations and to posit future research directions for this emerging area of scholarship. The paper illustrates how a better grounding of CSR in feminist theory can contribute to CSR research more broadly.

Kate Grosser and Jeremy Moon. 2019. CSR and Feminist Organization Studies: Towards an Integrated Theorization for the Analysis of Gender Issues.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(2), 321–342.


What do unions and employers negotiate under the umbrella of CSR?
The corporate social responsibility (CSR) and industrial relations (IR) studies have evolved mostly in parallel. In this paper, the authors integrate the IR with the CSR perspective, highlighting their similarities and differences.

In particular, the study adopts a framework which includes a wide set of CSR-related issues to explore what unions and companies negotiate under the umbrella of CSR. It analyses and compares the national sectoral agreements of two key industries in the Italian economy, i.e. Metal and Chemical.

The authors find that these two sectors exhibit differences because the CSR-related issues covered by the two contracts are formally labelled as CSR in the Chemical contract, and not labelled as CSR in the Metal contract. The authors also find similarities regarding the CSR-related issues covered and not covered by the national contracts, and the binding processes centrally negotiated for their implementation.

The authors interpret the similarities in light of the specificities of the Italian IR system, and the differences in light of the negotiation traditions of the two sectors under study, which induce the actors in the Metal sector (traditionally with more conflictual IR relations) to focus more on what differentiates the CSR and IR perspectives, and the actors in the Chemical sector (traditionally with more cooperative IR relations) to focus more on what the CSR and IR perspectives share.

Sabrina Colombo, Marco Guerci and Toloue Miandar. 2019. What Do Unions and Employers Negotiate Under the Umbrella of Corporate Social Responsibility? Comparative Evidence from the Italian Metal and Chemical Industries.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(2), 445–462. 


NGO’s challenges to both advocate and behave in a sustainable way 
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are increasingly important drivers for businesses’ self-regulation to operate in a sustainable way. The authors shift the perspective on NGOs from focusing on their advocacy role to focusing on their accountability for having sustainable internal operations.

In a multiple case analysis, the authors explore the question ‘What are the drivers and barriers to sustainable conduct of NGOs that are sustainability advocates?’ Drawing on institutional theory, the authors obtain novel insights into the legitimacy-seeking motivations for sustainable conduct in the specific context of advocacy NGOs.

The authors found that, affected by its mission, (1) the cultural-cognitive drive is particularly high, with sustainable conduct as an internally ‘taken-for-granted’ behaviour, followed by (2) the normative drivers, with the balance between perceived vulnerability of needing to ‘walk the talk’ and the sense of immunity due to lack of external scrutiny, and (3) there are hardly any regulative drivers.

Furthermore, these organisations face idiosyncratic trade-offs when balancing investments in their advocacy missions with investments in sustainable operations, reflecting ethical dilemmas. In a broader sense, this research elucidates the way advocates cope in situations of institutional complexity, with conflicting institutional demands between their mission and role-model function.

Read this Open Access article online for free

Mieneke Koster, Ana Simaens & Bart Vos. 2019. The Advocate’s Own Challenges to Behave in a Sustainable Way: An Institutional Analysis of Advocacy NGOs. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 157(2), 483–501.


Perceptions of a depleted employee’s unethicality 
Whereas previous research on ego depletion and ethics suggests that employees who are depleted of their self-control resources are more likely to engage in unethical behaviour, this current research focuses on how observers perceive and react to depleted employees’ unethical behaviour.

Integrating ego depletion and attribution theories, the authors hypothesise and find that observers judge depleted employees’ unethical behaviour more leniently than non-depleted employees as a result of lower levels of perceived intentionality. These perceptions in turn lead to lower levels of punishment.

Results further suggest that not all types of depletion lead to the same effects on observers’ lenient moral judgments—depletion due to externally imposed reasons are more likely to result in lenient moral judgment, compared to depletion due to internally imposed reasons.

Yajun Zhang, Kai Chi Yam, Maryam Kouchaki & Junwei Zhang. 2019.  Cut You Some Slack? An Investigation of the Perceptions of a Depleted Employee’s Unethicality. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 157(3), 673–683.