Some interesting reading on making socially responsible business choices.

Evaluating a socially responsible employment program 
Although many organisations around the world have engaged in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programing, there is little evidence of social impact. This is a problematic omission since many programs carry the stigma of marketing ploys used to bolster organisational image or reduce consumer skepticism. To address this issue and build on existing scholarship, the purpose of this study was to evaluate a socially responsible youth employability program in the United Kingdom. The program was developed through the foundation of a professional British soccer team to bolster employability and life skills for marginalised London youth.

Program funding was provided by a large multinational bank as part of their CSR agenda. This evaluation was undertaken to understand the beneficiary impacts associated with program deployment. Results from the pre-intervention/post-intervention, sequential mixed-method evaluation show statistically significant differences among several “soft” beneficiary outcomes (e.g., self-esteem, self-efficacy, and perceived marketability).

However, results are mixed regarding whether the “hard” outcome of employment was achieved by program participants. Qualitative findings buttress these results, indicating a high level of motivation for work, attitude enhancement, and satisfaction with program delivery.

Walker, M., Hills, S. & Heere, B. 2017. Evaluating a Socially Responsible Employment Program: Beneficiary Impacts and Stakeholder Perceptions.  
Journal of Business Ethics, 143(1), 53–70.


The circular economy: Application in a global context 
There have long been calls from industry for guidance in implementing strategies for sustainable development. The Circular Economy represents the most recent attempt to conceptualise the integration of economic activity and environmental wellbeing in a sustainable way. This set of ideas has been adopted by China as the basis of their economic development (included in both the 11th and the 12th ‘Five Year Plan’), escalating the concept in minds of western policymakers and NGOs.

This paper traces the conceptualisations and origins of the Circular Economy, tracing its meanings, and exploring its antecedents in economics and ecology, and discusses how the Circular Economy has been operationalised in business and policy. The paper finds that while the Circular Economy places emphasis on the redesign of processes and cycling of materials, which may contribute to more sustainable business models, it also encapsulates tensions and limitations. These include an absence of the social dimension inherent in sustainable development that limits its ethical dimensions, and some unintended consequences.

This leads us to propose a revised definition of the Circular Economy as “an economic model wherein planning, resourcing, procurement, production and reprocessing are designed and managed, as both process and output, to maximise ecosystem functioning and human well-being”.

Murray, A., Skene, K. & Haynes, K. 2017. The Circular Economy: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Concept and Application in a Global Context. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(3), 369–380.


Responsible innovation and the innovation of responsibility: Governing sustainable development in a globalised world
Earth’s life-support system is facing megaproblems of sustainability. One important way of how these problems can be addressed is through innovation. This paper argues that responsible innovation that contributes to sustainable development (SD) consists of three dimensions:
(1) innovations avoid harming people and the planet,
(2) innovations ‘do good’ by offering new products, services, or technologies that foster SD, and
(3) global governance schemes are in place that facilitate innovations that avoid harm and ‘do good.’

The paper discusses global governance schemes based on deliberation as a means to foster such responsible innovation. These schemes can provide voluntary soft-law regulations that complement and extend national and international hard-law regulations and facilitate collective innovation that contributes to SD goals.

The article addresses the facilitative role of governments and international organisations in overcoming problems of deliberation and offers illustrative examples of such governance schemes.

Voegtlin, C. & Scherer, A.G. 2017. Responsible Innovation and the Innovation of Responsibility: Governing Sustainable Development in a Globalized World. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 143(2), 227–243.


The opportunity cost of negative screening in socially responsible investing
This paper investigates the impact of negative screening on the investment universe as well as on financial performance. Trinks and Scholtens come up with a novel identification process and as such depart from mainstream socially responsible investing literature by concentrating on individual firms’ conduct and by studying a much wider range of issues.

Firstly, the authors study the size and financial performance of fourteen potentially controversial issues: abortion, adult entertainment, alcohol, animal testing, contraceptives, controversial weapons, fur, gambling, genetic engineering, meat, nuclear power, pork, (embryonic) stem cells, and tobacco. The authors investigate an international sample of more than 1,600 stocks for more than twenty years. These researchers then analyse the impact of applying negative screens to a market portfolio.

Findings suggest that the choice for negative screening strategies does matter for the size of the investment universe as well as for risk-adjusted return performance. Investing in controversial stocks in many cases results in additional risk-adjusted returns, whereas excluding them may reduce financial performance. These findings suggest that there are opportunity costs to negative screening.

Read this article for free: Trinks, P.J. & Scholtens, B. 2017. The Opportunity Cost of Negative Screening in Socially Responsible Investing.
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(2), 193–208.


Managing social issues in supply chains 
The social dimension of sustainable development and its impact on supply chains have so far received less attention than the environmental dimension. The aim of the research is to explore the intersection between social issues, corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions and performance outcomes. A structured literature review of social issues in supply chains is presented, analysing the research published so far in peer-reviewed publications.

Linking CSR and supply chain management allows the exploration of strategies and performance outcomes with a focus on social issues. The corresponding responsible supply chain actions adopted by firms to address these issues are grouped into communication, compliance and supplier development strategies. Social and economic as well as buyer and supplier performance are identified as the key outcomes, but the interactions among these constructs would require further research.

This paper contributes to the understanding of managing social issues in supply chains by linking social issues, responsible supply chain actions and performance outcomes. The paper consolidates related research by offering an overarching conceptual framework and points to future research directions and simultaneously provides insights into the management of social issues in supply chains.

Yawar, S.A. & Seuring, S.  2017. Management of Social Issues in Supply Chains: A Literature Review Exploring Social Issues, Actions and Performance Outcomes. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(3), 621–643.


I don’t want to be green: Firm environmental innovation rejection decisions 
Although the political and consumer consciousness has turned increasingly green, many firms continue to resist the adoption of environment-friendly technological innovations—even in the face of higher costs, negative health effects, and stricter government oversight.

This article examines how business owners weigh the trade-offs associated with environment-friendly innovations by examining the role of prosocial motivation in their decision-making process. Bendell uses primary data to overcome a common restriction in studying environmental innovations—the scarcity of relevant data—to analyse how business owners’ expectations, perceptions, and motivations affect innovation in organisational processes and, consequently, the level of environmental friendliness of their products or services.

Results show that prosocial motivation had a significant negative impact on innovation adoption and that it is expressed differently under high and low levels of customer compatibility—possibly because business owners have a larger number of competing social objectives and priorities. The results further showed that the innovation’s ability to satisfy downstream customer demands has the greatest impact on environment-friendly innovation adoption decisions by business owners.

This study enhances understanding of how business owners make innovation decisions based on competing business, environmental and social objectives and provides a foundation for future research in this area.

Bendell, B.L.  2017. I don’t Want to be Green: Prosocial Motivation Effects on Firm Environmental Innovation Rejection Decisions.
Journal of Business Ethics,143(2), 277–288.


Nudging investors toward ethical decision-making 
This paper applies insights from behavioural economics and nudge theory to foster sustainable and responsible investment (SRI). SRI provides an opportunity to express and promote ethical values via choice of financial instruments. While policy-makers have tried to encourage greater participation in SRI, the majority of retail investors retain a conventional approach to investment. The author develops a conceptual framework to improve the effectiveness of SRI policy-making.

The first part of the framework comprises a transmission mechanism which emphasises the role of SRI as a driver for sustainable development.
The second part is a model of the individual decision for or against SRI. The framework suggests that low SRI demand is a case of behavioural market failure, and that nudging is a suitable tool for dismantling behavioural barriers to SRI. A specific example of smart choice architecture is used to illustrate the framework’s potential in the design of an SRI nudge.

Assuming the nudge stands up to the rigors of empirical testing, it may well provide a feasible alternative for policy-makers.

Pilaj, H. 2017. The choice architecture of sustainable and responsible investment: nudging investors toward ethical decision-making. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(4), 743–753.


When materialists intend to resist consumption: Self-control and long-term orientation 
Prior research indicated that resistance to consumption contributes to the achievement of sustainable development goals and is associated with higher well-being. The authors investigate conditions under which materialists intend to resist consumption.

The authors find that by enhancing self-control and long-term orientation, the intention to resist consumption and the frugality scores of high- and low-materialism individuals increase. These increases are stronger for those who believe that possessions are a source of happiness, but not for those who believe that possessions signal success or for those who believe that acquiring possessions is a central goal in their daily lives.

The findings suggest that individuals who believe that possessions are a source of happiness and who are led to feel more self-controlled and long-term oriented become inclined to resist consumption in the short-term to achieve materialistic aspirations in the long-term. Similar findings were not obtained for the other dimensions of materialism because these dimensions do not motivate one to save in the short-term.

Overall, these studies demonstrate that the happiness dimension of materialism may also motivate resistance to consumption. Such findings have implications for sustainability, for public policy makers, and for business ethics.

Nepomuceno, M.V. & Laroche, M. 2017. When Materialists Intend to Resist Consumption: The Moderating Role of Self-Control and Long-Term Orientation.   
Journal of Business Ethics, 143(3), 467–483.