Our research tidbits this week explores methods and barriers to developing more socially aware decision-making in a company’s choices for investment and human resource management.

Ethical Human Resource Management (HRM) practice
The impact of contextual influences on human resource management and management more generally has been the focus of much scholarly interest.
However, we still know very little about how context impacts on the practice of ethical HRM specifically.

Therefore, drawing on 59 in-depth interviews with HR practitioners in Brazil, Colombia and the UK, this paper theorises how they perceive the ethical dimensions of their roles within their respective national contexts and how the way they act in relation to them is informed, shaped and directed by the institutional context. In doing so it provides an important insight into three key themes: first, the views of HRM practitioners and managers about ethical HRM and how they articulate what it means to be ethical; second, how they respond to perceived ethical dilemmas; and third, how their responses are influenced by institutional forces and associated beliefs, values and scripts.

In addition to providing an ‘emic’ perspective of this increasingly important topic and theorising the experience and practice of ethical HRM, the paper answers calls for more international comparisons of ethical HRM practice in contemporary organisations.

Braga, B.M., de Camargo Oliva, E., de Miranda Kubo, E.K. et al. 2021. An Institutional Approach to Ethical Human Resource Management Practice: Comparing Brazil, Colombia and the UK.

Towards virtue in ethical decision-making
Ethical decision-making is a multi-faceted phenomenon, and our understanding of ethics rests on diverse perspectives. While considering how leaders ought to act, scholars have created integrated models of moral reasoning processes that encompass diverse influences on ethical choice. With this, there has been a call to continually develop an understanding of the micro-level factors that determine moral decisions.

Both rationalist, such as moral processing, and non-rationalist factors, such as virtue and humanity, shape ethical decision-making. Focusing on the role of moral judgement and moral intent in moral reasoning, this study asks what bearings a trait of mindfulness and a sense of moral responsibility may have on this process. A survey measuring mindfulness, moral responsibility and moral judgement completed by 171 respondents was used for four hypotheses on moral judgement and intent in relation to moral responsibility and mindfulness.

The results indicate that mindfulness predict moral responsibility but not moral judgement. Moral responsibility does not predict moral judgement, but moral judgement predicts moral intent. The findings give further insight into the outcomes of mindfulness and expand insights into the models of ethical decision-making. The authors offer suggestions for further research on the role of mindfulness and moral responsibility in ethical decision-making.

Cherise Small & Charlene Lew, 2021. Mindfulness, Moral Reasoning and Responsibility: Towards Virtue in Ethical Decision-Making.

The business of virtue: Socially responsible investing in financial markets
Using the mainstreaming of socially responsible investing (SRI) as the empirical context, the authors show that as the divestment movement in the late twentieth century got institutionalised by being incorporated as a business strategy into more mainstream financial instruments like mutual funds, the prior meanings and categorical definition of ethical investing became ambiguous due to fuzzy boundaries, duality of virtue inherent in the portfolio targets, and exercise of discretion by portfolio managers.

The authors find that increased heterogeneity in standards led to greater ambiguity about who belongs to a category, and fund managers adopted distinct measures-based, values-based and expertise-based approaches to resolve this ambiguity. One consequence of such ambiguity is that individual self-expression, self-consciousness and agency that are central in such movements become appropriated by discretionary and meaning-making work at the institutional level.

Saheli Nath. 2021. The Business of Virtue: Evidence from Socially Responsible Investing in Financial Markets.

An ethics of care approach to contingent labour in the creative industries
Studies of creative industries typically contend that creative work is profoundly precarious, taking place on a freelance basis in highly competitive, individualised and contingent labour markets. Such studies depict creative workers as correspondingly self-enterprising, self-reliant, self-interested and calculative agents who valorise care-free independence.

In contrast, the authors adopt the ‘ethics of care’ approach to explore, recognise and appreciate the communitarian, relational and moral considerations as well as interpersonal connectedness and interdependencies that underpin creative work. Drawing on in-depth interviews with creative workers in a range of marginal socio-cultural contexts, the authors argue that creative workers cultivate and sustain a diverse array of practices of care arising from an affective concern with the well-being of others.

Far from being merely individualistic and crudely competitive actors, creative workers enact practical ethical responsibilities and affectivities towards a range of human and non-human others, including families, local communities and neighbourhoods, colleagues, artistic scenes and their adjacent genres, and surrounding national and linguistic cultures. In emphasising the fundamental and structuring role of care in contingent labour markets the authors’ approach accords with recent trends in the social sciences that ‘affirmatively’—as opposed to ‘negatively’ and ‘suspiciously’—recognise that mutuality, solidarity and affectivity are powerful drivers of action on a par with or even exceeding market-driven self-centredness.

Ana Alacovska & Joëlle Bissonnette. 2021. Care-ful Work: An Ethics of Care Approach to Contingent Labour in the Creative Industries.

The demand side of social impact investing
Social impact investing (SII) is transforming the availability of private capital for nonprofits and social enterprises, but demand is not yet meeting supply. This paper analyses the perceived barriers faced by nonprofits in engaging with SII, arguing the need to assess differences using a policy field framework.

Four parameters of a subsector are conceptualised as shaping participation in SII: the scale of investment required, embeddedness in place, the need for radical innovation, and the configuration of intermediaries (such as loan funds and market brokers). Based on 25 interviews with leaders of nonprofits and intermediaries in affordable housing and community economic development in Canada, the study finds that significant barriers are a lack of knowledge of the market, inadequate financial literacy, and the challenges of measuring and valuing social impacts.

In addition, nonprofits report that, in spite of the inherent importance of social impact in this form of investing, they currently make limited use of evaluation and impact metrics, and perceive that intermediaries and investors, particularly in affordable housing, still put a greater emphasis on financial over social returns.

Susan D. Phillips & Bernadette Johnson. 2021. Inching to Impact: The Demand Side of Social Impact Investing.