As climate change, social inequities, and other critical issues grow ever more urgent, many companies have built dedicated departments focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). But while this is an important first step, the authors’ new research suggests that organizations with the most mature CSR programs are often actually those with the smallest CSR departments. Based on an in-depth analysis of several Swiss firms as well as a review of prior research on CSR implementation, they identify a three-phase process through which many companies progress as their CSR operations advance from high-level vision to on-the-ground impact: A nascent stage in which the CSR department centralizes and coalesces, an intermediate stage in which it decentralizes and orchestrates, and a final stage in which it retreats and consults. Through this process, resources shift from the central CSR team out into functional units, meaning that the size and budget of the CSR department is often a poor indicator of the maturity of its CSR execution. To paint an accurate picture of a company’s performance — and to identify opportunities for improvement — the authors ultimately suggest that it’s essential to recognize these nuances and calibrate expectations and evaluations accordingly.

The full article can be read in Harvard Business Review.

In this commentary, we engage with the study by Carney, El Ghoul, Guedhami, Lu and Wang, titled ‘‘Political corporate social responsibility: The role of deliberative capacity.’’ Their study provides empirical support for earlier claims that deliberative capacity – the capacity of political institutions to enable diverse stakeholders to collectively assemble and voice their opinions – is an important building block to understanding the prominence or lack thereof of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a country. In so doing, Carney and co-authors contribute to the so-called ‘‘Political CSR’’ or PCSR literature. Yet, their study carries two important shortcomings that can be addressed to bring PCSR research forward in an IB context. First, they ignore a fundamental tenet of the PCSR literature, namely the existence of global governance gaps requiring private businesses to actively engage in political activity. Second, and related to the first, their model and associated variables are misspecified, with independent and dependent variables that are at least partially overlapping. Departing from these shortcomings, we attempt to engage constructively with their work in the interest of advancing the conversation in IB about private sector involvement in democratic will formation to achieve social and environmental responsibility.

Research on the implementation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has revealed the critical role of CSR departments vis-à-vis functional departments. While both CSR and functional departments influence CSR implementation, the question of how they work together remains underexamined. We address this question by mobilizing and merging two complementary yet separate perspectives on CSR implementation: “coordination” and “enactment.” Building on a comparative case study involving seven large Swiss financial institutions that have established CSR departments and implemented CSR to varying extents, we inductively derive six courses of actions conducing to CSR implementation, involving both coordination and enactment. We distinguish between four courses of actions in the CSR departments (centralizing, coalescing, orchestrating, and consulting) and two courses of actions in the functional departments (decentralizing and tailoring). As our data suggest that coordination and enactment work in tandem, we capture these insights in a model of CSR implementation as coordinated enactment. Our research contributes to the literature by explaining how CSR departments and functional departments enact and simultaneously coordinate CSR at a particular implementation stage, thus illuminating how and why the variance in CSR implementation occurs.

Risi, D., & Wickert, C., & Ramus, T. (2022). Coordinated enactment: How organizational departments work together to implement CSR. Business & Societyhttps://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00076503221110213.

Research applying institutional theory to corporate social responsibility (CSR) has experienced remarkable momentum. Institutional theory-based CSR research illustrates the role of values in guiding both agentic choices for CSR and the influence of institutional structures on CSR agency. Although values have been explored in this literature, systematic studies of values that seek to gain insights into the mutual relationship between agentic choices and structures are lacking. Such insights are crucial for exploring whether and how CSR is enabled or constrained. We thus ask two interrelated questions: (1) What is the role of values in institutional theory-based CSR research? (2) How and along which avenues should future institutional theory-based CSR research that focuses on values be mobilised? Based on our analysis of this line of literature from 1989 until 2021, first, we take stock of established institutional theory perspectives on CSR and disentangle what role values have played in this literature. Second, we outline how to mobilise values in future institutional CSR research based on four promising but under-investigated areas. From our literature analysis, two central functions emerge (which we label ‘bridging’ and ‘referencing’) that values can perform in the institutional analysis of CSR. Based on these two functions, our values-focused framework will help scholars examine the moral foundations that inform business–society interactions as well as understand how companies can responsibly manage those interactions with societal stakeholders.

 

Integrated reporting has widely been promoted as the next evolutionary step in corporate disclosure, which would soon replace traditional reporting practices. Embedded in a zeitgeist that favors sustainability, this outlook would suggest high integrated reporting adoption rates among reporting organizations. Our analysis of integrated reporting in Germany from 2008 to 2019 shows, however, that organizations approached integrated reporting with a wait-and-see mentality. This approach cannot be described adequately by the existing conceptualizations of (partial) practice adoption. We therefore develop the notion of wait-and-see-ism, defined as the deliberate and potentially long-lasting postponement of a decision to adopt a practice while its further development is monitored silently. We see limited, though continuous, efforts to prepare for the prospect of adopting the practice of integrated reporting quickly at a later stage. Wait-and-see-ism expands on prior work on partial adoption by emphasizing its temporal dimension. This adds an important yet undertheorized option that organizations can employ to respond to ambiguous institutional demands, thus explaining the stalling of promising management practices.

Endenich C, Hahn R, Reimsbach D, Wickert C (2022). Wait-and-see-ism as partial adoption of management practices: The rise and stall of integrated reporting. Strategic Organization. doi:10.1177/14761270221078605

It’s been more than 50 years since HAL, the malevolent computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, first terrified audiences by turning against the astronauts he was supposed to protect. That cinematic moment captures what many of us still fear in AI: that it may gain superhuman powers and subjugate us. But instead of worrying about futuristic sci-fi nightmares, we should instead wake up to an equally alarming scenario that is unfolding before our eyes: We are increasingly, unsuspectingly yet willingly, abdicating our power to make decisions based on our own judgment, including our moral convictions. What we believe is “right” risks becoming no longer a question of ethics but simply what the “correct” result of a mathematical calculation is.

Moser, C., & Lindebaum, D. (2022). What Humans Lose When We Let AI Decide. MIT Sloan Management Review, 63(3), 12-14.

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