Collectively Designing CSR Through Meta-Organizations: A Case Study of the Oil and Gas Industry

ArticleinJournal of Business Ethics 143(4):753-769 · February 2017with 358 Reads
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Abstract
Few industries have been pressured to develop corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards and policies like oil and gas. This has translated into the creation of non-governmental organizations and branches of the oil and gas firms focused on CSR. However, given the intrinsic complex characteristics of this industry, its global reach, and the fact that its operations affect and involve a wide variety of stakeholders, CSR issues cannot be defined and implemented exclusively at the industry or firm levels, but require the participation of other actors affected directly or indirectly by oil and gas activities. In this paper we argue, first, that oil and gas CSR issues are collectively constructed through meta-organizations (organizations composed by other organizations), and, second, that the complexity and variety of CSR issues require companies to build industry-specific and non-industry-specific collective actions. Based on how oil and gas firms participate in this multi-level co-construction of CSR issues, we created a typology of meta-organizations as infra-sectoral, sectoral, cross-sectoral, and supra-sectoral meta-organizations.

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    The UN Global Compact epitomizes the current state of the politics of international development in three distinct ways. First, the Compact illustrates a major turn in development thinking. After decades of hostile relations, the UN and business now acknowledge their common interest in the promotion of sustainable development. Second, the Compact brings to light the gradual emergence of more inclusive forms of global governance, in response to the failure of traditional mechanisms of development cooperation. Third, ongoing discussions about the Global Compact attest to the competing worldviews that structure today's development debate. Overall, the Compact demonstrates that, beyond its ever changing dynamics, international development ultimately remains a political, rather than a technical, process.
  • Article
    In this essay we argue that institutional scholarship has become overly concerned with explaining institutions and institutional processes, notably at the level of the organization field, rather than with using them to explain and understand organizations. Especially missing is an attempt to gain a coherent, holistic account of how organizations are structured and managed. We also argue that when institutional theory does give attention to organizations it inappropriately treats them as though they are the same, or at least as though any differences are irrelevant for purposes of theory. We propose a return to the study of organizations with an emphasis upon comparative analysis, and suggest the institutional logics perspective as an appropriate means for doing so.
  • Article
    Greenwood, Hinings and Whetten (2014) present two major criticisms of current institutional scholarship, and see need for a broad redirection: Institutional organization theory, they argue, has lost sight of the claim to study organizations and, with its overwhelming focus on isomorphism and similarity, has fallen short on adequately theorizing differences across organizations. In our essay, we offer support as well as a riposte. First, while we agree that the organizing of collective efforts needs to be at the core of organization research, we warn that focusing on formal organization – a rationalized cultural product itself – may direct attention away from studying alternative modes of organizing, and underestimates the dynamic developments that have transformed contemporary organizations into increasingly complex objects of inquiry. Second, we are concerned that, by abandoning the analysis of similarities in favor of differences, institutional theory may eventually lose sight of its pivotal quest: to study institutions.
  • Book
    Full-text available
    Bringing together the fields of sociology, political science, and management and organization studies, Ursula Muhle offers in this unique volume an authoritative overview of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Muhle first considers the origins of CSR during the 1970s, highlighting the various approaches to CSR and explaining its early shortcomings. She then turns to the United Nations Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative to investigate why, since the mid-1990s, CSR has been on the rise. Finally, Muhle employs several case studies as well as interviews with business executives and politicians to illustrate why businesses worldwide now view CSR as a key component to their success. "The Politics of Corporate Social Responsibility "will be welcomed by scholars and CSR practitioners alike.
  • Article
    There has been a dramatic uptake of sustainability reporting (SR) and sustainability management practices over the last two decades, in turn raising questions about the relationship between external disclosure and internal practice of corporate sustainability. Previous literature has emphasized the role of external pressures in driving SR adoption. However, as recent practitioner surveys also identify the existence of internal motives for SR, a more comprehensive analysis of this relationship is needed. In order to address this issue, we develop a framework accounting for four company-level SR configurations, resulting from different levels of importance of external and internal motives for SR. Then, four exploratory cases serve to illustrate these configurations and to describe the respective roles of SR at the company level. As considerable diversity among these SR practices is found, our findings point to the relevance of both external and internal motives in understanding SR contribution to corporate sustainability. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment
  • Article
    Against the background of new models of corporate-community engagements in response to the failings of old models by oil transnationals, this article attempts an assessment of the implementation of the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) by Chevron and Shell on sustainable community development in host communities in Nigeria’s oil belt. It argues that though the GMoU represents a radical departure from the past in terms of participation and ownership of development projects with the benefits these entail, its potency for sustainable development is hampered by a number of old challenges, namely, the enormity of the development challenge in the Delta thrown up by the failings of an absentee state, the structural constraints imposed on corporations by the profit-maximizing motive and cultural factors that not only prevent effective participation but also promote voicelessness of marginalized groups such as women. The implications of these to sustainable development are explored.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    This article reviews the interdisciplinary literature on the UN Global Compact. The review identifies three research perspectives, which scholars have used to study the UN Global Compact so far: a historical perspective discussing the Global Compact in the context of UN-business relations, an operational perspective discussing the composition and impact of its participants, as well as a governance perspective discussing the constraints and opportunities of the initiative as an institutionalized arena for addressing global governance gaps. The authors contrast these three perspectives and identify key empirical as well as conceptual scholarly contributions. The remainder of this article contains focused summaries of the articles selected for this Special Issue. All articles are introduced and evaluated against the background of the three research perspectives.
  • Article
    The United Nations (UN) Global Compact’s journey over the last 12 years can be summarized as building and integrating UN issues into the global corporate responsibility movement. This summary begs the question as to how a policy speech developed for the UN secretary-general has evolved into an innovative public–private partnership initiative. This article argues that the following four factors contributed to creating enabling ingredients for the UN Global Compact’s growth: continued relevance of the initiative’s underlying idea, sustained institutional leadership support, governmental support (political back-up), and operational viability. Based on the author’s personal experience with the initiative from its inception, the article highlights what is required for an initial idea to be developed into a vibrant operational entity in the context of a multilateral organization. Specially, the article reflects on how the aforementioned four attributes have interacted with each other throughout the last 12 years.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) was created in 2000 to leverage UN prestige and induce corporations to embrace 10 principles incorporating values of environmental sustainability, protection of human rights, fair treatment of workers, and elimination of bribery and corruption. We review and analyze the GC’s activities and impact in enhancing corporate social responsibility since inception. First, we propose an analytical framework which allows us to assess the qualities of the UNGC and its principles in the context of external and internal elements that influence code effectiveness and implementation. Second, we analyze UNGC performance in encouraging companies to become signatory members and bring about demonstrable change in corporate CSR-sustainability activities. In its 10-year report, UNGC has proclaimed growth in both membership and program activity. However, all credible and publicly available data and documentation conclusively demonstrate that the UNGC has failed to induce its signatory companies to enhance their CSR efforts and integrate the 10 principles in their policies and operations. The result has been a loss of public trust and support of UNGC from important constituencies among civil society organizations, and those individuals and groups adversely impacted by corporate activities and resultant negative externalities. This diminished credibility has also made UNGC largely dependent on the corporate sector for its very survival. We conclude that this dependence has in turn impaired and would continue to hinder UNGC’s ability to fulfill its mission. Such an outcome raises serious questions as to the viability, usefulness, and continued existence of UNGC.
  • Article
    The corporate citizenship (CC) concept introduced by Dirk Matten and Andrew Crane has been well received. To this date, however, empirical studies based on this concept are lacking. In this article, we flesh out and operationalize the CC concept and develop an assessment tool for CC. Our tool focuses on the organizational level and assesses the embeddedness of CC in organizational structures and procedures. To illustrate the applicability of the tool, we assess five Swiss companies (ABB, Credit Suisse, Nestlé, Novartis, and UBS). These five companies are participants of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), currently the largest collaborative strategic policy initiative for business in the world (www.unglobalcompact.org). This study makes four main contributions: (1) it enriches and operationalizes Matten and Crane’s CC definition to build a concept of CC that can be operationalized, (2) it develops an analytical tool to assess the organizational embeddedness of CC, (3) it generates empirical insights into how five multinational corporations have approached CC, and (4) it presents assessment results that provide indications how global governance initiatives like the UNGC can support the implementation of CC.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Being a controversial industry, oil companies turn to corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a means to obtain legitimacy. Adopting a case study methodology, this research examines the characteristics of CSR strategies and CSR communication tactics of six oil companies by analyzing their 2011–2012 web site content. We found that all six companies engaged in CSR activities addressing the needs of various stakeholders and had cross-sector partnerships. CSR information on these companies’ web sites was easily accessible, often involving the use of multimedia technologies and sometimes social media platforms. Furthermore, to boost the credibility of their CSR messages, these companies utilized a variety of tactics, such as factual arguments and two-sided messages. In sum, this research unveils the interconnectedness among business strategy, CSR practices, and CSR communication in oil companies’ attempt to gain legitimacy in an environment of controversy. The article ends with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of the research findings.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Little is known about employees’ responses to their organizations’ initiatives in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Academics have already identified a few outcomes regarding CSR’s impact on employees’ attitudes and behaviours; however, studies explaining the underlying mechanisms that drive employees’ favourable responses to CSR remain largely unexplored. Based on organizational identification (OI) theory, this study surveyed 155 employees of a petrochemical organization to better elucidate why, how and under which circumstances employees might positively respond to organizations’ CSR initiatives in the controversial oil industry sector. Findings first support that perceived CSR (i.e. environmental CSR) positively relates to employees’ OI which is known as an important antecedent of employees’ outcomes (Riketta, J Vocat Behavior, 66(2):358, 2005). Furthermore, results highlighted that the relationship between perceived CSR and employees’ OI is mediated by organizational trust. Finally, this study also revealed that some contingency factors such as employees’ attributions of self-centred motives to their organization’s investment in environmental issues can moderate the relationship between perceived CSR and organizational trust. Based on these findings, it is argued that CSR initiatives can support organizations’ efforts to maintain a strong relationship with their employees, and gain their support even in a controversial industry sector.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    This article suggests that when the phenomenon of standards and standardisation is examined from the perspective of organisation studies three aspects stand out: the standardisation of organisations, standardisation by organisations, and standardisation as (a form of) organisation. Following a comprehensive overview of existing research in these three areas, we argue that the dynamic aspects of standardisation are underrepresented in the scholarly discourse. Furthermore, we identify the main types of tension associated with standardisation and the dynamics they generate in each of those three areas, and show that, while standards and standardisation are typically associated with stability and sameness, they are essentially a dynamic phenomenon. The article highlights the contributions of this special issue to the topic of standards as a dynamic phenomenon in organisation studies and makes suggestions for future research.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) is a Global Public Policy Network supporting ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards, environmental protection, and anti-corruption. Networks such as the UNGC are an organizational form with distinct structural properties and specific requirements regarding coordination. Relationships among network partners are typically complex, reciprocal, and trust-based. Despite the relevance of trust for a successful coordination of networks, the literature on the UNGC remains relatively silent when it comes to this phenomenon. The conditions and mechanisms that contribute to the constitution of trust in the UNGC are poorly understood. Based on research in network theory, the authors argue that the trust of participants and other stakeholders supporting the UNGC is a key precondition to enhance collaboration and to develop further the initiative. Against this background, the aim of this article is to develop a systematic approach to foster the constitution of trust in the UNGC. A thorough investigation of the connection between trust and the UNGC may help identify concrete measures for increasing the scale and scope of collaboration between stakeholders and stimulating not only collective learning but also the implementation of the Global Compact’s ten principles.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    In this article, we examine the empirical association between firm value and CSR engagement for firms in sinful industries, such as tobacco, gambling, and alcohol, as well as industries involved with emerging environmental, social, or ethical issues, i.e., weapon, oil, cement, and biotech. We develop and test three hypotheses, the window-dressing hypothesis, the value-enhancement hypothesis, and the value-irrelevance hypothesis. Using an extensive US sample from 1995 to 2009, we find that CSR engagement of firms in controversial industries positively affects firm value after controlling for various firm characteristics. To address the potential endogeneity problem, we further estimate a system of equations and change regression and continue to find a positive relation between CSR engagement and firm value. Our findings support the value-enhancement hypothesis and are consistent with the premise that the top management of US firms in controversial industries, in general, considers social responsibility important even though their products are harmful to human being, society, or environment.
  • Article
    In order to meet China’s rapidly increasing demand for oil, Chinese oil companies have been investing in oil production around the world. This article addresses one specific aspect of the more generalized fears expressed about China’s increasing demand for natural resources which is the impact that its oil companies will have on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. In doing so, it limits its analysis to the three main Chinese oil companies: the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and their investments in sub-Saharan Africa.While acknowledging that Chinese oil companies are unlikely to push resource-rich governments to promote democracy or respect human rights, fears of their negative impact on CSR in the resource extractive industries are misconceived and overblown. Such fears are based on fundamental misconceptions of what CSR can do and how much its Western proponents have achieved. They are also based on misconceptions of the role of Chinese oil companies in global energy markets and they do not withstand a critical comparative evaluation of the respective CSR performance of Western and Chinese oil companies. In addressing the question posed in our title – are Chinese oil companies really different on CSR? – the answer is yes, but the differences are not all that big nor do they matter all that much.
  • Article
    This article critically examines the nature and quality of governance in community representation and civil society engagement in the context of trans-national large-scale mining, drawing on experiences in the Anosy Region of south-east Madagascar. An exploration of functional relationships between government, mining business and civil society stakeholders reveals an equivocal legitimacy of certain civil society representatives, created by state manipulation, which contributes to community disempowerment. The appointment of local government officials, rather than election, creates a hierarchy of upward dependencies and a culture where the majority of officials express similar views and political alliances. As a consequence, community resistance is suppressed.Voluntary mechanisms such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) advocate community stakeholder engagement in decision making processes as a measure to achieve public accountability. In many developing countries, where there is a lack of transparency and high levels of corruption, the value of this engagement, however, is debatable. Findings from this study indicate that the power relationships which exist between stakeholders in the highly lucrative mining industry override efforts to achieve "good governance" through voluntary community engagement. The continuing challenge lies in identifying where the responsibility sits in order to address this power struggle to achieve fair representation.
  • Article
    We present a model of rational behavior by which we characterize business ethical dilemmas as trade-offs between processes and consequences. As an illustration, we formulate the oil industry's business ethical dilemma as a trade-off between a socially detrimental process (emitting greenhouse gases, hence inducing a risk of climate change) and a self-interested consequence (profits). The proposed framework allows us to specify two types of strategies, differing by whether priority is given to the consequences or to the processes. We analyze and illustrate these strategies at both the behavioral and the discursive levels. In particular, communication strategies raise questions about good faith in business argumentation, in the sense that business discourse may or may not be consistent with actual assumptions and/or actual behaviors. We conclude on possible drivers of more ethical business behavior.
  • Article
    The article considers the success of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in con trolling the price of crude oil as a possible example that the destructive logic of collective action may be circumvented. It is argued that the OPEC countries have succeeded in the pursuit of their collective cause due to the ability and willingness of Saudi Arabia to make good the damage perpetrated by free-rider conduct. Yet, the recent (March 1982 — March 1983) conflict over pricing- and production policy was a war of nerves, from which an accord emerged only after a painful game of threats and brinkmanship.
  • Article
    During the past seven years, the United Nations Global Compact has become the largest voluntary corporate-citizenship initiative attempting to elevate and level the norms of corporate behavior in world markets. Its strategy of attracting volume of members versus commitment to performance of the Compacts 10 principles does not provide a base of innovators and early adopters necessary to gain respect from the vast majority of international companies. Thus, the Compact is unlikely to instill the norms embedded in its ten principles in the world market in any meaningful way to engender fairer and more efficient global markets.