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Abstract and Figures

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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Collectively Designing CSR Through Meta-Organizations:
A Case Study of the Oil and Gas Industry
¨se Berkowitz
Marcelo Bucheli
Received: 9 July 2014 / Accepted: 1 February 2016 / Published online: 22 February 2016
Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract Few industries have been pressured to develop
corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards and poli-
cies 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 con-
structed through meta-organizations (organizations com-
posed 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.
Keywords Meta-organizations Oil and gas industry
Industry-specific CSR Collective action CSR self-
regulating mechanisms
How are corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues defined
at the industry level? What kinds of organizations are
involved in the process of definition and implementation of
CSR issues? What characteristics do these organizations
have? In this paper we attempt to answer these questions by
analyzing the case of the oil and gas industry. We argue that
CSR principles in that industry are created and implemented
through the so-called meta-organizations (MOs), or organi-
zations composed by other organizations (Ahrne and Brun-
sson 2005). In order to analyze how particular CSR issues are
defined and implemented, we define the MOs as cross-sec-
toral MOs (meaning, MOs composed by multiple unrelated
industries), supra-sectoral MOs (MOs composed by orga-
nizations of related industries, such as oil and gas and min-
ing), sectoral MOs (only composed by organizations of the
oil and gas industry), or infra-sectoral MOs (specialized on
particular segments of the oil and gas industry value chain).
We show that depending on the particular CSR issue, the
definition and implementation will be conducted by cross
and supra-sectoral, sectoral and infra-sectoral MOs. This
responds to the fact that some CSR issues (for instance
marine mammal impacts) need to be addressed by organi-
zations in different industries (say, oil, fishing, and tourism),
while others such as oil spill responsiveness are considered
by the industry something of its own sole concern.
Organization and CSR scholars had paid relatively little
attention to MOs. Recent theoretical works have shown the
importance of this organizational form in the analysis of
&Marcelo Bucheli
¨se Berkowitz
Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign,
Ecole Polytechnique CNRS, Paris, France
J Bus Ethics (2017) 143:753–769
DOI 10.1007/s10551-016-3073-2
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... In defining meta-organizations, the authors also build on the assumption that decisions are the constitutive element of organization (Ahrne et al., 2016a). Subscribing to this view, scholars have shed light on meta-organizations such as multi-stakeholder groups in the oil and gas industry (Berkowitz et al., 2017), the crowd-funding sector (Berkowitz and Souchaud, 2019b), or the World Anti-Doping Agency (Malcourant et al., 2015). ...
... On the other hand, there are organizations that achieve actorhood and produce decided self-descriptions of their identity -and therefore have a high degree of entitative organizationality -but that feature only a few organizational elements at a very low level of decidedness. One example would be the Global Business Initiative for Human Rights, a formal association of companies that builds members' capabilities on human rights' respect and performance, but has almost no decidedness upon hierarchy, rules, monitoring, and sanctions (Berkowitz et al., 2017). ...
... As a result, a member organization is more likely to accept such decisions, since it participated in its making. This is particularly visible in cases where member organizations agree to self-regulate, for instance in the VPSHR, a meta-organization dedicated to human rights protection in the extractive industry (Berkowitz et al., 2017). ...
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... But there is an increasing number of studies that are using meta-organization theory for understanding these organizations - Roux and Lecocq (2022) for business cooperatives, for instance, or Megali (2022) and Laviolette et al. (2022) (this issue), Berkowitz et al. (2017), Spillman (2018), or Dumez and Renou (2020) for industry associations. Some studies of social movements have used the meta-organization concept (Karlberg & Jacobsson, 2015;Laurent et al., 2020). ...
... Those interested in the organization of sports cannot ignore such meta-organizations as FIFA, UEFA, or the World Anti-Doping Agency (Malcourant et al., 2015). Studies of so-called multi-stakeholder initiatives include research into the relatively low but increasing number of meta-organizations that are based on heterogenous members with different interests, rather than members with common interests (Berkowitz et al., 2017;Carmagnac & Carbone, 2019;de Bakker et al., 2019;Tamm Hallström & Boström, 2010;Valente & Oliver, 2018). Most heterogeneous meta-organizations group civil-society organizations, scientific organizations, business actors, and public organizations (Berkowitz et al., 2020). ...
... Although most meta-organizations have relatively few members (typically tens or hundreds), they do vary greatly in size of membership. And although most meta-organizations recruit members that share salient similarities and are expected to represent similar interests, multi-stakeholder meta-organizations recruit members with different and even antagonistic interests (Berkowitz et al., 2017). One should expect differences in the workings of meta-organizations with different memberships. ...
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... M eta-organizations (M-O) are formal entities whose members are organizations that share common goals and objectives (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2005, 2008Ahrne et al., 2016;Berkowitz et al., 2017). Compared to individuals, organizations are more diverse, more powerful, and less predictable. ...
... An important line of work has focused on the inherent organizational nature of an M-O, investigating the different configurations of M-Os, why and how they are created and the consequences of their actions (Berkowitz & Bor, 2018;Berkowitz & Dumez, 2016;Valente & Oliver, 2018). Another research strand has focused on the relational nature of an M-O, exploring how M-Os interact with various stakeholders, especially public authorities (Bonfils, 2011), to create and diffuse common principles (Berkowitz et al., 2017) and build their legitimacy (Laurent et al., 2019;Suchman, 1995). ...
This article analyzes how a meta-organization (M-O) can shape a coherent collective identity over time. Previous foundational work on identity formation in M-Os has provided fragmented but insightful ideas on several activities that this process entails. However, we currently lack a dynamic, integrative, and empirically supported model that demonstrates how these activities interrelate to shape a coherent collective identity over time. Using an in-depth case study of an association of cider producers in Québec (Canada) over a 23-year period, we develop a model of collective identity dynamics, in which an M-O plays an orchestrator role that is both dual and continuous. On the one hand, an M-O balances the internal identity claims of its organizational members through alignment and differentiation. On the other hand, an M-O builds an externally coherent identity by assembling and positioning legitimacy among institutional actors. Our paper provides new insights into activities performed by an M-O during identity creation by analyzing whether this process includes both organizational and institutional actors, thereby reinforcing the intermediary nature of an M-O. Furthermore, it contributes to the collective identity dynamics literature by elaborating the stabilizing role of a bounded organization in collective identity dynamics at the interorganizational level.
... Tackling social and environmental problems seems to have become an objective of certain metaorganizations only in the second half of the twentieth century (Berkowitz & Dumez, 2015). These meta-organizations enable member organizations to develop joint solutions, self-regulation or capacity building for sustainability (Berkowitz, Bucheli, & Dumez, 2017;Chaudhury et al., 2016;Karlberg & Jacobsson, 2015). ...
... However, our assumptions need further testing in these various settings, which provide many new research perspectives. Future research could fruitfully investigate whether and how decidability is easier to maintain depending on the degree of membership's cohesiveness, or of the specificity of the challenge (Berkowitz et al., 2017). One major effect of non-decidability was membership exit. ...
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... Taking the field of employment relations as an example, even within this one field other forms of EO include mediating agencies between labour supply and demand, standard-setting agencies, and social purpose vehicles of all sorts and varieties (e.g., Waddock, 1989;Waddock, 2008;Hawley and Combes Taylor, 2006;Bonet et al., 2013;Marques, 2017;Berkowitz et al. 2017). Furthermore, agencies like lawyers, law consultancy firms, and think tanks act on behalf of (groups of) firms as these are subjects of regulatory acts or arbitration and due diligence procedures (e.g., Edelman and Suchman, 1997). ...
Rooted in organization theory, this chapter aims to map recent advances in understanding employers’ organizations as meta-organizations. Building on an examination of the commonalities and differences of closely related concepts from organization and management studies, a theoretical view is developed that allows an understanding of the variety of employers’ organizations by focusing on the organizational structures (domains, levels, history, actors, and resources) and practices (selecting, allocating, regulating, evaluating, and negotiating) of meta-organizing. Building on this meta-organizing view, more recent varieties and developments in employers meta-organizing are discussed with an emphasis on the arena of labour politics in an era of civil regulation. The chapter concludes by mapping further directions for inquiry of meta-organizing dynamics
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