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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
Heloı
¨se Berkowitz
1
Marcelo Bucheli
2
Herve
´Dumez
3
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
Introduction
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
mbucheli@illinois.edu
Heloı
¨se Berkowitz
heloise.berkowitz@hec.edu
Herve
´Dumez
herve.dumez@normalesup.org
1
Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France
2
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign,
USA
3
Ecole Polytechnique CNRS, Paris, France
123
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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... 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. ...
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... 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). ...
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