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Activists as Moral Entrepreneurs: How Shareholder Activists Brought Active Ownership To Switzerland

The Contested Moralities of Markets

ISBN: 978-1-78769-120-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-119-3

Publication date: 2 September 2019


Action from activists is at the origin of many initiatives that end up injecting moral concerns into the way companies operate. In such instances, activists function as moral entrepreneurs that lastingly change the definition of what constitutes morally acceptable corporate behavior. Yet, in order to have such a lasting effect on companies, activist efforts need to pass through multiple stages that deal with both the effective mobilization of their own constituents and the triggering of corporate responses that can induce broader change in the economy. In the present chapter, the authors study how local shareholder activists initiated and helped sustain the process that led to the establishment of active ownership in Switzerland between 1997 and 2011. Active ownership refers to the active engagement of shareholders with firms to push them toward considering environmental, social, and corporate governance criteria in their decision-making. The case illustrates the processual nature of moralizing dynamics initiated by activists and emphasizes the long-term and cumulative nature of many moralization projects.



Waeger, D. and Mena, S. (2019), "Activists as Moral Entrepreneurs: How Shareholder Activists Brought Active Ownership To Switzerland", Schiller-Merkens, S. and Balsiger, P. (Ed.) The Contested Moralities of Markets (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 63), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 167-185.



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