This chapter investigates the antecedents to the development of the three components of subsidiaries’ absorptive capacity (ACAP): recognition, assimilation and application of transferred knowledge in the context of the vertical flow of social and environmental accounting and reporting (SEAR) knowledge from the HQ to acquired subsidiaries. Our analysis is based on an embedded multiple case study of a UK-based MNC, informed by 44 semi-structured interviews and capitalising on agency theory and socialisation theory. Prior knowledge is not a sufficient explanation to the development of ACAP but it is also dependent on organisational mechanisms that will trigger the learning processes. Depending on the nature and degree of the social, control and integration mechanisms, the effects of prior stocks of knowledge on ACAP may vary. Our propositions only hold for one direction of knowledge transfer. The study is based on an embedded multiple case study in one sector which restricts its generalisation. It excludes the specific relationships between the three ACAP learning processes and the existence of feedback loops. Our findings suggest that the HQ’s mix of social, control and integration mechanisms should account for initial stocks of SEAR knowledge. The contribution lies in uncovering the interaction between heterogeneous levels of prior knowledge and organisational mechanisms deployed by the HQ fostering ACAP. We address emerging issues regarding the reification of the ACAP concept and highlight the potential of agency theory for informing studies on HQ-subsidiary relations.
Gutierrez-Huerter O, G., Gold, S., Moon, J. and Chapple, W. (2016), "Transfer of Social and Environmental Accounting and Reporting Knowledge: Subsidiary Absorptive Capacity and Organisational Mechanisms", Perspectives on Headquarters-subsidiary Relationships in the Contemporary MNC (Research in Global Strategic Management, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 299-328. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1064-485720160000017014
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