Social Movements, Stakeholders and Non-Market Strategy: Volume 56
Table of contents(15 chapters)
While there are a number of theoretical traditions that study the interactions of business and society, research in these spaces has failed to sufficiently engage across these traditions. This volume aims to bridge these domains, creating a conversation among scholars working at the nexus of stakeholder theory, non-market strategy, and social movement theory. In this introductory chapter to the volume, we review the historical context of these three theoretical areas and explore how they connect in current research. We follow this discussion with our recommendations for common themes that might further integrate these subfields. Finally, we conclude the chapter with a description of each paper in the volume, highlighting how each contributes to our understanding of the dynamics of business and society, as well as the integration of our three focal subfields.
Section I Social Movements and Organizational Theory
Do social movement organizations increase the supply of a public good? We address this question by investigating the role of generalist social movement organizations and technology-focused organizations for the development of the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in California from 1995 until 2012. We find that increases in the membership of Electric Auto Association (EAA) chapters in the cities of California enhanced the number of EV charging stations set up in each city. Our analyses also show that the organizational diversity of the environmental movement spurred the growth of EAA membership but did not directly increase the establishment of charging stations.
How can organizations use strategic frames to develop support for illegal and stigmatized markets? Drawing on interviews, direct observation, and the analysis of 2,497 press releases, I show how pro-cannabis activists used distinct framing strategies at different stages of institutional development to negotiate the moral boundaries surrounding medical cannabis, diluting the market’s stigma in the process. Social movement organizations first established a moral (and legal) foothold for the market by framing cannabis as a palliative for the dying, respecting moral boundaries blocking widespread exchange. As market institutions emerged, activists extended this frame to include less serious conditions, making these boundaries permeable.
This paper develops an argument about how contentious changes unfold in organizational fields, focusing on the role of uncertainty – and the networks people use to address uncertainty. We propose that as controversial practice gains traction and spreads, the nature of uncertainty facing organizational decision makers also evolves. This dynamic has important implications for how different actors and networks can influence change. We illustrate our argument with a mixed-methods case study on the diffusion of domestic partner benefits across US Fortune 500 companies. Our findings shed light on how – and when – social activists, corporate elites, and middle managers can influence the corporate decision-making process.
This chapter traces the development of research on social movement outcomes or consequences over three distinct phases, with an eye toward understanding how this research has impacted organizational studies research on how social movements impact firms, markets, and industries. It also describes how the ideas in the papers in this section of this volume fit into these three phases and concludes with a discussion of how the papers in this section might inform future research.
Section II Social Movements and Stakeholders
Previous work has shown that corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives can preserve shareholder value after an organization experiences a negative event. I expand on this theory by examining one boundary condition that could lead to the opposite relationship: when the organization has a CSR initiative intended to prevent the type of event that occurs. The author argues that activist pressure will enhance the negative relationship between event-specific CSR and shareholder value. Using an event-study, the author examines the apparel industry after the collapse of Rana Plaza which killed over a thousand apparel supply chain employees.
In this paper, we draw from our own empirical data on worker organizing and identify important concepts that bridge social movement (SM) and industrial relations (IR) theory. In a context of traditional union decline and a surge of alternative types of worker mobilization, we apply SM and IR concepts related to the mobilizing structures and culture to cases of labor organizing via worker centers and community–labor alliances in the United States and China. From an analytical perspective, we argue that the field of SMs and IR can both benefit from this type of cross-discipline theorization.
As demands on global water resources intensify, battles are emerging over water ownership and governance. Evidence to support opposing views is scarce, however, especially with respect to the impact of ownership on water quality. Using a data set of 168,823 municipal water systems in the United States from 2010 to 2014, we find evidence that stakeholder attention moderates the effect of ownership on compliance with drinking water quality standards. Private systems’ compliance improves more rapidly with system size, consistent with greater social movement pressure, while public systems’ compliance improves more rapidly with local educational attainment, consistent with greater responsiveness to stakeholder attention and concern.
Stakeholders hold power because they hold resources essential to firm survival. Through their exercise of this power, they produce, or not, change in business practices. The social movements of united individuals, as well as the non-market strategies of firms and industries designed to forestall or counter these movements, succeed or fail based on their ability to influence stakeholders. Constraints on stakeholder cognition affect how stakeholders are influenced by social movements and non-market strategy to, in turn, exercise their influence over firms. Herein, the author overviews the nature of these constraints, highlights the need for further research on stakeholder attention allocation, and discusses how the three articles in this section fit into this framework.
Section III Social Movements and Non-Market Strategy
We explore the simultaneous influence of activist organizations and corporations on institutional change. Focusing on protests, campaign contributions, and lobbyists as the strategies used by activist organizations and corporations to influence institutional change, we study the dynamics between movements and counter-movements and their influence on the probability of institutional change. In the context of the US tobacco industry, the results shed light on the effectiveness of these strategies and uncover potential moderators of this relationship. Overall, we demonstrate the simultaneous and asymmetric effects of activist organizations and corporations that use conspicuous and inconspicuous strategies to change institutions.
We analyze how Brazilian Black Movement organizations and banks deployed different mechanisms like cooperation, cooptation, and confrontation that generated affirmative action initiatives in the banking sector at the beginning of this century. Black movement organizations triggered an institutional change by connecting fields and exploring a constellation of strategies. However, Brazilian banks adopted defensive strategies aiming to accommodate their interests. We find that only piecemeal change occurred, as the field’s structures – resource distribution and power – remained unscratched. We conclude by noting how the success of social movement strategies can depend upon the framing and sense-giving work that social movements conduct in their continuous jockeying activity toward incumbents.
Social movement organizations increasingly engage directly with companies, rather than using the political process to regulate them. This development has spawned lively new literatures on non-market strategy and on social movements, but the two would benefit from engaging each other more effectively. A common framework and set of shared constructs would allow for collaborative theorizing on how new issues emerge into the public sphere, how interest groups mobilize, and how public opinion is formed; transaction cost analysis, with its primarily verbal theorizing, may prove a helpful starting point. Empirical knowledge is growing rapidly, yet many exciting questions remain open.
In this paper, I applaud but also critique the project to integrate the literatures on stakeholders, non-market strategy, and social movements under the umbrella of business and society. My main concern is that some may perceive this integrative effort as hinging on a kind of applied economic imagery of actors and interests that valorizes instrumental, strategic action. Building on scholarship at the interface of social movements and organizations, I argue for the fruitfulness of a broader institutional approach to business and society.
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- Research in the Sociology of Organizations
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- Emerald Publishing Limited
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