International Business and Sustainable Development: Volume 8

Cover of International Business and Sustainable Development
Subject:

Table of contents

(22 chapters)
Content available
Purpose

Highlights the constraints – natural, technological and political – to continued global economic growth.

Methodology/approach

Draws upon historical data from various secondary sources. Considers long-term trends.

Findings

The world economy has grown explosively over the past two centuries and has hugely increased its use of resources and associated emissions over that period. Global output could easily rise more than three-fold over the next 40 years, almost all of it in the emerging world. This will put substantial pressure on energy resources, and emissions of carbon dioxide and equivalents continue to rise. These developments are likely to generate large, unpredictable and possibly calamitous climate change.

Research implications

Disturbing – in the absence of a technological, policy and political revolution.

Practical implications

Emphasises the challenge of mitigating climate change, and highlights the twin imperatives of convincing the people of the world that it is possible to combine greater prosperity with recognition of environmental limits and of developing the political institutions that make feasible the decisions that need to be taken.

Originality/value

Offers a comprehensive assessment of the prospects for global economic growth and the increasing demand for non-renewable resources, particularly energy.

Purpose

This chapter examines the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) in promoting industrial development, and asks, if FDI is such an important avenue to promote development, why is there little evidence on concomitant industrial development in most developing countries?

Methodology/approach

I look at the secondary evidence on FDI and development and explore some of the causes for this ambiguity.

Findings

The complexities of global value chains and networks have begun to trivialise the simplistic principle that increased multinational enterprise (MNE) activity automatically implies a proportional increase in spillovers and linkages.

Value/originality

Policies towards MNEs need to be closely linked and integrated with industrial policy. MNE activity needs to be evaluated by considering the kinds of externalities that are generated; whether and how domestic actors can internalise them, and building up absorptive capacities to achieve this.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate that sound, mainstream international business (IB) thinking should be applied when assessing the economic opportunities available to multinational enterprises (MNEs) in Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) markets.

Design/methodology/approach

We describe and evaluate critically the key points made in the BOP literature about the alleged attractiveness of BOP markets, and the alleged strengths of MNEs to penetrate these markets successfully. We revisit the managerial implications from the BOP literature using an internalization theory lens.

Findings

We demonstrate the weak conceptual grounding of conventional BOP thinking, which suggests that MNEs from developed economies should be very entrepreneurial and should systematically serve BOP markets with new products and business models. We also show the fallacy of the idea that a “success template” in one BOP market would be easily replicable in other BOP markets and would allow the MNE to earn economies of scale and scope.

Research implications

IB researchers should start conducting serious studies on the attractiveness of BOP markets for MNEs. They should also analyze seriously the micro-foundations of successful knowledge recombination in BOP markets and the limits to the transferability of success templates. Mainstream IB theory, namely internalization theory, is particularly well equipped to analyze the costs and benefits of entering BOP markets, building upon a comparative institutional logic.

Practical implications

Senior MNE managers should not allow themselves to be blinded by BOP gurus, advocating the alleged great benefits of penetrating BOP markets. BOP markets may be especially challenging international expansion targets for MNEs because of large institutional voids, high uncertainty, high “distance” vis-à-vis the home country market and the difficulties of transferring relevant knowledge from one BOP market to another.

Originality/value

This chapter is the first to show that mainstream IB research can be usefully applied to analyze the “real” attractiveness of BOP markets for MNEs. Comparative institutional analysis is proven to provide substantially more insight to make BOP market penetration work than past guru-talk on BOP markets.

Purpose

After some years in which industrial policy was frowned upon, it is now widely considered to be a legitimate arena for policy formulation. The danger is that policymakers will seek to return to previously implemented policies. However many elements of this historic policy agenda are not replicable because of changes in global governance regulations. But changing framing conditions in the global economy also mean that the historic agenda is no longer optimal.

Methodology/approach

This chapter discusses four disruptive structural changes which affect the industrial policy agenda – the changing manufactures-commodities terms of trade, the centrality of global value chains in world industrial production, the growth of environmental externalities which affect growth and development, and the need to develop more inclusive patterns of growth.

Findings

The key findings are that there is scope for industrial policies to successfully confront these challenges, but that this will be contextual and may require a mix of policies designed to meet multiple objectives.

Value/originality

Significantly, industrial policy should be seen as a process aligning the operations of key stakeholders and subject to change as conditions alter, rather than as an industrial policy roadmap of the sort which frequently characterised policy in the past.

Purpose

To identify points of similarity and differences of emphasis between internalisation theory and global value chain (GVC) theory and to highlight how the latter’s particular approach is useful in analysing the impact of private sustainability standards.

Methodology

Review of some key texts and reviews of internalisation theory combined with author’s reflections on GVC theory based on his contributions to its development.

Findings

GVC theory shares much common ground with the internalisation theory of international business, but their different starting points lead to different strengths and weaknesses. Internalisation theory is strong on the logic of decisions by transnational companies to internalise or externalise their activities. GVC theory is strongest in its consideration of how and why companies manage externalised activities in different ways, and its theory of network governance focuses on how governance challenges change in response to market requirements, shifts in the break point between enterprises, the role of codification in simplifying governance and the control of activities across multiple links in value chains. These factors explain how private and public–private standards in the field of sustainability are both a response to new external demands on value chains and, simultaneously, a means of reducing the complexity of governance challenges that such demands create.

Originality and value

Few attempts have been made to compare the two theories, and value chain theorists have not engaged with the international business literature. The chapter highlights the scope for a continuing and more systematic comparison of the two literatures.

Purpose

The sustainability performance of multinational enterprises (MNEs) is often judged from their participation in distinct sustainability standards initiatives. But MNEs interact with a variety of sustainability standards in their value chains. This chapter proposes a partnering-intensity continuum to categorize the MNE–standards interactions to explore the benefits of a more firm-based approach for the assessment of MNEs’ contributions to sustainability.

Methodology/approach

The chapter describes standardization in coffee and biofuels industries and presents the case of a single firm to compose a continuum that reflects how MNEs move between standards attached to operations of single firms, bilateral arrangements with certification schemes, and multistakeholder partnerships. It elaborates this observed continuum by linking international business (IB) literature with the literature on global value chains (GVCs) and partnerships.

Findings

Choices about how to partner in and how to handle control over the implementation of standards shape the contributions MNEs make to sustainable development. Specifying how MNEs interact with different standards, with varying degrees of partnering and combined logics, is proposed as a better way to assess how MNEs contribute to sustainable development compared to evaluating standards per se.

Originality/value

This chapter draws attention to the phenomenon that international “lead firms” engage with a variety of standards. The chapter proposes that looking at partnering intensity and the subsequent level of influence over the implementation of standards enables assessing how and to what extent lead firms contribute to addressing sustainability problems.

Purpose

This chapter develops a novel conceptualization of corporate social irresponsibility (CSI) and identifies possible avenues for further research in the international business (IB) and related fields.

Design/methodology/approach

A conceptual chapter examining the existing definitions of CSI and proposing a classification of irresponsible behaviours using an international law approach.

Findings

The concept of CSI has been weakly conceptualized and measured so far. We improve this by distinguishing between unethical conduct bearing no direct impact on human rights and those behaviours that do entail a human rights impact. Next, we classify human rights abuses in two categories based on whether they entail the violation of a derogable or a non-derogable human right. Finally, we make a distinction between direct and indirect irresponsible actions. These distinctions are also illustrated empirically.

Originality/value

This chapter bridges the gap between IB, management and international law research on human rights or else defined irresponsible behaviours. Our novel conceptualization of CSI can help to better address unanswered questions about factors driving CSI in IB firms.

Purpose

This chapter addresses the research question of whether multinational enterprise (MNE) lobbying can contribute to sustainable development.

Methodology/approach

It presents the results of two case studies, from different perspectives, whose results strengthen and complement each other. Both studies use interviews as their main source of data within triangulation, and both adopt iterative processes for their analyses: one uses data coding, the other takes a narrative approach.

Findings

The findings suggest that whilst companies see both costs and opportunities in environmental regulations, this is not perceived by their policy-making counterparts. Furthermore, company-internal communication suggests that lobbying and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are not joined up, which leads to mixed (external) messages sent from the company to policy-makers and the public.

Research limitations

The chapter focuses on one industry (automobiles) in one host country setting (EU).

Practical implications

Policy-makers, as well as companies that want to contribute to sustainability, could usefully adopt the concept of internalising external costs as a minimum proxy for sustainability. Companies that wish to promote sustainable development, or even wish to act in a consistent manner, might usefully examine their assumptions about the political process. This is particularly the case with MNEs as they operate in numerous jurisdictions.

Originality/value

The chapter integrates the MNE literature and the literature on international business (IB)–government interactions. The findings underline the importance of addressing both environmental issues and the relationships between policy-makers and MNEs, an area that can be further developed by extending the scope of the study to other industries in further research.

Purpose

This chapter presents an exploratory study aiming at understanding how the largest multinational enterprises (MNEs) engage small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their (inclusive) business strategies, either as suppliers, distributors, customers, innovators or as a target of their (Corporate Social Responsibility) CSR policies.

Methodology/approach

We explore the implicit or explicit strategies of 100 largest companies in the world towards SMEs as mentioned in their annual and CSR reports. This approach takes in particular stock of the ‘narratives’ developed by MNEs as an expression of their intended and (perceived) realised strategies.

Findings

The analysis of company statements show a country of origin effect in that European firms are clearly amongst the leaders in experimenting with inclusive business strategies that include SMEs. However, their number still remains limited. Sectors like banking and retail have developed the most interesting examples that are also spread over a large number of functions.

Originality and value

Although the results are not yet very radical, the developed taxonomy for the different types of approaches in which MNEs take a more or less active position towards SMES provides material for further studies. It can be applied in studying leading (better-practice) cases in order to help policy makers and business strategists to develop better business models for inclusive growth.

Purpose

This chapter revisits the paper by Yamin and Sinkovics (2009) on the paradoxical relationship between MNE current strategies and economic development. There is evidence that positive developmental impacts of FDI flows are conditional on high levels of human capital and thus on the existence of ‘good’ infrastructure in recipient countries.

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter makes a conceptual contribution and critically evaluates the key points made in the Yamin and Sinkovics (2009) paper.

Findings

The build-up of infrastructure and enhancement of domestic capabilities are important underpinnings of sustainable development. ‘Good’ infrastructure, especially basic social infrastructure, is the rock on which otherwise marginalised individuals, groups and country governments can build capabilities.

Research implications

The chapter draws attention to the ‘prisoner dilemma’ nature of the relationship between MNEs and host governments. Dominant MNE strategies in LDCs create a low payoff for both parties. To proceed towards mutually beneficial outcomes in the MNE–LDC relationship, credible and sustained co-operation between the parties are necessary. Research in the area of mutual value creation has only just emerged in the domain of IB.

Practical implications

Progressing towards ‘sustainability’ requires that MNE managers are advised to develop a global capability in ‘social embeddedness’. LDCs have great potential of becoming strategic markets and important sites for new product and service development. To pursue these opportunities requires credible and sustained commitment to mutual value creation.

Originality/value

This chapter shows that the relationship between MNE strategies and economic development is a contested one. The paper by Yamin and Sinkovics (2009) was one of the first in the domain of IB to suggest that developmental impacts of FDI are contingent on the existence of good infrastructure in recipient countries.

Purpose

Moving beyond the question of whether large corporations are truly addressing sustainability, some scholars have explored the degree to which CSR activities are purely symbolic or substantive in nature. Most of the studies have focused on external stakeholder pressures. The aim of this chapter is to extend this line of inquiry by theorizing that the dynamics among internal stakeholders also shapes CSR conduct.

Design/methodology/approach

This theoretical contribution borrows from research on socially responsible indices, behavioral corporate governance theory in CSR and from recent research that has leveraged attribution theory to better understand reactions to corporate social irresponsibility (CSiR).

Findings

Our chapter proposes that firms adhering to substantive CSR practice are less likely to be punished by external stakeholders than otherwise. From an internal stakeholder viewpoint, it suggests there is a positive relationship between the number of board ties to reputable universities/nonprofit organizations and substantive CSR practices; and a negative relationship between managerial discretion and substantive CSR practices.

Social implications

This chapter can have social applicability as it deals with stakeholders’ role in pressuring the modern organization to engage in substantive CSR.

Originality/value

As aforementioned, most studies explore the relationship between CSR compliance and external stakeholder pressures. In contrast, the relationship between internal stakeholder dynamics and CSR compliances is still not well understood. Hence, the incorporating of these dynamics provides theoretical insights for the CSR, sustainability, and corporate governance arenas.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to examine how a multinational enterprise (MNE) makes sense of the ‘wicked problem’ of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Design/methodology/approach

We analyse the single case of an acknowledged leader in CSR, Unilever. We undertake an interpretive textual analysis of how Unilever has accounted for its progress towards greater social and environmental responsibility in its annual social and environmental reports published between 2000 and 2012.

Findings

We identify enduring themes as well as what has changed in this 12-year period. We conclude that while Unilever has made definite progress, becoming more confident and ambitious in its plans and achievements, it potentially runs the risk of reducing CSR to a ‘tame problem’ that can be solved through technical solutions that offer win-win solutions and do not challenge the economic theory of the firm.

Research implications

We show the value of using the perspective of ‘wicked problems’ to understand the complexity of the CSR challenge facing the MNE.

Practical implications

We suggest that the current approach of measuring CSR progress has limitations and potentially negative side effects.

Originality/value

Our chapter offers a novel conceptualisation of CSR, as well as empirical evidence of CSR as a process of corporate sensemaking in the face of ‘wicked problems’.

Purpose

This chapter analyses the multiple embeddedness of MNEs, and their participation in solving contemporary societal issues. We aim to increase understanding on the relational processes and network dynamics present in MNEs’ participation in cross-sector partnerships.

Design/methodology/approach

Our study addresses the issue of the poor ecological state of the Baltic Sea and illustrates the early developments in cross-sector collaboration. We build on a single exploratory case study of the cooperation of one MNE (IBM) with an environmental NGO (BSAG) in Finland. We analyse how participation in the cross-sector collaboration manifests itself in the external and internal networks of the MNE.

Findings

We show that an initiative by the NGO to participate in environmental work was actively adopted within the MNE and led to network changes. These changes concerned both the activation of existing links and the establishment of new links with such actors as authorities and research institutes. The NGO acted as a catalyser and cultural mediator to create a bridge between the MNE and governmental actors.

Research implications

There is a need to investigate cross-sector collaboration in other contexts – particularly from the perspective of MNEs and (international) business networks. Questions such as how do enduring (business and socio-political) relationships emerge from MNE’s participation in issue networks and how technology that has been developed to solve a specific societal issue may be translated into commercial solutions are especially promising. We also urge scholars to investigate the ties, texture and dynamics (including tensions) of business relationships with those of public actors and civil society.

Practical implications

Participation in cross-sector initiatives may grant an MNE a forerunner position in the creation of new sustainable markets and technologies. It may also create an opportunity to influence policymakers and build new socio-political networks. From the perspective of a subsidiary of an MNE, engagement with cross-sector partnerships may strengthen its voice within the MNE network.

Originality/value

Our study contributes to the understanding of the relationship dynamics between actors in cross-sector collaboration around a societal (environmental) issue. Our analysis illustrates the embeddedness of MNE networks, where actions in the regional and global networks (the representatives of the headquarters) overlap with and strengthen the local actions of the subsidiary.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to analyse the role of the clean development mechanism (CDM) established by the Kyoto Protocol in channelling foreign technology to China. Appraising the experience of CDM remains of key importance when drawing lessons for the post-2012 climate regime.

Methodology/approach

Descriptive analysis of the sources and the determinants of foreign technology transfer based on the examination of 1,355 registered projects. Econometric analysis of the probability of having a foreign supplier of technology in any project.

Findings

The prominence of German firms as technology providers and the absence of a strong relationship between technology suppliers and credit buyers. The econometric analysis finds that project size and cost, project location, credit buyers’ and consultants’ characteristics, as well as technology diffusion are all relevant factors in determining the probability of having a foreign supplier of technology.

Research implications

China is a particularly interesting case for analysing technology transfer in CDM projects since, after a slow start, the country has become the largest and most dynamic CDM recipient worldwide. Furthermore, the analysis of CDM projects may offer some insights into the complex web of technological links between Chinese and foreign firms.

Practical implications

The transfer of emission-saving technologies to developing countries is expected to play a major role in addressing environmental problems worldwide.

Originality/value

This study analyses the sources and determinants of international technology transfer in CDM projects in China, and offers some insights into how the characteristics of the major players and the links between them affect this phenomenon.

Purpose

This chapter analyses the how, who, where and why of rapid rise in intra-regional investment by companies from ASEAN since 2009.

Methodology/approach

The chapter analyses the push and pull factors of intra-regional investment in ASEAN, the resulting patterns of foreign direct investment (FDI) and the accompanying rise of strong regional players.

Findings

The region’s FDI landscape is changing in terms of investment sources, players, FDI trends and dynamics of the region. This trend is strongly affected by stepped up efforts by ASEAN governments to encourage their national companies to invest in the region and the influence of the ASEAN Economic Community.

Implications

Regional integration and emerging business opportunities are providing an impetus not seen before in driving intra-regional investment. As more ASEAN companies position and prepare for AEC 2015, this intra-regional investment wave is likely to gather force.

Originality/value

The chapter lists the regional and global ‘footprint’ of the top 50 largest ASEAN companies by revenues. The thus identified companies include companies operating in oil and gas, mining, agri-business, telecommunications, food and beverages, manufacturing, banking, power generation, infrastructure, real estate and healthcare services

Purpose

This chapter seeks to understand the emergence of new institutions of business regulation, standard-setting and governance commonly referred to as multistakeholder initiatives (MSIs), and to consider their implications both from the perspective of regulatory effectiveness and sustainable development.

Methodology/approach

The analysis synthesizes the findings of a review of 20 such initiatives. It draws on a wide body of literatures and conceptual insights to understand the emergence of these new approaches to international business regulation. The assessment of their emergence, performance, and impacts highlights the complex dynamics of regulatory change.

Findings

The findings caution against simple generalizations about the positive or negative outcomes of these new forms of collaborative governance. Their somewhat mixed record can be partly explained by the diverse set of interests, preferences, and agendas of the actors involved; variations in institutional learning, capacities, and power relations; as well as how such initiatives are nested in broader institutions and structures. This points to the need, raised in the conclusion, for intellectual pluralism in advancing knowledge of the effectiveness of new regulatory institutions.

Originality and value

The analysis aims to go beyond studies that (i) tend to focus on just one or a few cases; (ii) that ignore the implications of such initiatives for development in the Global South; and (iii) draw on narrow bodies of theory and literature to understand complex issues.

Cover of International Business and Sustainable Development
DOI
10.1108/S1745-8862(2013)8
Publication date
2014-01-04
Book series
Progress in International Business Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78190-989-8
eISBN
978-1-78190-990-4
Book series ISSN
1745-8862