2016 Ivey Sustainability Conference Plenary Talk

Today, I participated in the 2016 Ivey Sustainability Conference. This one-day event was organized by Diane-Laure Arjalies, Oana Branzei, and Tima Bansal (all from Ivey Business School). Other invited faculty included Fabrizio Ferraro (IESE Business School) and Donal Crilly (London Business School). The day concluded with a plenary session: “The Future of Research on Sustainability in Management.” Donal, Fabrizio, and I were each asked to submit a picture that captured our answers to five questions:

  1. What do you think is the current position of sustainability in the management research landscape?
  2. What do you believe are the current trends in research on sustainability?
  3. Which areas/methods/topics do you think will be topical in the coming decade?
  4. What would you personally like to see in 10 years?
  5. Where do you see yourself as an academic in 15 years?

Below are the slides I prepared.

2016 Ivey Sustainability Conference

Today, I gave an invited talk at the 2016 Ivey Sustainability Conference. This one-day event was organized by Diane-Laure Arjalies, Oana Branzei, and Tima Bansal (all from Ivey Business School). Other invited faculty included Fabrizio Ferraro (IESE Business School) and Donal Crilly (London Business School). Several students, post doctoral research fellows, and faculty from Ivey Business School also made presentations. In addition to participating in the closing plenary on “The Future of Research on Sustainability in Management,” I presented research I have been conducting with Matthew Grimes (Indiana University) on Certified B Corporations.

Below are the slides from my talk.

Hydraulic Fracturing, Newspaper Coverage, and Social License to Operate

We have been hard at work transforming research originally prepared for our report for Canadian Water Network into a series of interdisciplinary peer-reviewed publications. The first of what we hope will be a trilogy of articles was published today in the open access journal Sustainability. The article — “Comparative Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Practices in Unconventional Shale Development: Newspaper Coverage of Stakeholder Concerns and Social License to Operate” — was co-authored by an interdisciplinary team, including Joel Gehman (professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Strategic Management & Organization), Dara Y. Thompson (former M.Sc. student at the University of Alberta, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology), Daniel S. Alessi (professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences), Diana M. Allen (professor at Simon Fraser University, Department of Earth Sciences), Greg G. Goss (professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences).

The starting point for the overall project was the conceptualization of the hydraulic fracturing wastewater context as comprised of three potentially interrelated spheres of action (Figure 1). By delineating between operator practices, regulatory requirements, and stakeholder concerns, our goal was to better understand the extent to which these different spheres affected one another, if at all. In essence, we conceptualized the hydraulic fracturing wastewater context as a dynamic process in which any one sphere has the potential to influence the other two. Relative to the overall conceptual framework, this article focuses on one of these spheres specifically: stakeholder concerns.

Figure 1. Conceptualization of the hydraulic fracturing wastewater context.

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2016 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award

On Earth Day, April 22, 2016, I was humbled to receive the University of Alberta’s 2016 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award, even more so after learning I was nominated by one of my former MBA students. First bestowed in 2012, the award recognizes a student or staff member who shows dedication, impact, and leadership in integrating sustainability into teaching and learning. I am the first faculty member to receive the award.

 

Tradeoffs in Sustainability-Oriented Innovations

Today, our article on intertemporal tradeoffs in sustainability-oriented innovations was published in the MIT Sloan Management Review as part of its series on Sustainability-Oriented Innovation. Co-authored by Tima Bansal, Hadi Chapardar, and Joel Gehman, the original story is available here: Tradeoffs in Sustainability-Oriented Innovations.

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Tackling the World’s Biggest Problems With Robust Action

Today, IESE Insight published a managerial summary of our Organization Studies article “Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited.” The summary is available here: Tackling the World’s Biggest Problems With Robust Action.

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Grand Challenges and Robust Action

My latest paper — Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited — is now available online. Co-authored with Fabrizio Ferraro (IESE Business School in Barcelona) and Dror Etzion (McGill University in Montreal), in the paper we theorize a novel approach to addressing the world’s grand challenges based on the philosophical tradition of American pragmatism and the sociological concept of robust action. Grounded in prior empirical organizational research, we identify three robust strategies that organizations can employ in tackling issues such as climate change and poverty alleviation: participatory architecture, multivocal inscriptions and distributed experimentation. We demonstrate how these strategies operate, the manner in which they are linked, the outcomes they generate, and why they are applicable for resolving grand challenges. We conclude by discussing our contributions to research on robust action and grand challenges, as well as some implications for research on stakeholder theory, institutional theory and theories of valuation.

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Risk, Sustainability and Oil Sands

I was recently invited to to give a talk on risk and sustainability at the CSPG-AAPG Oil Sands and Heavy Oil Symposium: A Local to Global Multidisciplinary Collaboration. The symposium is being jointly sponsored by the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG) and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the two predominant petroleum geology organizations in North America. It will be held in Calgary at the Metropolitan Centre on October 14-16, 2014.

According to the organizers, the conference is expected to attract 500 geologists from Canada and the U.S., plus representatives from other heavy oil producers in China, Venezuela, and Russia. The topics of discussion will include the international nature of oil sands and heavy oil resources, the geology and characterization of producing deposits, technological advances, and sustainability.

My talk will be part of a session on regulatory and sustainability issues, being co-chaired by Kevin Parks and Travis Hurst. I’ll be speaking on work that I have been doing with Michael Lounsbury, Lianne Lefsrud, and Chang Lu that looks at multiple perspectives on risk, with a particular emphasis on cross cultural understandings of risk. Our analysis finds that technical, financial and perceptual understandings of risk are seldom sufficient to explain how societies decide what is risky, what is safe, and whether and how to proceed.

Update: A copy of my presentation is below. Additionally, a short companion paper is available through SSRN.

Sustainability and the AACSB

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits business schools around the world. As of December 2013, 687 schools were AACSB accredited in 45 countries and territories (or less than 5% of the estimated number of schools offering business degrees worldwide).

Recently I was perusing the AACSB’s Business Standards, which are the basis for business school accreditation, and was surprised at the extent to which sustainability and related themes (e.g., corporate social responsibility) are an integral to the revisions adopted in 2013, from the opening paragraph of the document, through to the AACSB’s three core values and guiding principles, and into its expectations regarding undergraduate educational content. Below are some excerpts:

From the Preamble:

The business environment is undergoing profound changes, spurred by powerful demographic shifts, global economic forces, and emerging technologies. At the same time, society is increasingly demanding that companies become more accountable for their actions, exhibit a greater sense of social responsibility, and embrace more sustainable practices. These trends send a strong signal that what business needs today is much different from what it needed yesterday or will need tomorrow.

From Part 1: Core Values and Guiding Principles:

The following three criteria represent core values of AACSB. There is no uniform measure for deciding whether each criterion has been met. Rather, the school must demonstrate that it has an ongoing commitment to pursue the spirit and intent of each criterion consistent with its mission and context.

A. The school must encourage and support ethical behavior by students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff. [ETHICAL BEHAVIOR]

B. The school maintains a collegiate environment in which students, faculty, administrators, professional staff, and practitioners interact and collaborate in support of learning, scholarship, and community engagement. [COLLEGIATE ENVIRONMENT]

C. The school must demonstrate a commitment to address, engage, and respond to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues (e.g., diversity,  sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and globalization of economic activity across cultures) through its policies, procedures, curricula, research, and/or outreach activities. [COMMITMENT TO CORPORATE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY]

 Diversity, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and other emerging corporate and social responsibility issues are important and require responses from business schools and business students.

 The school fosters sensitivity to, as well as awareness and understanding of, diverse viewpoints among participants related to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues.

Guidance for Documentation

 Demonstrate that the school addresses current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues through its own activities, through collaborations with other units within its institution, and/or through partnerships with external constituencies

From Standard 9: Curriculum content is appropriate to general expectations for the degree program type and learning goals. [CURRICULUM CONTENT]

Curriculum content refers to theories, ideas, concepts, skills, knowledge, etc., that make up a degree program. Content is not the same as learning goals. Learning goals describe the knowledge and skills students should develop in a program and set expectations for what students should do with the knowledge and skills after completing a program. Not all content areas need to be included as learning goals.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs and Higher

General Business and Management Knowledge Areas

 Economic, political, regulatory, legal, technological, and social contexts of organizations in a global society

 Social responsibility, including sustainability, and ethical behavior and approaches to management

In sum, sustainability and related themes are now apparently integral to the AACSB business school accreditation process. Given the disciplinary power of ratings agencies, it will be interesting to see whether and how business schools respond.

2013 Emerald Best International Dissertation Award Finalists

My dissertation– Sustainability by Dissociation: Categorization, Divestitures, and Organizational Boundaries — was selected as a finalist by the Academy of Management International Theme Committee (ITC) for the 2013 Emerald Best International Dissertation Award. The 2013 selection committee consisted of David Patient (Chair); Anders Dysvik, Norwegian Business School; Sébastien Mena, University of Alberta; and Radha R. Sharma, Management Development Institute. The winner will be announced at the Carolyn Dexter Award Reception on Sunday, August 11, 2013.