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Exploring the institutional embeddedness of corporate stakeholding and social responsibility : a comparative political economy perspective

By Kenneth Amaeshi

Abstract

This research study contributes to emergent interests in both academic and professional literature to uncover variations of corporate social responsibility practices across national institutional contexts by focusing on stakeholder salience as a precursor to corporate social responsibility and its ancillary constructs and practices - e. g. corporate governance and accountability. The stakeholder groups considered in the study are: (1) Employees, (2) Networks, (e. g. alliances/partnerships and suppliers), (3) Shareholders, (4) Environment, (5) Community, (6) Consumers and (7) Management. Stakeholder salience, as used in the study, in a nutshell refers to the importance accorded to any of these particular stakeholder groups by firms.\ud The study complements the managerialist theorisation of corporate stakeholder salience, which has hitherto dominated the extant stakeholder management literature, by leveraging the institutionalist theoretical lens. It draws specifically from the varieties of capitalism model to examine how corporate stakeholder salience patterns are not only products of managerial strategic choices, but are also reflections of the institutional contexts in which they are embedded and enacted. To do this, the study focuses on a specific population of firms - i.e. Fortune Global 500 firms - across two national institutional contexts (UK and Germany) and three sectoral contexts (Aviation, Financial Services and Utilities). This yielded a total of 73 firms (37 UK and 35 German firms). It particularly tracks the manifestations of stakeholder salience in corporate social reports, produced by these firms, as artefacts of organisational communication, accountability and legitimacy. The study is longitudinal (2000 - 2006) in order to capture the dynamics of corporate stakeholder salience patterns in the two institutional contexts over time.\ud Empirical data are extracted using the content analytical methodology focusing on such disclosure media as texts, graphics and photographs. In all, the corporate social reports of the firms used in this study from 2000 to 2006 - which amounted to a total of three thousand eight hundred and twenty two pages of report (3,822) - generated a cumulative total of two thousand nine hundred and eighty six (2,986) images, one thousand eight hundred and thirty three (1,833) graphics, and one hundred and twenty five (125) pages of Chairman (management) Statements (CS) and eight hundred and seventy two (872) paragraphs of these Chairmen (management) Statements. Data from corporate social reports are triangulated with data from online survey of these Fortune Global 500 firms (61% response rate). The data are analysed using three different but complementary statistical methods: (1) correspondence analysis, (2) Pearson's chi-square statistic and (3) multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA).\ud The results of the study identify recognisable and differentiable patterns of corporate stakeholder salience between the UK and German institutional contexts moderated by sectoral patterns of corporate stakeholding patterns - thereby suggesting that corporate stakeholder salience patterns are implicated in interactions between national institutional characteristics and sectoral attributes. This finding confirms the main proposition of the research study that corporate stakeholder salience patterns are not only outcomes of managerial discretional choices, but that they are also products of their institutional contexts. However, it brings to the fore a different dimension to understanding the impacts of institutional contexts on corporate stakeholder salience patterns and broader corporate social responsibility practices, which have hitherto being under-explored in the literature. This different dimension is the fact that institutional contexts are not necessarily homogenous, as often presented by the varieties of capitalism model, but are outcomes of continuous contestations between heterogeneous local and global influences, sometimes embodied in trans-national spaces exacerbated by either globalisation and or trans-national actors. The study further explores this interaction between heterogeneous local and global influences on corporate stakeholder salience patterns; and later concludes by highlighting possible areas for complementary future research

Topics: HD28
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1114

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