Report from the Research Frontier

Report from the Research Frontier

New sustainability research offers guidance on big data, corporate political action, and sharing economy strategy.
NBS November 17, 2018
Every month, academic researchers publish hundreds of articles on business sustainability. Here are the highlights of a few articles at the frontier of sustainability. 

Big Data Poses Challenges for Sustainability

Big data can be used to make operations more sustainable. Charles Corbett (UCLA Anderson School of Management) focuses on ways that big data can pose challenges to sustainability. His review identifies challenges related to:
Government and other elements of society should address these challenges through governance mechanisms, ownership structures, and other approaches — before big data grow even larger.                                                                                                      
Article: Corbett, C. 2018. How Sustainable Is Big Data? Production and Operations Management, 27(9), 1685 -1695.

Sharing Economy Firms Need Different Strategies to Succeed in Different Places

“Sharing economy” firms such as Uber and Airbnb are trying to gain market share internationally. Bilgehan Uzunca (Utrecht University) and colleagues report that Uber’s strategy for entering new countries is disruptive and defiant; the company makes little effort to accommodate local rules and expectations. AirbnB, by contrast, takes a relational and gradual approach, cooperating with governments to set rules.
 
The effectiveness of these different strategies depends on whether the country has strong institutions (e.g. effective government and NGOs). In countries with strong institutions, AirBnB’s approach has been more effective than Uber’s. For example, in the Netherlands, Uber experienced so much government opposition that it had to abandon its disruptive strategy. 
 
But in developing countries, with weaker institutions, Uber’s independent approach can work better. In Egypt, for example, Uber has filled voids left by the government, specifically around transportation safety. By contrast, AirBnB’s more passive approach hasn’t led to strong market share in Egypt. 
 
Article: Uzunca, B., Rigtering, J.P., & Ozcan, P. 2018. Sharing and shaping: A cross-country comparison of how sharing economy firms shape their institutional environment to gain legitimacy. Academy of Management Discoveries, 4(3), 248-272.

Corporate Political Involvement is Part of Sustainability Impact

Many companies have taken meaningful steps to improve their own environmental performance. But while corporate political actions such as lobbying can have a greater impact on environmental quality, they are ignored in most current sustainability metrics. Tom Lyon (University of Michigan) and his co-authors argue that sustainability metrics should be expanded to critically assess firms based on the sustainability impacts of their public policy positions. 
 
To enable such assessments, firms must become “as transparent about their corporate political responsibility (CPR) as their corporate social responsibility (CSR),” the authors write. In turn, rating systems should demand such information from firms and include evaluations of corporate political activity in their assessments of corporate environmental responsibility.
             
Lyon, T.P, Delmas, M.A., Maxwell, J.W., Bansal, P., Chiroleu-Assouline, M., Crifo., P., Durand, R., Gond, J-P., King, A.A., Lenox, M., Toffel, M.W., Vogel, D.J., & Wijen, F. 2018. CSR Needs CPR: Corporate Sustainability and Politics. California Management Review, 60(4), 5-24         
 
Thanks to the advisors who selected these articles: Wren Montgomery and Tima Bansal (Ivey Business School) and Tom Lyon (University of Michigan). 

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