Research Impact on Practice Award Winners

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The Research Impact on Practice Award recognizes contemporary, peer-reviewed research that has important implications for practice.

Research can make a difference in the world. The Network for Business Sustainability recognizes such research with the annual Research Impact on Practice Award, co-sponsored with the Academy of Management’s Organizations and the Natural Environment (ONE) Division. Award funds are provided by the Beryl M. Ivey Fund for Corporate Social Responsibility.

2021 Award

Winner: Meital Rosenberg, Daniel Erian Armanios, Michaël Aklin & Paulina Jaramillo

The Sustainable Development Goals represent the world’s priorities for sustainable development. But as we pursue technically-oriented goals, like energy access (SDG7), we need to explicitly consider gender equality (SDG5) – or women may be left behind.

That’s the conclusion of a research team led by Meital Rosenberg, which studied household appliance use by gender across six Indian states. While many expect that women will benefit from increased electricity access, the researchers found that women’s relative lack of status in households limits their energy access. Electricity is more likely to go to appliances used by men, such as TVs and non-kitchen fans.

The lesson: Consider linkages between the different SDGs, instead of analyzing or addressing them in isolation. And, recognize the persistent nature of gender inequity. In these researchers’ survey analysis, the main decision-maker for 78% of households was male, indicating the power imbalances present. Policymakers need to move thoughtfully in addressing these and similar challenges.

Rosenberg, M., Armanios, D.E., Aklin, M., & Jaramillo, P. 2020. Evidence of gender inequality in energy use from a mixed methods study in India. Nature Sustainability, 3(2): 110-118

2020 Award

Winner: Wren Montgomery and Tina Dacin

Our societies rest on “institutions”: established organizations, rules, and behaviors. These institutions include education, health care, and even democracy.

Even long-standing institutions can become neglected and decline. Researchers Wren Montgomery and Tina Dacin studied how one institution — the water supply in Detroit, Michigan — decayed, and how diverse actors worked to strengthen it.

The lesson for business: “No single action or actor can renew a large institution on their own,” the authors explained. Different groups, with different abilities, are needed to address complex challenges.

It’s easy to assume that institutions will always be there, Montgomery told NBS. In Detroit, the water infrastructure and water were taken for granted.  But institutions and nature itself require ongoing attention.

Montgomery, A.W., & Dacin, M.T. 2019. Water wars in Detroit: Custodianship and the work of institutional renewal. Academy of Management Journal.



Runner-Up: Caroline Flammer, Bryan Hong, and Dylan Minor

When executives are rewarded for corporate sustainability performance, everybody wins.

“CSR contracting,” or “pay for social and environmental performance,” links executive compensation to sustainability metrics. For example, since 2008, Intel has “linked a portion of our executive compensation to corporate responsibility factors in our Annual Performance Bonus” (2019 report).

This approach to executive compensation improves companies’ social, environmental, and financial performance, report researchers Caroline Flammer (Boston University), Brian Hong (NYU), and Dylan Minor (UCLA). Studying S&P 500 companies from 2004 – 2013, they found that CSR contracting increased firm value, social and environmental initiatives, and green innovations; and reduced emissions.

“This is a new lever in executive compensation that boards of directors can use to influence managerial incentives,” the researchers write. It’s already taking off, with 37% of S&P firms adopting CSR contracting by 2013.

Flammer, C., Hong, B., & Minor, D. 2019. Corporate governance and the rise of integrating corporate social responsibility criteria in executive compensation: Effectiveness and implications for firm outcomes. Strategic Management Journal, 40(7): 1097-1122.

2019 Award

Winner: Sukhbir Sandhu & Carol Kulik

Many organizations are hiring sustainability managers for the first time. These managers — and these organizations — are trailblazers, building a new and important position.

Researchers Sukhbir Sandhu and Carol Kulik studied 21 companies that had recent established a sustainability manager position. Their insight: organizations need to carefully balance structure and freedom in the role. Too much structure stifles creativity and innovation. Too much freedom leads to ambiguity and chaos.

They describe what the balance looks like, and how organizations can move toward it. These practical, deeply researched insights have been highlighted in Harvard Business Review and the London School of Economics Business Review. They’ve also received scholarly attention: the original journal article has been downloaded 1648 times since it appeared online in May 2018.

Sandhu, S., & Kulik, C.T. 2018. Shaping and being shaped: How organizational structure and managerial discretion co-evolve in new managerial roles. Administrative Science Quarterly, 64(3), 619-658.



2018 Award

Winner: Tom Lawrence

Across the world, people face similar challenges, such as drug abuse, pollution, and inequality. Can we benefit from similar solutions? Can an innovative response that worked in one place take off in another?

Researcher Tom Lawrence set out to see how a controversial idea that worked in one location might get traction elsewhere. He found that the path to acceptance can be a rough one, requiring a lot of energy, effort, and time. And the idea changes along the way. Local people need to “translate” an idea – adapt it in ways that make it effective in terms of the local challenge a.

Lawrence, T.B. 2017 High-stakes institutional translation: Establishing North America’s first government-sanctioned supervised injection site. Academy of Management Journal, 60(5): 1771-1800.



Honourable Mention:  Jennifer Howard-Grenville, Andrew J. Nelson, Andrew G. Earle, Julie A. Haack, Douglas M. Young

To address environmental and social challenges, members of professions need to influence their peers and harness their expertise to make change. Insights into this process come from the growth of ‘green chemistry,’ a set of principles aimed at guiding chemists toward safer and greener chemical products and processes. Chemists directly shaped this effort, effectively using multiple frames to appeal to different aspects of the occupation.

Howard-Grenville, J., Nelson, A. J., Earle, A. G., Haack, J. A., & Young, D. M. (2017). “If chemists don’t do it, who is going to?” Peer-driven occupational change and the emergence of green chemistry. Administrative Science Quarterly, 62(3), 524-560.

2017 Award

Winner: Adam Cobb, Tyler Wry, and Eric Zhao

Microfinance organizations (MFOs) operate in almost every country and provide $60-100 billion annually in loans. MFOs, in turn, receive the money they loan out from a variety of funders: both public sector organizations, such as governments and aid agencies, and private capital firms.

Cobb, Wry and Zhao examined what kinds of MFOs different funders favour, especially in unstable conditions. Their findings have direct implications for the health of the microfinance sector – and the people who depend on it.

Cobb, J. A., Wry, T., & Zhao, E. Y. 2016. Funding financial inclusion: Institutional logics and the contextual contingency of funding for microfinance organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 59: 2103-2131.



Honourable Mention: Mark De Rond and Jaco Lok

What explains why some people experience an event as distressing, and others don’t? Studying medics serving in Afghanistan in 2011, de Rond and Lok found that people’s context — their workplace and professional community — affects whether they find experiences to be traumatic.

Many people look to their work for a sense of meaning and purpose. If their work feels senseless or futile, they suffer. The organizations they belong to shape their expectations and can help them make sense of what they see.

de Rond, M., & Lok, J., 2016. Some things can never be unseen: The role of context in psychological injury at war. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6): 1965-1993.



2016 Award

Winner: Ray Paquin, Timo Busch, and Suzanne Tilleman

Paquin and co-authors analyzed a unique national-level industrial symbiosis dataset. They identified ways that industrial symbiosis can create environmental competitive advantage for firms. They also identified the value of industrial symbiosis for policy makers seeking low-carbon industrial development.

Paquin, R., Busch, T., & Tilleman, S. 2015. Creating Economic and Environmental Value through Industrial Symbiosis. Long Range Planning, 48(2): 95-107.


2015 Award

Winner: Omar Asensio & Magali Delmas 

The authors used an information-based strategy to motivate consumer decision making about household energy conservation. Their results, based on a large field experiment, showed that tailored information disclosures about the environmental and health implications of household electricity use can be very meaningful to residential customers and lead to more lasting behavioral effects, compared to framing based on cost savings.

Asensio, O., & Delmas, M. 2015. The dynamics of behavior change: Evidence from energy conservation. Paper submitted to 2015 Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

2014 Award

Winner: Lamar Pierce & Michael Toffel

The researchers studied the conditions under which auditors provide more or less stringent audits. As many auditing firms “cross sell” additional services such as consulting, Pierce and Toffel found that auditors are more lenient when auditing customers who buy their other services.

For more stringent auditing, choose a firm solely focused on auditing. Compared to independent firms, franchises and subsidiaries also tend to be more trustworthy auditors because they are subject to monitoring by corporate headquarters, and so have stronger incentives to audit stringently.

Pierce, L., & Toffel, M. 2013. The role of governance and scope in strengthening private monitoring, Organization Science, 24(5): 1558-1584.



Honourable Mention: Elke Schüssler, Charles-Clemens Rüling, and Bettina Wittneben

These researchers studied how to advance climate negotiations. United Nations climate conferences have become huge and chaotic, the researchers report, with more emphasis on networking than policy development. For policy action, the researchers recommend streamlining negotiations in terms of actors and issues.

Schussler, E., Rüling, C.C., & Wittneben, B. 2014. On melting summits: The limitations of field-configuring events as catalysts of change in transnational climate policy. Academy of Management Journal, 57, 140-171

Honourable Mention: Joern Hoppman, Michael Peters, Malte Schneider, and Volker H. Hoffman

Clean energy firms balance their efforts between developing innovative technologies (“exploration”) and bringing them to market (“exploitation”). The researchers studied how government policies intended to support clean energy affect that balance. From their study, they derive recommendations for how to design energy policies to support both goals.

Hoppmann J., Peters M., Schneider M., Hoffmann V.H. 2013 The two faces of market support – How deployment policies affect technological exploration and exploitation in the solar photovoltaic industry. Research Policy, 42(4), 989-1003.


2013 Award

Winner: Magali Delmas & Sanja Pekovic

Delmas and Pekovic found an astounding 16 per cent boost in employee productivity in firms that had voluntarily adopted sustainable practices, specifically Environmental Management Systems (EMS). EMS are associated with high productivity because they result in more employee training and connections across the company.


Honourable Mention: Lianne Lefsrud and Renate Meyer

Nearly 100 per cent of professionals in Canada’s oil and gas industry agree that the climate is changing — but disagree on cause and required actions. In a study of 1000 engineers and geologists, many working on Canada’s oil sands, Lefsrud and Mayer identified a range of perspectives — and a potential way to unify them. They argue that everyone can agree that climate change is a risk to be managed.

Honourable Mention: Stefanie Hille and Rolf Wuestenhagen

Eco-labels need to be simple for customers to understand. Hille and Wuestenhagen studied a proposal to change European Union energy efficiency labels from a seven-point A-G rating scale by adding new classes: A+, A++ and A+++. They found that the proposed changes led consumers to switch away from energy-efficient products.

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