Walking the talk about Corporate Social Responsibility Communications

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by Wiley’s Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility (formerly known as Business Ethics: A European Review).

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2022). Walking the talk about corporate social responsibility communication: An Elaboration Likelihood Model perspective, Business Ethics, the Environment & Responsibility, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/beer.12427

(Source: Camilleri, 2022)

Theoretical implications

This contribution validated the Elaboration Likelihood Model’s (ELM’s) measures and key constructs relating to the Information Adoption Model (IAM). Specifically, this research identified the effects of information relevance, information accuracy, information accuracy, source trustworthiness and source expertise on the individual’ attitudes toward online CSR communications.

The results confirmed that both central as well as peripheral factors (to a lower extent) were having a significant effect on the targeted audiences’ changing attitudes toward corporate communications. In sum, this study indicated that online users appreciated relevant and timely CSR content from trusted sources – that were curated by experts. This finding is conspicuous with relevant theoretical underpinnings on ELM. For instance, Chen and Chang (2018) and even Rawlins (2008) contended that individuals are usually captivated by current, relevant, complete, accurate, reliable, comparable and clear communications.

Relevant academic literature reported that individuals may choose to pursue ELM’s central route, whenever they evaluate the quality of the arguments/information that is communicated to them (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Alternatively, if they are not interested or motivated on the content, they may usually rely on the sources’ credibility to form their attitudes and opinions on their messages. Previous research often utilized ‘source expertise’ and ‘source trustworthiness’ constructs to measure the respondents’ perceptions about the credibility of sources of information.

In this case, this study found that the research participants were more influenced by ELM’s central route processing as information timeliness and information relevance were having nuanced effect on attitudes when compared to the peripheral factors including source expertise. Evidently, the respondents reflected and thought on CSR communications they accessed through the Internet and via social media. This finding implies that the businesses’ elaborated, high-quality content was changing their stakeholders’ attitudes toward CSR information.

Nevertheless, the research model indicated that the participants were somehow affected by peripheral issues, particularly by the source expertise of content curators. Previous literature reported that the recipients of information can still be influenced by the peripheral route’s subjective cues and/or by heuristic inferences (i.e. low elaboration issues). For instance, many individuals are continuously exposed to corporate communications from businesses who have excellent credentials among their followers (Camilleri, 2021a).

The findings from this study revealed that source trustworthiness was the weakest antecedent of the individuals’ attitudes toward CSR communications. This result is similar to previous findings from other studies, where the researchers reported that there were lower effects from peripheral factors like source credibility/source trustworthiness (than from central factors) on information usefulness/attitudes toward information.

This research demonstrated that external stakeholders were mainly processing information relating to the businesses’ CSR activities through the central route, as they considered their communications as elaborate, timely and relevant. However, it also showed that they held positive perceptions about the expertise of content curators who were disseminating information on their CSR credentials via digital media

Managerial implications

This contribution has investigated the online users’ attitudes about CSR communications and revealed their perceptions about the sources’ credibility. It implies that businesses can improve their credentials if they publish quality CSR content that is appreciated by their stakeholders. This research suggests that external stakeholders expected businesses to publish relevant information that is accurate and timely. This finding suggests that there is scope for the businesses to regularly update their CSR webpages with the latest developments. For instance, they can publish certain information and newsfeeds about non-financial matters including on their immediate responses to COVID-19 like sanitization and hygienic measures in their workplace environments. They may disseminate health and safety information through social media sites or via online video sharing platforms. They can use different digital media to promote their businesses’ responsible behaviors toward their employees and the community at large, during different waves of the pandemic.

Ultimately, it is in the companies’ interest to communicate about appropriate ESG matters with different stakeholders (Camilleri, 2021b). Businesses ought to use corporate websites to disseminate information on commercial aspects, corporate governance policies, CSR and/or environmental sustainability initiatives as well as on COVID-19. In this day and age, they should also utilize social media networks (SNSs) on a regular basis, to raise awareness about their website, and to interact on different issues with their followers, in real time. They can publish appealing content including images and videos about their CSR activities to entice the curiosity of stakeholders. They may also share excerpts from their CSR disclosures and could feature forward-looking statements that shed light on their trajectories for a post COVID-19 era.

Limitations and directions for future research

This study is not without limitations. The measures that were used to capture the data were drawn from ELM and from its related IAM. These theoretical models were mostly referenced in previous studies that were mostly focused on the co-creation of content, including online reviews and electronic word of mouth publicity. Therefore, the survey items were adapted for a study that sought to explore the online users’ attitudes toward CSR communications. In this case, the results confirmed the reliability and validity of the constructs. Hence, prospective researchers are encouraged to replicate this study in other contexts.

Future studies may consider different constructs that may be drawn from other theoretical frameworks, to shed more light on the individuals’ attitudes toward online communications, information adoption and/or intentional behaviors. Researchers may adopt other constructs to evaluate different aspects of online content. They may investigate perceptions about information access, information understandability, data richness, interactivity and customization capabilities or information completeness, among others. Alternatively, they could determine whether the information is rhetoric, difficult to understand, confusing, ineffective or even useless for online users. Furthermore, alternative research methods and sampling frames can be used to capture and analyze the data. Interpretative studies can explore other stakeholders’ in-depth opinions and beliefs on CSR communications and delve deeper into their content.  Inductive studies may reveal other important issues on how to improve the quality and credibility of CSR disclosures in the digital age.

References

Camilleri, M. A. (2021a). Strategic dialogic communication through digital media during COVID-19. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 1-18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343294285_Strategic_Dialogic_Communication_Through_Digital_Media_During_COVID-19_Crisis

Camilleri, M.A. (2021b). Strategic attributions of corporate social responsibility and environmental management: The business case for doing well by doing good! Sustainable Development, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sd.2256

Chen, C. C., & Chang, Y. C. (2018). What drives purchase intention on Airbnb? Perspectives of consumer reviews, information quality, and media richness. Telematics and Informatics35(5), 1512-1523.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer, New York, NY.

Rawlins, B. (2008). Give the emperor a mirror: Toward developing a stakeholder measurement of organizational transparency. Journal of Public Relations Research, 21(1), 71-99.

This excerpt was adapted for a blog. The full paper can be downloaded through: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/359186812_Walking_the_talk_about_corporate_social_responsibility_communication_An_Elaboration_Likelihood_Model_perspective

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How can we combat climate change?

This is an excerpt from one of my latest contributions.

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2022). The rationale for ISO 14001 certification: A systematic review and a cost-benefit analysis, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, https://doi.org/10.1002/csr.2254

Source: UNFCCC.int

During the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21), one hundred ninety-six (196) countries pledged their commitment to implement environmental performance measures to reduce the effects of climate change. This conference has led to the development of the ‘Paris Agreement’ where signatories became legally bound to limit global warming to below 2°C, and possibly 1.5°C (Palea & Drogo, 2020; Secinaro, Brescia, Calandra & Saiti, 2020). They recognized the importance of averting and minimizing the environmental impact that is caused by climate change, by scaling up their efforts and support initiatives to reduce emissions, by building resilience among parties, and by promoting cooperation (Birindelli & Chiappini, 2021; Gatto, 2020).

In the aftermath of COP 21, many countries submitted their plans for climate action (these plans are also known as nationally determined contributions – NDCs), where they communicated about their tangible actions that were aimed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of rising temperatures (Fatica & Panzica, 2021; Gerged, Matthews & Elheddad, 2021).  Consequentially, intergovernmental organizations including the European Union (EU), among others, are increasingly establishing ambitious carbon neutrality goals and zero-carbon solutions to tackle climate change issues (Benz, Paulus, Scherer, Syryca & Trück, 2021).

Many countries are incentivizing businesses across different economic sectors, to reduce their emissions. For example, the EU member states are expected to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% before 2030, and by 60% prior to 2050 (EU, 2019). These targets would require the commitment of stakeholders from various sectors including those operating within the energy and transportation industries, among others.

The latest climate change conference (COP26) suggested that progress has been made on the signatories’ mitigation measures that were aimed to reduce emissions, on their adaptation efforts to deal with climate change impacts, on the mobilization of finance, and on the increased collaboration among countries to reach 2030 emissions targets. However, more concerted efforts are required to deliver on these four pledges (UNFCC, 2021).

This contribution raises awareness on the use of environmental management standards that are intended to support organizations of different types and sizes, including private entities, not-for-profits as well as governmental agencies, to improve their environmental performance credentials. A thorough review of the relevant literature suggests that, over the years many practitioners have utilized the International Standards Organization’s ISO 14001 environment management systems standard to assist them in their environmental management issues (Baek, 2018; Delmas & Toffel, 2008; Erauskin‐Tolosa, Zubeltzu‐Jaka, Heras‐Saizarbitoria & Boiral, 2020; Melnyk, Sroufe & Calantone, 2003).

Many academic commentators noted that several practitioners operating in different industry sectors, in various contexts, are implementing ISO 14001 requirements to obtain this standard’s certification (Boiral, Guillaumie, Heras‐Saizarbitoria & Tayo Tene, 2018; Para‐González & Mascaraque‐Ramírez, 2019; Riaz, & Saeed, 2020). Whilst several researchers contended about the benefits of abiding by voluntary principles and guidelines (Camilleri, 2018), others discussed about the main obstacles to obtaining impartial audits, assurances and certifications from independent standard setters (Hillary, 2004; Ma, Liu, Appolloni & Liu, 2021; Robèrt, Schmidt-Bleek, Aloisi De Larderel … & Wackernagel, 2002; Teng & Wu, 2018).

Hence, this research examines identifies the rationale for ISO 14001 certification (Carvalho, Santos & Gonçalves, 2020; Eltayeb, Zailani & Ramayah, 2011; Lee, Noh, Choi & Rha, 2017; Potoski & Prakash, 2005) that is supposedly intended to improve the organizations’ environmental performance and to enhance their credentials. Specifically, this contribution’s objectives are threefold. Firstly, it provides a generic background on voluntary instruments, policies and guidelines that are intended to promote corporate environmentally responsible behaviors. Secondly, it presents the results from a systematic review of academic articles that were focused on ISO 14001 – environment management systems. Thirdly, it synthesizes the findings from high impact papers and discusses about the benefits and costs of using this standard. In conclusion, it elaborates on the implications of this research, it identifies its limitations and points out future research avenues.

In sum, this contribution differentiates itself from previous articles, particularly those that sought to investigate the introduction and implementation of environment management systems in specific entities. This research involves a two-stage systematic analysis. It appraises a number of empirical investigations, theoretical articles, reviews, case studies, discursive/opinion papers, from 1995-2021. Afterwards, it scrutinizes their content to shed more light on the pros and cons of using ISO 14001 as a vehicle to improve corporate environmental performance.

This paper can be downloaded, in its entirety, through ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358557458_The_rationale_for_ISO_14001_certification_A_systematic_review_and_a_cost-benefit_analysis

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Family businesses in tourism and hospitality

This is an excerpt from one of my latest papers that was published in the Journal of Family Business Management. A free downloadable version is available here. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356603434_Thriving_family_businesses_in_tourism_and_hospitality_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_relevant_literature


Small and medium sized businesses including family enterprises prevail in their contribution to economic growth and competitiveness of tourist destinations (Getz and Carlsen, 2005; Kallmuenzer and Peters, 2018). Very often, they are resilient entities and proactive forces in terms of innovation, employment and productivity. The family business is the oldest and the most common model of a for-profit organization. Essentially, it is a commercial entity that is usually owned, managed and led by multiple generations of a family members who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. The owners of family firms have the ability to influence the vision of their business and to formulate long term goals. They are usually involved in the organization, leadership and management of their company. However, family firms may also be co-owned by individuals who are not part of the family.

The Global Family Business Index defines a family firm as an entity that is controlled by family as its members hold more than 50% of the voting rights. For a publicly listed firm, a firm is classified as a family business if family members own at least 32% of the voting rights (OECD, 2021). Thus, the vast majority of businesses throughout the world, ranging from small shops to multinational publicly listed organizations who have hundreds of thousands of employees — can be considered family businesses.

In hospitality and tourism, a large number of small enterprises are run by family members (Peters and Kallmuenzer, 2018; Getz and Carlsen, 2005; Getz and Carlsen, 2000) that are operating in various sectors, ranging from hospitality, leisure, recreation and entertainment, among others. Such enterprises are often described as “economic engines” of tourist destinations (Getz, Carlsen and Morrison, 2004; Veloso et al., 2021) and play a critical role in the interface between communities and tourists (Shaw and Williams, 2013).

While there is a wide plethora of literature that explores different businesses including family firms and enterprises, we argue that there is still a gap in the extant academic knowledge about family businesses in tourism and hospitality settings (Arcese et al., 2021; Baggio and Valeri, 2020; Esparza Aguilar, 2019; Kallmuenzer, Tajeddini, Gamage, T.C., (…), Rojas, A. and Schallner, 2021; Rachmawati and Suroso, 2020). Globally, the vast majority of tourism and hospitality businesses comprise small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) (Baggio and Valeri, 2020). These entities are the ‘life blood’ of tourist destinations as many hotels, bed and breakfasts, AirBnBs, restaurants, and small transportation service providers, etc., are usually run by family members in various contexts.

The family business legacy

Several researchers classified different types of family businesses. Very often, they strived in their endeavors to clarify what constitutes a family business. Yet, currently, there is no agreed-upon definition of what a family business is. Experts in the field tend to describe the characteristics of family businesses and discuss about their organizational culture, ownership, leadership, management involvement, strategic control, governance, et cetera (Valeri, 2021; Valeri and Katsoni, 2021). All of these criteria can be considered as very important elements of family firms, depending on where they are, in terms of their lifecycle. Astrachan and Shanker (2003) provided a broad definition on this concept. They argued that family businesses are controlled by members of the family, who have to make decisions regarding their strategic direction.

They were aware that this definition covered a “gamut of possibilities”, ranging from large public companies that are run by descendants of founding family members, to shareholders, board members and low-level employees. In many cases, previous authors contended that firms with the same extent of family involvement were or were not always considering themselves as family businesses, and that their views may change over time. Therefore, there are different definitions for family firms in the academic literature.

Family businesses are business entities that are administered by owner-managers and their relatives. They are different from other companies. Their form of ownership may facilitate their ability to take critical actions quickly and to respond to a changing marketing environment (Mtapuri, Camilleri and Dłużewska, 2021; Peña‐Miranda, Guevara‐Plaza, Fraiz‐Brea & Camilleri, 2021). Family members may usually have closer ties that enable them to come together and do whatever it takes towards a common purpose, to safeguard their family’s health and prosperity. While nonfamily businesses may typically focus on maximizing their financial performance and shareholder value (Camilleri, 2020), family owners are more likely to focus on values like family legacy and reputation.

Many authors argued that a family business involves family members who are exerting their influence or control over the strategic direction of a company. Others discussed about family firm behaviors and shed light on their unique, inseparable, synergistic resources and capabilities arising from family involvement and interactions (Chrisman, Chua and Sharma, 2005; Habbershon, Williams and MacMillan, 2003). For example, Seaman et al. (2017) consider the interactions between family, business and friendship networks. Other authors also advance relevant knowledge on this topic (Valeri, 2016; Baggio and Valeri, 2020; Valeri and Baggio, 2020a; 2020b; 2020c; 2021).

Unlike the corporations’ executives, family members are usually personally as well as professionally involved in their entrepreneurial activities. In this case, there are no boundaries for them. Their relationships with employees are usually characterized by their values of trust, commitment, empathy and transparency as opposed to those held by larger companies. Hence, family firms may not always necessitate formal structures and bureaucratic systems that are prevalent in non-family entities. Family businesses tend to utilize looser control systems, may not rely on procedural hurdles, formal documentation or transactions. Thus, the informal style of family businesses can offer motivating working environments.

Previous research reported that family owner-managers would typically engage in two-way communications with their employees and may usually forge closer relationships with them. This type of enterprise is conspicuous in small organizations where employees are non-unionized, even though they may be expected to engage in varied roles and could be assigned different duties and responsibilities. Such workplaces will usually have low turn-over rates, and still experience fewer industrial disputes and strikes than other businesses.

Conversely, family firms can be dictatorially run by a coercive owner-manager. As a result, employees and family members may have little or no involvement in the running of their business. A typical tension field that may occur in family businesses happens when there is a conflict of interest between the personal needs of the owner–managers and their business. Hence, the business owners’ personal characteristics and attributes may play a key role in the performance of their family firm. Relevant studies on this topic often reported mixed findings on the working environment and organizational culture of family businesses. Some authors noted that while employees of nonfamily businesses seem to enjoy superior employment packages, rewards, employment terms and physical working conditions, the quality of the job environment in small businesses is poorer than what you find in their larger counterparts (Russo and Tencati, 2009).

Chrisman et al. (2005) maintained that two firms with the same extent of family involvement may not necessarily be considered as family businesses; if they lack the intention, vision, familiness, and/or behaviors that truly represent the essence of a family business. They went on to suggest that family firms exist because of the reciprocal economic and non-economic value that is cocreated through the combination of family and business systems. On the other hand, there may be problems arising from close kinship, ownership and management transfers, that may ultimately result in inefficiencies, conflicting intentions and behaviors that could limit the ability of family businesses to create or maintain distinctive familiness (Miller, Steier and Le Breton-Miller, 2003; Steier, 2001, 2003; Stewart, 2003).

For instance, certain family members may want to exert control over their firm in ways that would nullify the value of existing competences and capabilities. Their behaviors could slow down or prevent the development of their organization. The extent to which a firm may be considered as a family business could be determined by the family members’ involvement in influencing the leadership decision in their business (Chrisman et al., 2005; Astrachan, Klein and Smyrnios, 2002). It is important to clearly distinguish the differences between family and nonfamily businesses and to subdivide them into various categories. For example, family businesses can be categorized by their size.

Like other SMEs, small family firms may have limited access to resources including financial capital and human capabilities.  The very size of their businesses may create a special condition, which is often referred to as `resource poverty’ (O’Cass and Weerawardena, 2009). SMEs and family businesses tend to find themselves in an equity gap, where it is very difficult to acquire finance to operate efficiently (Camilleri, 2018). Although banks are key providers of finance through the provision of loans, the availability of unsecured bank finance to these businesses is usually very limited.

The growth of small family enterprises remains severely restricted, particularly if they cannot provide additional securities or collaterals for their investments. Even small businesses with high growth potential may experience difficulties in raising relatively modest amounts of risk capital. Moreover, external forces and potential threats from the marketing environment could have more devastating effects on family businesses than on other companies. For instance, changes in government regulations, tax laws, labor legislation and interest rates may usually affect a greater percentage of expenses in smaller family businesses than they do for other organizations (Brune, Thomsen and Watrin, 2019).

Family-owned businesses may evolve over time as their ownership may be transferred from founder-members to their relatives (Peters, Raich, Märk and Pichler, 2012). Various forms of succession may result in different ownership structures, revised duties and responsibilities of employees of family businesses. The descendants of unrelated founders can find themselves owning and managing their company and may even sit in the same board. In this case, there will be two or more families who have a stake in the business. However, just one of them will be in control (i.e. the largest shareholder) (Astrachan et al., 2002).

For instance, Hoshi Ryokan, Komatsu is one of the oldest hotels in the world. This property has been owned and managed by the Hoshi family in the past centuries. Other popular family businesses in the hospitality sector include Gmachl in Salzburg and Hotel Sacher in Vienna (Austria); Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong (China); Bristol Hotel in Paris (France); Villa D’Este in Como, Italy; Baur-au-Lac in Zurich, Switzerland; Goring Hotel in London, West Lodge Park in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire (UK) and Seaside hotel Kennebunk in Maine (USA), among others.

The development of family firms in tourism and hospitality

Tourism and hospitality family businesses are characterized by their specific ownership, leadership and organization as well as by their stakeholder relationships, that differentiate them from nonfamily companies (Engeset, 2020; Martínez, Stöhr and Quiroga, 2007; Rosalin et al., 2016; Kumar et al., 2021). Notwithstanding, there are various variables that could enable or disable family firms of different types and sizes, to generate and sustain new business development in the long term (Peters and Kallmuenzer, 2018).

The owners of tourism family firms may try to balance their business objectives with those of their family’s interests (Getz and Carlsen, 2005). Other research indicated that the objectives of such family businesses are different than nonfamily-run companies. The former businesses are usually influenced by family issues and lifestyle objectives. While Getz and Carlsen (2000) found that the majority of businesses considered family goals as more important than their business goals; Andersson, Carlsen and Getz (2002) argued that tourism family businesses ought to operate in a profitable manner, if they want to support their family members, and to maintain a decent quality of life. Their thriving businesses could enable them to create a family legacy and to pass on their company to the next generation (Andersson et al., 2002). Again, this cannot be achieved unless it is financially successful (Erdogan, Rondi, De Massis, 2020; Williams, Pieper, Kellermanns & Astrachan, 2018).

Small family-run businesses may be expected to provide employment opportunities to family members. Hence, they are not always recruiting the most qualified employees for the job. This may result in conflicts among employees (Miller et al., 2003; Peters and Buhalis, 2004). Conversely, multinational corporations are capable of attracting the best candidates for the job. They are usually in a better position to lure investors as well as venture capitalists’ funds. On the other hand, family business owners may be reluctant to accept financial injections from external investors, for fear of losing control over their business. The personal qualities, traits and attributes of the business owners can have significant effects on the long-term prospects of the companies they lead and manage (Hallak, Assaker and Connor, 2014).

Family firms are not always in a position to raise their margins and to allocate financial resources for research and development and toward market research, product development, skills or creativity enhancement (Pikkemaat and Zehrer 2016). Very often, they are not benefiting from economies of scale that are afforded by bigger businesses. Moreover, they may be reluctant to cooperate and forge alliances with other businesses, including with competitors to gain economies of scope, that could enable them to improve their services. Many academic researchers argued that family firms ought to value long-term cooperation and social networking within the communities where they operate their business (Pikkemaat and Zehrer 2016; Camisón et al., 2016). Their networking (Baggio and Valeri, 2020) and innovation management processes (Kallmuenzer, 2018; Vrontis et al., 2016) are often driven by local community needs and by their orientations towards sustainable tourism development (Baggio and Valeri, 2020; Camilleri, 2014; Ismail et al., 2019; Kallmuenzer et al., 2018).

Family members may not possess the networking skills to develop fruitful relationships with corporate stakeholders (Arcese et al., 2020; Camilleri, 2016; Troise & Camilleri, 2021) and/or may lack adequate knowledge to formulate appropriate business strategies for their company (Pikkemaat and Zehrer, 2016).  Their businesses are expected to continuously innovate to guarantee their survival and to improve their performance in the long term (Elmo et al., 2020). In a similar vein, Rachmawati et al., (2020) pointed out that family entrepreneurs need to be more innovative and take risks so that they can compete in the global scenario. They suggested that their internationalization prospects may help their business to improve their reputation in order to enhance their bottom lines, whilst satisfying their families’ interests. Other authors contended that they have to identify innovation opportunities (Arcese et al., 2020; Giacosa et al., 2017; López-Chávez et al., 2021; Valeri et al., 2020) whilst defending their values and traditions in order to guarantee that their family business legacy transcends from one generation to the next (Obermayer et al., 2021; Santos et al., 2021c).

Succession issues may affect the form of ownership structures of tourism family enterprises as well as their governance, leadership, management and strategies. Elmo et al. (2020) maintained that the innovation process is likely to occur after succession periods when there are changes in the ownership of family businesses. They went on to suggest that successors (i.e. incoming owner-managers) of family firms may represent new opportunities, resources, and sources of knowledge and information for them. Other authors delved into family succession matters (Kallmuenzer et al., 2021; Ollenburg and Buckley, 2011; Prevolsek et al., 2017; Steier, 2001). In the main, these commentators recognized that succession remains a contentious issue that may either result in positive outcomes or in negative repercussions that can ultimately hinder the growth and development of family businesses (Miller, 2003; Peters et al., 2012).

Conclusions

There are a number of internal and external factors that can affect tourism and hospitality family businesses long-term prospects (Camilleri, 2017; Camilleri, 2021a; Giousmpasoglou, 2019; Zapalska and Brozik, 2013; Santos et al., 2021a; 2021b), their business development, sustainable development and innovation capabilities (Mtapuri et al., 2021, Peña‐Miranda et al., 2021). This contribution suggests that family firms differentiate themselves from nonfamily businesses as they consider other important values in addition to profit, including family legacy, trust, commitment and reputation. It explained that it is in their interest to engage with different stakeholders (including competitors) (Camilleri, 2019) to benefit from synergistic resources and capabilities, to increase their economies of scale and scope, to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.

Currently, many businesses are still feeling the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (Albattat et al., 2020; Camilleri, 2021b; Chemli et al., 2020; Toanoglou et al., 2021).  During this crisis, family enterprises and other companies, faced serious liquidity shortages and became cash strapped after they experienced a considerable decline in their business activities. In many cases, they were resilient as they reinforced their purpose and values to ensure that their business remains intact. Generally, they strived in their endeavors to safeguard their financial and emotional investments, to preserve their legacy. Those family owner managers that have better adapted to the pandemic and who are still operating their tourism or hospitality business are better prepared for economic growth and development in the post-pandemic context.

Limitations

Although this systematic review has carefully considered rigorous articles and reviews that are focused on the development of family businesses in tourism and hospitality, there is scope to investigate different forms of family hotels and family restaurants in more depth and breadth, in terms of their sizes, types of ownership, succession issues, organizational cultures, access to financial resources, et cetera. Future studies can explore the differences between family enterprises and SMEs within the tourism and hospitality industries, in various contexts.

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Valeri, M. (2021). Thriving family businesses in tourism and hospitality: A systematic review and a synthesis of the relevant literature. Journal of Family Business Management,  https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JFBM-10-2021-0133

A full paper can be downloaded here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356603434_Thriving_family_businesses_in_tourism_and_hospitality_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_relevant_literature

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The European Union’s corporate sustainability reporting directive (CSRD)

The European Union (EU)’s non-financial reporting directive (NFRD) law requires that large undertakings including corporations, listed businesses and government entities, among others, to disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges. This helps investors, civil society organisations, consumers, policy makers and other stakeholders to be in a better position to evaluate their non-financial performance (Camilleri, 2015; Camilleri, 2018; EU, 2014).

Recently, the EU (2021) put forward its proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which would amend the existing reporting requirements of the NFRD. In sum, the proposal extends the audit requirement to large companies and listed businesses in regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises). They will be expected to introduce more detailed reporting requirements, according to mandatory EU sustainability reporting standards. At the time of writing this contribution, it is envisaged that the first set of standards would be adopted by October 2022 (EU, 2021).

References:

Camilleri, M.A. (2015). Environmental, social and governance disclosures in Europe.  Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 6(2), 224-242. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2014-0065/full/html

Camilleri, M.A. (2018). Theoretical insights on integrated reporting: The inclusion of non-financial capitals in corporate disclosures, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 23(4), 567-581. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/CCIJ-01-2018-0016/full/html

EU (2014). Directive 2014/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 amending Directive 2013/34/EU as regards disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups. European Commission, Brussels, Belgium. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32014L0095

EU (2021). EU Taxonomy, Corporate Sustainability Reporting, Sustainability Preferences and Fiduciary Duties: Directing finance towards the European Green Deal COM/2021/188 final https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52021DC0188

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Advancing community-based tourism approaches for sustainable destinations

This is an excerpt from one of my latest papers on sustainable tourism.

Suggested citation: Mtapuri, O., Camilleri, M.A. & Dłużewska, A. (2021). Advancing community-based tourism approaches for the sustainable development of destinations. Sustainable Development, 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sd.2257

Image adapted from TravelDailyNews.

Whilst mass tourism service providers, such as foreign owned properties including international hotel chains are associated with economic leakages (Garrigós et al., 2015), locally-owned, smaller businesses, are usually aligned to economic linkages.

Destinations can use community-based tourism (CBT) approaches to increase linkages by attracting high yield, affluent tourists to locally-owned companies (Butler, 2020; Prasiasa, et al., 2020). From a community-based perspective, the limitation of tourism figures can improve the destinations’ sustainability, whilst limiting the impacts on the natural environment (Saarinen, 2006:1129). Tourism businesses can contribute to reduce their impact on the environment by limiting the number of tourists. They can improve the quality of their services to appeal to high-end segments.

To be successful, the proponents of CBT ought to ensure that they retain specific principles and characteristics. Thus, CBT practitioners could differentiate themselves from other business models by offering authentic, local experiences to their guests. CBT can establish itself as a niche tourism product that appeals to lucrative market segments. Therefore, service providers are expected to deliver on their promises. They have to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations without lowering their standards of service.

CBT operators rely on their community’s local resources including environment/natural resources, heritage, culture as well as on knowledgeable human resources. Their employees should possess customer service skills, and ought to be trained about their local tourism products. Local businesses may usually engage native employees to improve their consumers’ experiences with their CBT product.

However, there may be instances where CBT operators may not find local employees in the labor market. In this case, they have to train their imported employees about local cultures and traditions in order to continue delivering authentic CBT experiences. The following figure presents a model for sustainable CBT that relies on the destinations’ effective management of their carrying capacities.

An ongoing evaluation of the destinations’ infrastructures as well as on their human and natural resources, particularly during their high season, is required to ensure that they do not exceed their specific carrying capacities. While each specific context will have its own specific performance indicators, this contribution suggests that destination marketers ought to consider the following issues:

• The participation of local businesses and individual in CBT.
• Local procurement of products (for accommodation establishments, hotels, restaurants, and to other tourism businesses).


It is in the interest of CBT operators to think locally and act globally (Hofstede, 1998). They should consider sourcing their requirements from their local communities, where possible. Hence, tourism planners could utilize local resources to reduce leakages from their economy.

Governments can encourage tourism businesses to support local enterprises, for example, by purchasing local products, and by supporting the local communities. They may also incentivize businesses through financial instruments to pursue laudable activities. They can also provide support to tourism businesses, including small hotels and B&Bs to upgrade their services to attract lucrative tourists in their communities. At the same time, they have to maintain their destinations’ infrastructure and should offer suitable amenities to visitors.

These strategies are meant to foster an environment that promotes sustainable CBT approaches that are intended to increase economic linkages, whilst improving societal and the environmental outcomes in local communities. The following figure clarifies how tourism businesses can optimize the utilization of local resources through sustainable CBT strategies in order to improve their destination’s carrying capacity whilst reducing leakages from their economy.

The effectiveness of this proposed model for sustainable community-based tourism relies on a regular evaluation of the marketing environment. Tourism practitioners are expected to examine and re-examine their CBT strategies to ensure that they are still creating value to their business, to the local community and to the environment at large.

Sustainable CBT approaches can support the local economic development of destinations, however leakages can jeopardize the destinations’ competitiveness and growth prospects. While the degree and types of leakages may vary, according to specific characteristics of certain countries, it can be argued that the proper utilization of local resources can improve the national economies and the quality of life of different communities, including those from emerging economies.

The type of tourism planning and development that is adopted by certain destinations is another factor that can have an effect on their economic leakages or linkages. Based on the above, this contribution puts forward a theoretical model that is intended to address the limitations of the carrying capacities of various destinations. In sum, it suggests that sustainable CBT approaches that rely on the optimal utilization of local resources (including human and natural) may result in economic growth as well as in positive outcomes to local communities and their natural environments. This model is aimed at rebalancing leakages with linkages in the economy, whilst responding to challenges relating to the supply chains of different tourism businesses.

Indeed, there is scope for destinations to maximize the use of resources at their disposal (both human and natural). In a similar vein, companies should avail themselves of local resources, competences and capabilities. It is also in their interest to engage in strategic CSR and sustainable tourism practices to support local stakeholders and to safeguard their natural environment.

A sustainable CBT model would require tourism businesses to forge relationships with different stakeholders including with the government and its policymakers, suppliers, creditors, employees and customers, among others. The advancement of CBT would also necessitate that destination marketers and hospitality businesses work together, in tandem to improve their tourism product. Local stakeholders are expected to safeguard their natural environment, culture and traditions for the benefit of their communities, and for their valued tourists and visitors who would probably appreciate authentic destinations that offer unique experiences to them.

The full paper and the reference list is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355446004_Advancing_community-based_tourism_approaches_for_the_sustainable_development_of_destinations

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Why should hospitality businesses care about their stakeholders?

Image by Rob Monkman (React Mobile)

The following text was adapted from one of my latest articles that was published in Wiley’s Sustainable Development (Journal).

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Strategic attributions of corporate social responsibility and environmental management: The business case for doing well by doing.  good! Sustainable Development. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sd.2256

Introduction

The corporate social responsibility (CSR) notion became popularized during the latter part of 20th the century (Carroll, 2021; 1999; Moon, 2007). At the time, businesses were becoming more concerned on how their activities affected legitimate stakeholders and the development of society at large (Phillips, 2003; Freeman & Reed, 1983). Hence, various authors posited that CSR is a fertile ground for theory development and empirical analysis (McWilliams, Siegel & Wright, 2006).

Without doubt, the clarification of the meaning of CSR is a significant strand in the research agenda (Owen, 2005). CSR has developed as a rather vague concept of moral good or normative behaviors (Frederick, 1986). This construct was described as a relativistic measure of ‘the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary expectations that society had of organizations at a given point of time’ (Carroll, 1979). CSR tackled ‘social problem(s)’ to engender positive ‘economic benefit(s)’ to ensure ‘well paid jobs, and … wealth’ (Drucker, 1984).

CSR has continuously been challenged by those who expected businesses to engage in socially responsible behaviors with stakeholders, to adhere to ethical norms in society, and to protect the natural environment (Camilleri, 2015; Lindgreen & Swaen, 2010; Burke & Logsdon, 1996). Previous research reported that CSR practices can result in improved relationships with different stakeholders (Camilleri, 2017a; Moon, 2007; Sen, Bhattacharya & Korschun, 2006).

Various commentators contended that it is in the businesses’ interest to engage in responsible behaviors to forge closer ties with internal and external stakeholders (Ewan & Freeman, 1993; Freeman, 1984). In addition, many researchers reported that there is a causal relationship between the firms’ stakeholder engagement and their financial performance (Henisz, Dorobantu & Nartey, 2014 Pava & Krausz, 1996). This relationship also holds in the tourism and hospitality industry context (Rhou, Singal & Koh, 2016; Camilleri, 2012; Inoue, & Lee, 2011).

Various hotels and restaurants are increasingly communicating about their responsible activities that are having an effect on their stakeholders, including their employees, patrons, guests, suppliers, local communities, the environment, regulatory authorities and the community at large (Camilleri, 2020a). Like other businesses, tourism and hospitality enterprises are always expected to provide decent employment to locals and migrant workers, health and safety in their workplace environments, adequate compensation and recognition of all employees, ongoing training and development opportunities, work-life balance, and the like.

Various studies suggest that, in normal circumstances, when businesses engage in responsible human resources management (HRM), they will boost their employees’ morale, enhance their job satisfaction and reduce the staff turnover (Asimah, 2018). However, an unprecedented COVID-19 and its preventative measures have surely led to a significant reduction in their business activities.

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the companies’ social metrics, including on their employees’ conditions of employment, financial remuneration and job security, among other issues (Kramer & Kramer, 2020). It has inevitably led to mass redundancies or resulted in the workers’ reduced wages and salaries. On the other hand, this situation has led to a decrease in the companies’ environmental impacts, such as their greenhouse gas emissions and other unwanted externalities.

Several businesses, including hospitality enterprises are becoming more concerned about their impact on the environment (Kim, Lee & Fairhurst, 2017; Elkington, 1998). In many cases, hotels and restaurants strive to reduce their environmental footprint by offering local, fresh, and sustainable food to their patrons. Very often, they are implementing sustainable models including circular economy systems to use and reuse resources, and to minimize their waste, where possible (Camilleri, 2020b). Alternatively, they are decreasing their electricity and water consumption in their properties, by investing in green technologies and renewable energy sources.

These sustainability initiatives could result in operational efficiencies and cost savings, higher quality, innovation and competitiveness, in the long term. As a matter of fact, many studies confirmed that there is a business case for CSR, as corporations engage in socially responsible and environmentally sound behaviors, to pursue profit-making activities (Porter & Kramer, 2011; 2019; Camilleri, 2012; Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Weber, 2008). Notwithstanding, CSR and sustainable practices can help businesses to improve their reputation, to enhance their image among external stakeholders and could lead to a favorable climate of trust and cooperation with internal stakeholders (Camilleri, 2019a).

In this light, this research builds on previous theoretical underpinnings that are focused on the CSR agenda and on its related stakeholder theory. However, it differentiates itself from other contributions as it clarifies that stakeholder attributions, as well as the corporations’ ethical responsibility, responsible human resources management and environmental responsibility will add value to society and to the businesses themselves.

This contribution addresses a knowledge gap in academia. For the time being, there is no other study that effects of stakeholders’ attributions on the companies’ strategic attributions, as depicted in Figure 1. In sum, this study clarifies that there is scope for businesses to forge strong relationships with different stakeholders. It clearly indicated that their engagement with stakeholders and their responsible behaviors were leading to strategic outcomes for their business and to society at large.

Figure 1. A research model that sheds light on the factors leading to strategic outcomes of corporate responsible behaviors

(Source: Camilleri, 2021)

Implications to academia

This research model suggests that the businesses’ socially and environmentally responsible behaviors are triggered by different stakeholders. The findings evidenced that stakeholder-driven attributions were encouraging tourism and hospitality companies to engage in responsible behaviors, particularly toward their employees. The results confirmed that stakeholders were expecting these businesses to implement environmentally friendly initiatives, like recycling practices, water and energy conservation, et cetera. The findings revealed that there was a significant relationship between stakeholder attributions and the businesses’ strategic attributions to undertake responsible and sustainable initiatives.

This contribution proves that there is scope for tourism and hospitality firms to forge relationships with various stakeholders. By doing so, they will add value to their businesses, to society and the environment. The respondents clearly indicated that CSR initiatives were having an effect on marketplace stakeholders, by retaining customers and attracting new ones, thereby increasing their companies’ bottom lines.

Previous research has yielded mixed findings on the relationships between corporate social performance and their financial performance (Inoue & Lee, 2011; Kang et al., 2010; Orlitzky, Schmidt, & Rynes, 2003; McWilliams and Siegel 2001). Many contributions reported that companies did well by doing good (Camilleri, 2020a; Falck & Heblich, 2007; Porter & Kramer, 2011). The businesses’ laudable activities can help them build a positive brand image and reputation (Rhou et al., 2016). Hence, there is scope for the businesses to communicate about their CSR behaviors to their stakeholders. Their financial performance relies on the stakeholders’ awareness of their social and environmental responsibility (Camilleri, 2019a).

Arguably, the traditional schools of thought relating to CSR, including the stakeholder theory or even the legitimacy theory had primarily focused on the businesses’ stewardship principles and on their ethical or social responsibilities toward stakeholders in society (Carroll, 1999; Evan & Freeman, 1993; Freeman, 1986). In this case, this study is congruent with more recent contributions that are promoting the business case for CSR and environmentally-sound behaviors (e.g. Dmytriyev et al., 2021; Carroll, 2021; Camilleri, 2012; Carroll & Shabana 2010; Falck & Heblich, 2007).

This latter perspective is synonymous with value-based approaches, including ‘The Virtuous Circles’ (Pava & Krausz 1996), ‘The Triple Bottom Line Approach’ (Elkington 1998), ‘The Supply and Demand Theory of the Firm’ (McWilliams & Siegel 2001), ‘the Win-Win Perspective for CSR practices’ (Falck & Heblich, 2007), ‘Creating Shared Value’ (Porter & Kramer 2011), ‘Value in Business’ (Lindgreen et al., 2012), ‘The Stakeholder Approach to Maximizing Business and Social Value’ (Bhattacharya et al., 2012), ‘Value Creation through Social Strategy’ (Husted  et al., 2015) and ‘Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability’ (Camilleri, 2018), among others.

In sum, the proponents of these value-based theories sustain that there is a connection between the businesses’ laudable behaviors and their growth prospects. Currently, there are still a few contributions, albeit a few exceptions, that have focused their attention on the effects of stakeholder attributions on CSR and responsible environmental practices in the tourism and hospitality context.

This research confirmed that the CSR initiatives that are directed at internal stakeholders, like human resources, and/or environmentally friendly behaviors that can affect external stakeholders, including local communities are ultimately creating new markets, improving the companies’ profitability and strengthening their competitive positioning. Therefore, today’s businesses are encouraged to engage with a wide array of stakeholders to identify their demands and expectations. This way, they will be in a position to add value to their business, to society and the environment.

Managerial Implications

The strategic attributions of responsible corporate behaviors focus on exploiting opportunities that reconcile differing stakeholder demands. This study demonstrated that tourism and hospitality employers were connecting with multiple stakeholders. The respondents confirmed that they felt that their employers’ CSR and environmentally responsible practices were resulting in shared value opportunities for society and for the businesses themselves, as they led to an increased financial performance, in the long run.

In the past, CSR was associated with corporate philanthropy, contributions-in-kind toward social and environmental causes, environmental protection, employees’ engagement in community works, volunteerism and pro-bono service among other responsible initiatives. However, in this day and age, many companies are increasingly recognizing that there is a business case for CSR. Although, discretionary spending in CSR is usually driven by different stakeholders, businesses are realizing that there are strategic attributions, in addition to stakeholder attributions, to invest in CSR and environmental management practices (Camilleri, 2017a).

This contribution confirmed that stakeholder pressures were having direct and indirect effects on the businesses’ strategic outcomes. This research clearly indicated that both internal and external stakeholders were encouraging the tourism business to invest in environmentally friendly initiatives. This finding is consistent with other theoretical underpinnings (He, He & Xu, 2018; Graci & Dodds, 2008).

Recently, more hotels and restaurants are stepping in with their commitment for sustainability issues as they comply with non-governmental organizations’ regulatory tools such as process and performance-oriented standards relating to environmental protection, corporate governance, and the like (Camilleri, 2015).

Many governments are reinforcing their rules of law and directing businesses to follow their regulations as well as ethical principles of intergovernmental institutions. Yet, certain hospitality enterprises are still not always offering appropriate conditions of employment to their workers (Camilleri, 2021; Asimah, 2018; Janta et al., 2011; Poultson, 2009). The tourism industry is characterized by its seasonality issues and its low entry, insecure jobs.

Several hotels and restaurants would usually offer short-term employment prospects to newcomers to the labor market, including school leavers, individuals with poor qualifications and immigrants, among others (Harkinson et al., 2011). Typically, they recruit employees on a part-time basis and in temporary positions to economize on their wages. Very often, their low-level workers are not affiliated with trade unions. Therefore, they are not covered by collective agreements. As a result, hotel employees may be vulnerable to modern slavery conditions, as they are expected to work for longer than usual, in unsocial hours, during late evenings, night shifts, and in the weekends.

In this case, this research proved that tourism and hospitality employees appreciated their employers’ responsible HRM initiatives including the provision of training and development opportunities, the promotion of equal opportunities when hiring and promoting employees and suitable arrangements for their health and safety. Their employers’ responsible behaviors was having a significant effect on the strategic attributions to their business.

Hence, there is more to CSR than ‘doing well by doing good’. The respondents believed that businesses could increase their profits by engaging in responsible HRM and in ethical behaviors. They indicated that their employer was successful in attracting and retaining customers. This finding suggests that the company they worked for, had high credentials among their employees. The firms’ engagement with different stakeholders can result in an improved reputation and image. They will be in a better position to create economic value for their business if they meet and exceed their stakeholders’ expectations.  

In sum, the objectives of this research were threefold. Firstly, the literature review has given an insight into mainstream responsible HRM initiatives, ethical principles and environmentally friendly investments. Secondly, its empirical research has contributed to knowledge by adding a tourism industry perspective in the existing theoretical underpinnings that are focused on strategic attributions and outcomes of corporate responsibility behaviors. Thirdly, it has outlined a model which clearly evidences how different stakeholder demands and expectations are having an effect on the businesses’ responsible activities.

On a lighter note, it suggests that Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ is triggering businesses to create value to society whilst pursuing their own interest. Hence, corporate social and environmental practices can generate a virtuous circle of positive multiplier effects.

Therefore, there is scope for the businesses, including tourism and hospitality enterprises to communicate about their CSR and environmental initiatives through different marketing communications channels via traditional and interactive media. Ultimately, it is in their interest to promote their responsible behaviors through relevant messages that are clearly understood by different stakeholders.

Limitations and future research

This contribution raises awareness about the strategic attributions of CSR in the tourism and hospitality industry sectors. It clarified that CSR behaviors including ethical responsibility, responsible human resources management and environmental responsibility resulted in substantial benefits to a wide array of stakeholders and to the firm itself. Therefore, there is scope for other researchers to replicate this study in different contexts.

Future studies can incorporate other measures relating to the stakeholder theory. Alternatively, they can utilize other measures that may be drawn from the resource-based view theory, legitimacy theory or institutional theory, among others. Perhaps, further research may use qualitative research methods to delve into the individuals’ opinions and beliefs on strategic attributions of CSR and on environmentally-sound investments, including circular economy systems and renewable technologies.

A free-prepublication version of this paper is available (in its entirety) through ResearchGate.

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How to reduce food loss (and waste) from the hospitality industry?

This is an excerpt from one of my latest academic contributions.

(C) Travlinmad.com

Hospitality businesses can implement a number of responsible practices. The very first step for them is to develop ‘sustainable’ menus. The restaurants’ menus can offer a choice of different portion sizes to satisfy the requirements of different customers. They may feature fewer items in their menus to operate their business with a reduced inventory of food products to decrease storage costs, minimize waste and spoilage. It is in the interest of restaurant owner-managers to procure fresh ingredients from local businesses including farmers, bakers, butchers, et cetera, to ensure that they are preparing good food for their valued customers. Local products including organic items like fruit and vegetables, will have a longer shelf life than imported ones.

The hospitality businesses ought to forge close relationships with dependable, local suppliers to implement just-in-time purchasing systems (Camilleri, 2015a; Camilleri, 2017a). There is scope for them to purchase regularly and in smaller quantities to reduce the probabilities of food spoilage and dehydration. They are expected to continuously monitor the expiration dates of their food items and ingredients to minimize waste and to respect relevant hygienic standards. Owner-managers may apply the first expired first out (FEFO) principles in their kitchens, to avoid any stock-outs.  Moreover, they can use food tracking devices to identify the types of food waste they are generating.

Their monitoring and control of food waste should be carried out on a day-to-day basis, as it can lead to significant operational efficiencies and cost savings.  Practitioners may keep a track record of their waste in a spreadsheet. They can measure the quantity of organic waste that is generated from their premises. They may include details like the dates (and times of events), which ingredients or recipes were wasted, the name of the employee(s) who was (or were) responsible for the waste, et cetera. Furthermore, practitioners can estimate the composition of their organic waste and identify whether it is derived from vegetables, bread/pasta, specific meats, etc. This will allow them to make adjustments in their food menus (if possible).

Such food trackers may also help the hospitality business to detect irresponsible behaviors in their kitchens and to minimize food waste from their properties. It may indicate that certain employees are not engaging in responsible food preparation behaviors. There is scope for hospitality businesses to train their human resources, at all levels, particularly new employees, on circular economy approaches [Camilleri, 2014). This way, they will be in a better position to improve their efficiencies in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling resources, and responsible waste disposal practices (Camilleri, 2019a; Camilleri, 2020). They have to be supported and educated on the best practices to ensure that they are improving the (economic) sustainability of their businesses’ food and beverage operations whilst minimizing their impact on the natural environment (Camilleri, 2015b; Camilleri, 2016a; Camilleri, 2017). Table 1 illustrates the responsible behaviors that can be implemented by hospitality businesses to reduce food loss and the generation of waste from their premises:

This research shed light on a number of laudable circular economy initiatives that were drawn from the hospitality industry. It also made reference to a sustainable enterprise that utilizes a sharing economy platform that links consumers with hospitality service providers. Mobile users can purchase surplus food from hotels, restaurants and cafes at a discount. At the same time, the app enables the businesses to make revenue out of their perishable food and to minimize their environmental footprint by reducing their waste. Moreover, it reported that businesses can benefit from tax deductions and credit systems, in different contexts, if they donate surplus (edible) food to charities and food banks.  Alternatively, if the food is contaminated or decayed it may be accumulated and turned it into animal feed, compost or transformed into energy through methanation processes. The case studies indicated that the re-utilization of non-edible leftovers may be monetized if they are used for such secondary purposes.

Key Takeaways

The implementation and execution of the circular economy’s closed loop systems ought to be promoted through different marketing channels. Hotels and restaurants can use marketing communications through different media to raise awareness on how they are capable of generating less waste (Camilleri, 2016b). They should promote sustainable production and consumption behaviors through different media outlets, including traditional and digital channels (Camilleri & Costa, 2018; Camilleri, 2018a; 2018b; 2018c).

The hospitality businesses responsible initiatives can raise their profile among different stakeholders, including customers and suppliers, among others (Camilleri, 2015; 2018d). The customers will probably appreciate the hospitality businesses’ efforts to reduce their impact to the natural environment. Some of their sustainability measures are dependent on the active commitment of hotel clients and restaurant patrons. Therefore, it is very important for them to raise awareness about their waste prevention campaigns and on their environmental achievements so that they may feel part of the responsible initiatives. This way, they become key participants in the reduction of generated waste. Hence, businesses can educate customers about responsible consumption behaviors to help them in their endeavors to curb food loss and the generation of unnecessary waste [Camilleri & Ratten, 2020; Camilleri, 2019b). The food and beverage servers could engage in conversations with their clients to better understand their food requirements.

In a similar vein, this research suggests that the hospitality businesses ought to forge closer relationships with their suppliers including farmers and other retailers, to implement responsible inventory management systems and just-in-time purchasing. Suppliers must continuously be informed and updated on their procurement policies. Their ongoing communications may facilitate collaborative practices that may translate to positive outcomes, including the sourcing of better-quality products with extended lifecycles and longer expiry dates. 

This contribution reported various preventative measures and recycling practices that may be taken on board by hospitality practitioners and their stakeholders, to reduce food waste and its detrimental effect on our natural environment and biospheres. There is scope for trade unions and industry associations in tourism and hospitality, to promote the responsible behaviors, among their members.

Notwithstanding, regulatory authorities and their policy makers can encourage hospitality practitioners to invest in environmentally friendly systems to minimize their food loss and waste. They can offer them financial incentives like tax deductions or exemptions when they donate surplus food. Alternatively, governments can support them by providing adequate infrastructures and resources including on-site composting facilities and/or methanization processes that are aimed to minimize the accumulation of food waste that finishes in landfills. Such responsible investments will ultimately result in a sustainable value chain in tourism cities, as they add value to the hospitality businesses, to the environment and to society, at large (Salonen & Camilleri, 2020; Camilleri, 2017b).

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Sustainable Production and Consumption of Food. Mise-en-Place Circular Economy Policies and Waste Management Practices in Tourism Cities. Sustainability, 13, 9986. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179986 (OPEN ACCESS)

References

Camilleri, M.A. (2014). The business case for corporate social responsibility. In Marketing & Public Policy as a Force for Social Change Conference. Proceedings pp. 8-14 (Washington D.C., 4th June), American Marketing Association (AMA), Available online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273131156_The_Business_Case_for_Corporate_Social_Responsibility.

Camilleri, M.A. (2015a). Re-conceiving CSR programmes for education. In Corporate Social Responsibility: Academic Insights and Impacts, Vertigans, S. & Idowu, S.O. (Eds), Springer: Cham, Swtizerland, http://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783319350820

Camilleri, M.A. (2015b). Environmental, social and governance disclosures in Europe. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 6, 2, 224-242. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2014-0065 

Camilleri M.A. (2016a). Corporate sustainability and responsibility toward education, Journal of Global Responsibility 7, 1, 56-71, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JGR-08-2015-0015

Camilleri M.A. (2016b). Reconceiving corporate social responsibility for business and educational outcomes. Cogent Business and Management, 3, 1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23311975.2016.1142044

Camilleri, M.A. (2017a) Corporate citizenship and social responsibility policies in the United States of America. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 8, 1, 77-93. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SAMPJ-05-2016-0023

Camilleri, M.A. (2017b). Corporate sustainability and responsibility: Creating value for business, society and the environment. Asian Journal of Sustainability and Social Responsibility, 2, 1, 59-74. https://ajssr.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41180-017-0016-5

Camilleri, M.A. (2018a). The promotion of responsible tourism management through digital media. Tourism Planning & Development15, 6, 653-671. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21568316.2017.1393772

Camilleri, M.A. (2018b). Unlocking corporate social responsibility through digital media. In Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Era.  Lindgreen, A., Vanhamme, J., Maon, F. and Watkins, R. (Eds), Routledge: Oxford, United Kingdom, https://www.routledge.com/Communicating-Corporate-Social-Responsibility-in-the-Digital-Era/Lindgreen-Vanhamme-Watkins/p/book/9781472484161

Camilleri, M.A. (2018c) Unleashing corporate social responsibility communication for small businesses in the digital era. In Academy of Management Annual Conference Proceedings: Improving Lives, Chicago, 11 August 2018, Academy of Management. Available online: https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/AMBPP.2018.10467abstract

Camilleri, M.A. (2018d). Theoretical insights on integrated reporting: The inclusion of non-financial capitals in corporate disclosures. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 23, 4,  567-581.  https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-01-2018-0016:

Camilleri, M.A. & Costa, R. A. (2018). The small businesses’ responsible entrepreneurship and their stakeholder engagement through digital media. 13th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ECIE) (11 September). University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal. Available online: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3233528 (accessed on 24 August 2021).

Camilleri, M. A. (2019a). The circular economy’s closed loop and product service systems for sustainable development: A review and appraisal. Sustainable Development27(3), 530-536. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1909

Camilleri, M.A. (2019b). Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes towards ISO’s social responsibility standard. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 30, 13-14, 1549-1561. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344

Camilleri, M. A. (2020). European environment policy for the circular economy: Implications for business and industry stakeholders. Sustainable Development28(6), 1804-1812.https://doi.org/10.1002/SD.2113

Camilleri, M.A. & Ratten, V. (2020). The sustainable development of smart cities through digital innovation. Sustainability, Available online: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/Smart_Cities_Digital_Innovation (accessed on 24 August 2021).

Salonen A.O. & Camilleri M.A. (2020). Creating Shared Value. In Encyclopedia of Sustainable Management, Idowu S., Schmidpeter R., Capaldi N., Zu L., Del Baldo M. and Abreu R. (eds), Springer, Cham, Switzerland. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3683975

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The students’ perceptions of remote learning through video conferencing!

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from a recent article that was published by Springer’s Technology, Knowledge and Learning Journal.

Source: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2021). The Acceptance of Learning Management Systems and Video Conferencing Technologies: Lessons Learned from COVID-19. Technology, Knowledge & Learning.

The unexpected Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the provision of education in various contexts around the globe. Education service providers, including higher education institutions (HEIs) were required to follow their respective governments’ preventative social distancing measures and to increase their hygienic practices, to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. They articulated contingency plans, disseminated information about the virus, trained their employees to work remotely, and organised virtual sessions with students or course participants.

These latest developments have resulted in both challenges and opportunities to students and educators. Course instructors were expected to develop a new modus operandi to deliver their education services, in real time. During the first wave of COVID-19, HEIs were suddenly expected to shift from traditional and blended learning approaches to a fully virtual course delivery.

The shift to online, synchronous classes did not come naturally. COVID-19 has resulted in different problems for course instructors and their students. In many cases, educators were compelled to utilise online learning technologies to continue delivering their courses. In the main, educators have embraced the dynamics of remote learning technologies to continue delivering educational services to students, amid the peaks and troughs of COVID-19 cases.

Subsequently, policy makers have eased their restrictions when they noticed that there were lower contagion rates in their communities. After a few months of lockdown (or partial lock down) conditions, there were a number of HEIs that were allowed to open their doors. They instructed their visitors to wear masks, and to keep socially distant from each other. Most HEIs screened individuals for symptoms as they checked their temperatures and introduced strict hygienic practices like sanitisation facilities in different parts of their campuses.

However, after a year and a half, since the outbreak of COVID-19, some academic members of staff were still relying on the use of remote learning technologies to deliver education services, as they utilised learning management systems (LMS) and video conferencing software to teach their courses. During the pandemic, they became acquainted with online technologies that facilitated asynchronous as well as synchronous learning.

Whilst their asynchronous approaches included text and/or recorded video that were made available through LMS (like Moodle), in many cases, they also utilised video conferencing platforms including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, D2L, Webex, Adobe Connect, Skype for Business, Big Blue Button and EduMeet, among others, to interact with students in real time.

In this light, our research investigated the facilitating conditions that can foster the students’ acceptance and usage of remote learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs. We examined the participants’ motivations to use them to continue pursuing their educational programs from home, during COVID-19. Specifically, our study investigated students’ perceptions about the usefulness of remote learning, their interactive capabilities, their attitudes toward their utilisation, the facilitating conditions as well as their intentions to continue using them.

Our targeted respondents were registered students who followed full-time and part-time courses at the University of Malta in Malta. We used a structural equation modeling partial least squares (SEM-PLS) analytical approach to examine the responses of 501 students who voluntarily participated in our research.

The findings clearly indicated that the higher education students perceived the usefulness of remote learning technologies during COVID-19 and valued their interactive attributes. They confirmed that the respondents held positive perceptions toward their universities’ facilitating conditions (like ongoing support, as well as training and development opportunities).

The empirical results reported that the HEI’s facilitating conditions had a significant effect on the students’ interactive engagement with online learning resources and on their attitudes towards these technologies.

The confirmatory composite analysis reported that there were positive and highly significant effects that predicted the students’ intentions to continue using remote learning technologies. Evidently, educators have provided them with the necessary resources, knowledge and technical support to avail themselves of remote learning technologies.

The respondents indicated that they accessed their course instructors’ online resources and regularly interacted with them through live conferencing facilities. The findings from SEM-PLS confirmed that the perceived usefulness and perceived interactivity with online technologies had a positive effect on their attitudes toward remote learning.

In sum, this contribution has differentiated itself from other studies as it investigated the students’ perceptions and attitudes on the use of asynchronous as well as synchronous learning technologies in higher education. It implies that the integration of these technologies ought to be accelerated in the foreseeable future as they may become the norm, in a post COVID-19 era. Therefore, HEIs ought to continue investing in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees.

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The acceptance of learning management systems and video conferencing technologies

The following texts are excerpts from one of my latest articles.

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2021). The Acceptance of Learning Management Systems and Video Conferencing Technologies: Lessons Learned from COVID-19, Technology, Knowledge and Learning, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10758-021-09561-y

Introduction

An unexpected Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the provision of educational services in various contexts around the globe (Rahiem, 2020; Johnson, Veletsianos & Seaman, 2020; Bolumole, 2020). During the first wave of COVID-19, several educational institutions were suddenly expected to interrupt their face-to-face educational services. They had to adapt to an unprecedented situation. This latest development has resulted in both challenges and opportunities to students and educators (Howley, 2020; Araújo, de Lima, Cidade, Nobre, & Neto, 2020). Education service providers, including higher education institutions (HEIs) were required to follow their respective governments’ preventative social distancing measures and to increase their hygienic practices, to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Several HEIs articulated contingency plans, disseminated information about the virus, trained their employees to work remotely, and organized virtual sessions with students or course participants.

Course instructors were expected to develop a new modus operandi to deliver their higher education services, in real time (Johnson et al., 2020). During the pandemic, many HEIs migrated from traditional and blended teaching approaches to fully virtual and remote course delivery. However, their shift to online, synchronous classes did not come naturally. COVID-19 has resulted in different problems to course instructors and to their students. In many cases, during the pandemic, educators were compelled to utilize online learning technologies to continue delivering their courses (Fitter, Raghunath, Cha, Sánchez, Takayama & Matarić, 2020). In the main, educators have embraced the dynamics of remote learning technologies to continue delivering educational services to students, amid peaks and troughs of COVID-19 cases.

Subsequently, policy makers have eased their restrictions when they noticed that there were lower contagion rates in their communities. After a few months of lockdown (or partial lock down) conditions, there were a number of HEIs that were allowed to open their doors. They instructed their visitors to wear masks, and to keep socially distant from each other. Most HEIs screened individuals for symptoms as they checked their temperatures and introduced strict hygienic practices like sanitization facilities in different parts of their campuses.  

However, after a year and a half, since the outbreak of COVID-19, some academic members of staff were still relying on the use of remote learning technologies like learning management systems (like Moode) and video conferencing software to teach their courses (Cesco, Zara, De Toni, Lugli, Betta, Evans & Orzes, 2021). During the pandemic, they became acquainted with online technologies that facilitated asynchronous learning through text and/or recorded video (Sablić, Mirosavljević & Škugor, 2020). Moreover, many of them, organized interactive sessions with their students in real time. Very often, they utilized video conferencing platforms including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, D2L, Webex, Adobe Connect, Skype for Business, Big Blue Button and EduMeet, among others. COVID-19 has triggered them to use these remote technologies to engage in two-way communications with their students.

Although in the past year, there were a number of researchers who have published discursive articles about the impacts of COVID-19 on higher education, for the time being, there are just a few empirical studies on the subject (Bergdahl & Nouri, 2020; Aguilera-Hermida, 2020; Gonzalez, de la Rubia, Hincz, Comas-Lopez, Subirats, Fort & Sacha, 2020). This contribution addresses this gap in academia. Specifically, it investigates the facilitating conditions that can foster the students’ acceptance and usage of remote learning technologies. It examines the participants’ utilitarian motivations to utilize asynchronous learning resources to access course material, and sheds light on their willingness to engage with instructors and/or peers through synchronous, video conferencing software, to continue pursuing their educational programs from home, during an unexpected pandemic situation.

This study builds on previous theoretical underpinnings on technology adoption (Cheng & Yuen, 2018; Al-Rahmi, Alias, Othman, Marin & Tur, 2018; Merhi, 2015; Schoonenboom, 2014; Lin, Zimmer & Lee, 2013; Chen, Chen & Kazman, 2007; Ngai, Poon & Chan, 2007; Davis, 1989). At the same time, it explores the students’ perceptions about the interactivity (McMillan & Jang-Sun Hwang, 2002) of LMS as well as video conferencing software, and sheds light on their HEI’s facilitating conditions (Hoi, 2020; Dečman, 2015; Venkatesh, Thong & Xu, 2012; Venkatesh, Morris, Davis & Davis, 2003). The rationale of this study is to better understand the research participants’ intentions to use remote technologies, to improve their learning journey. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other contributions that have integrated the same measures that have been used in this research. Therefore, this study differentiates itself from the previous literature, and puts forward a research model that is empirically tested.

The development of remote learning

According to the social constructivist theory, individuals necessitate social interactions (Fridin, 2014; Lambropoulos, Faulkner & Culwin, 2012; Ainsworth, 2006; Tam, 2000). They develop their abilities by interacting with others. Therefore, online learning environments ought to be designed to support and challenge the students’ reflective and critical skills, by including interactive learning and collaborative approaches (Rienties & Toetenel, 2016; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012; Wang, 2009; Wang, Woo, & Zhao, 2009). Social constructivism and discovery-based learning techniques emphasize the importance of having students who are actively involved in their learning process. This is in stark contrast with previous educational viewpoints where the responsibility rested with the instructor to teach, and where the learner played a passive, receptive role (Lambropoulos et al., 2012).

Today’s students are increasingly using online technologies to learn, both in and out of their higher educational institutions (Al-Maroof, Al-Qaysi, & Salloum, 2021). They are using interactive media to acquire formal and informal skills (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012), particularly when they take part in constructivist activities with their peers and course instructors (Fridin, 2014). This argumentation is consistent with the collaborative learning theory (Lambropoulos et al., 2012; Khalifa & Kwok, 1999). Students can use digital technologies to access recorded podcasts (Merhi, 2015; Lin et al., 2013), watch videos (Hung, 2016) and interact together through live streaming technologies in real time (Payne, Keith, Schuetzler & Giboney, 2017). Hence, online education has fostered collaborative learning approaches (Wang, 2009). Computer mediated education enables students to search for solutions, to share online information with their peers, to evaluate each other’s ideas, and to monitor one another’s work (Lambić, 2016; Sung et al., 2015; Soflano, et al., 2015). 

Course participants can use remote technologies, including their personal computers, smart phones and tablets to access their instructors’ asynchronous, online resources including course notes, power point presentations, videos clips, case studies, et cetera (Butler, Camilleri, Creed & Zutshi, 2021; Hung, 2016; Ifenthaler & Schweinbenz, 2013). Moreover, in this day and age, they are utilizing video conferencing technologies to attend virtual meetings, and to engage in one-to-one conversations, or in group discussions and debates with their course instructor and with other students. These virtual programs enable students to engage in synchronous communications with course instructors, to ask questions, and receive feedback, in real time.

A critical review of the relevant literature reported that university students were already using asynchronous technologies, in different contexts, before the outbreak of COVID-19 (Butler et al., 2021; Sánchez-Prieto et al., 2017; Hung, 2016; Liu et al., 2010; Sánchez & Hueros, 2010). Many authors held that online technologies were improving the students’ experiences (Crompton & Burke, 2018; Kurucay & Inan, 2017; Sánchez-Prieto et al., 2016). Before the outbreak of COVID-19, many practitioners blended traditional learning methodologies with digital and mobile applications to improve learning outcomes (Al-Maroof et al., 2021; Boelens et al., 2018; Furió et al., 2015). Course instructors can design and develop online learning environments to support their students with asynchronous resources (Wang et al., 2009). They may allow them to engage in collaborative learning activities through virtual environments (Rienties & Toetenel, 2016; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). These contemporary approaches are synonymous with the social constructivist theory (Fridin, 2014; Lambropoulos et al., 2012) and with discovery-based learning (Ifenthaler, 2012; Lambropoulos et al., 2012).

Theoretical implications

This contribution investigated the students’ perceived usefulness, perceived interactivity, attitudes toward use, facilitating conditions and behavioral intentions to utilize remote technologies. It posited that higher education students perceived the usefulness of remote learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs during COVID-19. The findings clearly indicated that they valued their interactive attributes. These factors have led them to embrace these programs during their learning journey. This study also confirmed that the universities’ facilitating conditions had a significant effect on their perceptions about the interactivity of these online learning resources and on their attitudes towards these technologies, as reported in Figure 1. This finding is consistent with previous research that reported that facilitating conditions is positively related to the students’ intentions to continue using digital and mobile learning resources (Gangwar et al., 2015; Teo, 2009).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-use-of-learning-management-systems-and-conferencing-technologies.png
Figure 1

This study has differentiated itself from previous contributions as it integrated facilitating conditions (Hoi, 2020; Dečman, 2015; Venkatesh et al. 2003; 2012) and perceived interactivity (Chattaraman et al., 2019; Chen et al., 2007; McMillan & Jang-Sun Hwang, 2002) with perceived usefulness (of technology) and attitudes (toward the use of technology) to better understand the students’ intentions to utilize remote learning technologies to improve their learning journey (Cheng & Yuen, 2018; Al-Rahmi et al., 2018; Merhi, 2015; Schoonenboom, 2014; Lin et al., 2013; Ngai et al., 2007; Davis, 1989) during an unexpected pandemic situation.

A bibliographic analysis revealed that there are a number of theoretical papers that have been published in the last eighteen months on this hot topic (Cesco et al., 2021; Fitter et al., 2020; Howley, 2020; Rahiem, 2020). Yet, to date, there are just a few rigorous studies, that examined the utilization of synchronous video conferencing technologies, in addition to conventional, asynchronous content, like LMS, in the context of higher education (Aguilera-Hermida, 2020; Gonzalez et al., 2020).

The findings from this research shed light on the utilitarian factors that were influencing the students’ engagement with interactive learning resources. According to the descriptive statistics, the students felt that remote technologies were useful to achieve their learning outcomes. They indicated that they were provided with appropriate facilitating conditions that enabled them to migrate to a fully virtual learning environment from face-to-face or blended learning approaches. During the pandemic’s lockdown or partial lockdown conditions, and even when the preventative measures were eased, many students were still using remote learning technologies to access online educational resources. They also kept using video conferencing technologies to attend to virtual classes, and to engage with their course instructor(s) and with their peers, in real time.

The confirmatory composite analysis reported that there were positive and highly significant effects that predicted the students’ intentions to use remote learning technologies. Evidently, educators have provided them with the necessary resources, knowledge and technical support to avail themselves of remote learning technologies. The respondents indicated that they accessed their course instructors’ online resources and regularly interacted with them through live conferencing facilities. The findings from SEM-PLS confirmed that the perceived usefulness and perceived interactivity with online technologies had a positive effect on their attitudes toward remote learning. This research implies that the students were confident with the utilization of interactive technologies to continue their educational programs. In fact, this research model proved that they were likely to use synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies in the foreseeable future, in a post COVID-19 context.

Implications of study for educators and policy makers

The COVID-19 pandemic and its preventative measures urged HEIs and other educational institutions to embrace video conferencing technologies to continue delivering student-centered education. This research suggests that educators ought to monitor their students’ engagement during their virtual sessions. It revealed that the students’ perceived interactivity as well as their higher education institutions’ facilitating conditions were having an effect on their perceptions about the usefulness of remote learning, on their attitudes as well as on their intentions to use them. These digital technologies were supporting the research participants in their learning journeys, whether they were at home or on campus. The students themselves perceived the usefulness of asynchronous LMS as well as of synchronous communications, including video conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, among others.

These virtual technologies were already utilized in various contexts, before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, they turned out to be important learning resources in the realms of education. Course instructors are expected to support their students, by developing attractive digital learning resources (e.g. interactive presentations, online articles and recorded video clips) in appropriate formats that can be accessed with ease, through different media, including mobile technologies (Sablić et al., 2020). In this day and age, they can also use video conferencing technologies to interact with course participants in real time. When engaging with online resources, instructors should consider their students’ facilitating conditions, particularly if they are including high-res images, interactive media, including podcasts, videos, etc., in their LMSs. Their asynchronous content should be as clear and focused as possible, with links to relevant sources, including notes, case studies, quizzes, rubrics and formative assessments, among others.

COVID-19 has taught us that the individuals’ engagement with LMS and video conferencing software necessitate high‐quality wireless networks. There may be situations where students as well as their instructors may require online technical support, whether they are working from home of from university premises. Educational institutions including HEIs ought to regularly evaluate their students’ experiences with remote teaching in order to identify any issues that are affecting their academic performance (Camilleri, 2021b). HEI leaders are not always in a position to evaluate the quality and standards of their instructors’ online learning methods and to determine with absolute certainty whether their students have achieved their learning outcomes. During remote course delivery, students may not always have access to appropriate interactive technologies, learning materials or to adequate productive environments (Bao, 2020). There can be instances where course instructors and students could require facilitating conditions like technical support or training and development to enhance their competences and capabilities with the use of remote technologies.

A prepublication copy of this contribution can be downloaded through: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353859136_The_Acceptance_of_Learning_Management_Systems_and_Video_Conferencing_Technologies_Lessons_Learned_from_COVID-19

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The service quality and performance of higher education institutions

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was published in the International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences.

Higher education service delivery and the students’ learning experiences

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are expected to adapt to ongoing developments in their macro and microenvironments as they are usually operating with budget constraints (Camilleri, 2019). They compete for funding and for student numbers in a global marketplace (OECD, 2019; Hägg and Schölin, 2018; Tian and Martin, 2014). Very often, they are using the corporate language as they formulate marketing plans, set objectives to control their resources, and are becoming customer-driven (Lynch, 2015; Sojkin, Bartkowiak and Skuza, 2012; Naidoo, Shankar and Veer, 2011; Ng and Forbes, 2009). The logic behind these managerial reforms is to improve the HEIs’ service quality and performance (Rutter, Roper and Lettice, 2016; Mourad, Ennew and Kortam, 2011; Abdullah. 2006a).

The challenge for HEI leaders is to identify their students’ and other stakeholders’ expectations on service quality. The consumers’ perceived service quality is defined as the degree and direction of discrepancy between their perceptions and expectations (Quinn et al., 2009; Parasuraman et al., 1988). Quality is distinguished from satisfaction, in that, the latter is assumed to involve specific transactions. As part of the conceptualization, expectations are viewed as desires or wants of consumers (Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman, 1993).

Parasuraman et al. (1988) measured the individuals’ perceptions and expectations about service quality. Their SERVQUAL scales assessed service quality in terms of tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy services (Brochado, 2009; Tan and Kek, 2004). In a similar vein, other authors noted that service quality comprises three significant dimensions; service processes, interpersonal factors, and physical evidence (Tsinidou, Gerogiannis and Fitsilis, 2010; Angell, Heffernan and Megicks, 2008; Oldfield and Baron, 2000). Notwithstanding, the HEIs’ physical evidence (that is associated with their tangible aspect) can also influence the students’ satisfaction levels (Wilkins and Balakrishnan, 2013; Ford, Joseph and Joseph, 1999).

The students are considered as the primary customers of tertiary education institutions (Quinn et al., 2009; Lomas, 2007; Snipes et al., 2005). Their expectations on the HEIs’ service performance plays a key role on their quality perceptions (Raaper, 2009; Brochado, 2009; Abdullah, 2006b; Hill, 1995). Students spend a considerable amount of time on campus, in lecture rooms, libraries, IT labs, canteens, sport grounds, et cetera (Hill, 1995). They will probably use the HEIs’ service facilities, technologies and equipment.

Ozkan and Kozeler (2009) maintained that the learners’ perceived satisfaction with higher education technologies is dependent on the quality of the instructors, the quality of the systems, information (content) quality and supportive issues. Hence, HEI leaders have to ensure that the tangible aspects of their higher educational services ought to be in good working order for the benefit of their users.

The provision of higher education services involves “person‐to‐person” interactions (Clemes et al., 2008; Solomon et al., 1985). The frontline employees (like faculty employees) can influence the degree of their consumers’ (or students’) satisfaction and experiences (Raaper, 2019; Ng and Forbes, 2009; Ford et al., 1999; Bitner et al., 1990). Both academic and administrative employees’ ability and willingness to deliver appropriate service quality will determine the students’ overall satisfaction with their higher education services (Tsinidou et al., 2010).

Oldfield and Baron (2000) contended that students rely on the non‐academic employees, including administrators and support staff, over whom the course management teams have no direct control. They pointed out that the students may not be interested in the HEIs’ organizational hierarchies, as they expect their employees to work in tandem. Therefore, the administrative employees should also communicate and liaise with the academic members of staff, to ensure that the students receive an appropriate quality of service. The course instructors should be evaluated in terms of their technical and interpersonal skills, consistency of performance and appearance (Camilleri, 2021; Angell et al., 2008).

Students want their lecturers to be knowledgeable, enthusiastic, approachable, and friendly (Voss, Gruber and Szmigin, 2007). The HEI leaders should be aware that their employees’ interactions with their students will have an effect on their satisfaction during their learning journey (Quinn et al., 2009). The members of staff represent their employer whenever they engage with students and other stakeholders (Voss et al., 2007). Therefore, HEI leaders ought to foster an organizational culture that represents the institutions’ shared values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes and norms of behavior that bind employees to deliver appropriate service quality and the desired performance outcomes (Kollenscher, Popper and Ronen, 2018; Pedro, Mendes and Lourenço, 2018; Trivellas and Dargenidou, 2009; O’Neill and Palmer, 2004).

Measuring higher education service performance

The employees’ performance is usually evaluated against their HEIs’ priorities, commitments, and aims; by using relevant international benchmarks and targets (OECD, 2019; Brochado, 2009; Lo, 2009 O’Neill and Palmer, 2004). Generally, the academics are usually appraised on their research impact, teaching activities and outreach (Camilleri, 2021).

Their academic services, including their teaching, administrative support as well as the research and development (R&D) duties, all serve as performance indicators that can contribute to build the reputation and standing of their employer (Geuna and Martin, 2003). The university leaders should keep a track record about the age and distribution of their faculty members; diversity of students and staff, in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, et cetera.

In addition, their faculties could examine discipline-specific rankings; and determine the expenditures per academic member of staff, among other responsibilities (Camilleri, 2019). The quantitative metrics concerning the students’ performance may include their enrolment ratios, graduate rates, student drop-out rates, the students’ continuation of studies at the next academic level, and the employability index of graduates, among others (QS Rankin 2019; THE, 2019).

Moreover, qualitative indicators can also provide insightful data to HEIs on the students’ opinions and perceptions about their learning environment. HEIs could evaluate the students’ satisfaction with teaching; satisfaction with research opportunities and training; perceptions of international and public engagement opportunities; ease of taking courses across boundaries; and may also determine whether there are administrative and/or bureaucratic barriers for them (Kivisto, Pekkola and Lyytinen, 2017).

HEIs should regularly analyze their service quality and performance through financial and non-financial indicators (Camilleri, 2021; Lagrosen, Seyyed-Hashemi and Leitner, 2004). A relevant review of the literature suggests that the institutions ought to be evaluated on their organization; corporate governance, autonomy; accountability; system structures; resourcing and funding; consultation processes; digitalization; admission processes; student-centered education, internationalization; regional development; continuing education; lifelong learning qualifications; research, innovation and technology transfer; high impact publications, stakeholder engagement with business and industry; labour market relevance; collaborations with other HEIs and researcher centers; and quality assurance among other issues (OECD, 2019; EU, 2017; Lagrosen et al., 2004; O’Neill and Palmer, 2004; Cheng and Tam, 1997; Owlia and Aspinwall, 1996).

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regularly reviews the current state of higher education systems in its member countries. Its benchmarking exercises are intended to scrutinize the performance of universities and colleges. OECD (2019) has used 24 domains to evaluate different aspects of the HEIs’ organizational performance. The following table features a list of 45 performance indicators that can be used to assess the HEIs’ resources and their key functions

qual HEI

There are different methodologies and key performance indicators that can be used to evaluate the service quality in higher education. The above metrics are used to compare the OECD countries’ HEI performance in terms of allocated resources, the provision of student-centered education, research and engagement. However, this scorecard and the quality of its outputs ought to be validated in different contexts.

There are other performance variables, including the pedagogical knowledge and experience of the course instructors, the HEIs’ working conditions, teaching methodologies and practices, the usage of education technologies, engagement with business and industry, et cetera, that were not featured in this scorecard. Perhaps, in reality it may prove difficult to measure qualitative issues. For instance, while HEIs may be willing to demonstrate their engagement with different stakeholders, currently, there are no mechanisms in place to monitor, report and assess their outreach activities.

The HEIs’ responsibility is to address the skill gaps and mismatches in their labor market (EU, 2017). The governments’ policy makers together with the HEI leaders need to address sector-specific skill shortages. Specifically, EU (2017) proposed that HEIs ought to: (i) better understand what skills are required by the prospective employers (ii) communicate to society, practitioners and policy-makers about what they are already doing to prepare graduates for the labor market; (iii) prepare students and influence their choice of study; and (iv) implement effective learning programs that rely on blended learning methodologies including traditional and digital learning approach.

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Evaluating service quality and performance of higher education institutions: A systematic review and a post COVID-19 outlook. International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, 13(2), 268-281. DOI: 10.1108/IJQSS-03-2020-0034

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