Tag Archives: CSR

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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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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What was the employees’ state of mind during COVID-19?

This is an excerpt from my latest open-access research that was accepted for publication in Sustainability (IF: 2.576)

Citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). The Employees’ State of Mind during COVID-19: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective. Sustainability, 13, 3634. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073634


Academic Implications

This empirical research has presented a critical review of the self-determination theory and its key constructs, as well as on other theoretical underpinnings that were drawn from business ethics and tourism literature. It shed light on the employees’ job security as well as on their extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in their workplace environment. Moreover, it explored their perceptions on their employers’ CSR practices during COVID-19. The study hypothesized that the employees’ identified motivations, introjected motivations, external motivations, job security and their firms’ socially responsible behaviors would have a positive and significant effect on their intrinsic motivations and organizational performance. The findings confirmed that the employees’ intrinsic motivations were predicting their productivity. This relationship was highly significant. Evidently, the employees were satisfied in their job, as they fulfilled their self-determination and intrinsic needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness [15,48,56]. Their high morale in their workplace environment has led to positive behavioral outcomes, including increased organizational performance.

The results reported that there were highly significant effects between the employees’ identified motivations and intrinsic motivations, and between their perceptions on their firms’ socially responsible practices and their intrinsic motivations. The mediation analysis indicated that these two constructs were indirectly affecting the employees’ job performance. These results suggest that although previous studies reported that extrinsic factors could undermine the intrinsic motivations of individuals [35–37], this study found that the research participants have internalized and identified themselves with their employers’ extrinsically motivated regulations, as they enabled them to achieve their self-defining goals. In this case, the respondents indicated that they were willing to perform certain tasks, as they perceived that their utilitarian values were also sustaining their psychological well-being and self-evaluations. The employees also identified motivations that led as an incentive to increase their organizational performance. The empirical results have proved that the employees were motivated to work for firms that reflected their own values [60,77]. This research is consistent with other contributions on CSR behaviors [32,78,88,90,91]. The respondents suggested that their employers had high CSR credentials. The findings revealed that the businesses’ CSR practices enhanced their employees’ intrinsic motivations and satisfied their psychological needs of belongingness and relatedness. Evidently, the firms’ socially responsible behaviors were enhancing their employees’ productivity and performance in their workplace environment.

The participants’ beliefs about their job security were also found to be a significant antecedent of their intrinsic motivations. Their perceptions on their job security were affecting their morale at work, in a positive manner [22,61]. During COVID-19, many employees could have experienced reduced business activities. As a result, many businesses could have pressurized their employees in their organizational restructuring and/or by implementing revised conditions of employment, including reduced working times, changes in sick leave policies, et cetera, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic. However, despite these contingent issues, the research participants indicated that they perceived that there will be job continuity for them in the foreseeable future. This study indicated that many employees were optimistic about their job prospects during the second wave.

The findings suggest that employees are attracted by and motivated to work for trustworthy, socially responsible employers [43,62,66,75]. On the other hand, they reported that the participants’ introjected and external motivations were not having a significant effect on their intrinsic motivations and did not entice them to engage in productive behaviors during the COVID-19 crisis. A plausible justification for this result is that the participants were well aware that their employers did not have adequate and sufficient resources during COVID-19. Their employers were not in a position to reward or incentivize their employees due to financial constraints that resulted from their reduced business activities or were never prepared to deal with such an unprecedented contingent situation. Hence, external motivations were not considered as stable forms of regulation [36]. Many researchers noted that extrinsic motivations will not necessarily influence the individuals’ behaviors, as their perceived locus of control is external to them. Therefore, their actions will not be autonomous and self-determined [35,52].

Managerial Implications
Businesses are continuously affected by ongoing challenges arising from their macro environment. The pandemic has exacerbated their transformation on behavioral, cultural and organizational levels. The first wave of COVID-19 was devastating for many businesses, in different contexts. The social-distancing procedures have led to changes in their working conditions and diminished communications. Many of the non-essential businesses were expected to follow their government’s preventative measures to slow the spread of the pandemic and to close the doors to their customers. Moreover, several employees have experienced their employers’ cost cutting exercises, as they reduced salaries and wages. These uncertainties have affected their employees’ psychological capital and caused them anxiety and frustration [99]. Notwithstanding, many employees were concerned about their job security and long-term prospects. During the work-from-home scenario, employers had to finds new ways to manage their employees’ performance. The change in their working environment allowed them to do their work, whilst also attending to personal needs. Very often, employees found themselves taking other responsibilities including parenting/schooling their children.

Remote working has served as a reminder to managers that there are a number of non-work-related factors that can affect their employees’ mindsets and engagement levels. Hence, many employers set virtual meetings with their human resources to inject a sense of purpose in them. During the first wave of the pandemic, the employees’ intrinsic motivations have declined with the decreasing visibility of their management or colleagues. The lack of motivation could have led to a decrease in their productivity levels [3]. Therefore, employers were expected to look after their employees and to foster a culture of trust and recognition to improve their motivations and performance at work [64]. This study was carried out during the second wave, when many governments had eased their preventative restrictions to restart their economy. As a result, many employees were returning to work. They were encouraged to work in a new normal, where they were instructed to follow their employers’ health and safety policies as well as hygienic and sanitizing practices in their premises. They introduced hygienic practices, temperature checks and expected visitors to wear masks to reduce the spread of the virus.

Many businesses, including SMEs and startups, were benefiting of their governments’ financial assistance. Resources were allocated to support them in their cashflow requirements, to minimize layoffs and to secure the employment of many employees. These measures instilled confidence in employers, as they provided their employees with a sense of relatedness, competence and autonomy in their workplace environments. Evidently, employers were successful in fostering a cohesive culture where they identified their employees’ values and their self-determined goals [45]. In sum, this contribution revealed that employees felt a sense of belonging in their workplace environment. The results confirmed that their intrinsic motivations were enhancing their productivity levels and organizational performance.

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What is Corporate Citizenship?

The corporate citizenship term was typically used to describe the corporations that can contribute to the ethical, philanthropic and societal goals. Therefore, this notion is rooted in political science as it directs corporations to respond to non-market pressures.

Throughout the years, the corporate citizenship agenda has been wrought from distinctive corporate social responsibility (CSR) theories and approaches. Its conceptual foundations can be found in the CSR literature (e.g., Carroll, 1979), corporate social responsiveness (e.g., Clarkson, 1995), corporate social performance (e.g., Albinger & Freeman, 2000), the theory of the firm” (McWilliams & Siegel, 2001), stakeholder engagement (Strand & Freeman, 2013); and other enlightened ‘self-interest’ theories; as corporate citizenship can be a source of opportunity, innovation and competitive advantage (Camilleri, 2017a, 2017b; Porter & Kramer, 2006). For this reason, this concept continues to receive specific attention, particularly by those responsible businesses that are differentiating themselves through responsible and sustainable behaviours.

 

Literature Review

The multinational corporations (MNCs) have been (and still are) under pressure to exhibit “good corporate citizenship” in every country or market from where they run their business. MNCs are continuously monitored by their stakeholders, including regulatory authorities, creditors, investors, customers and the community at large. They are also being scrutinised by academic researchers. Several empirical studies have explored the individuals’ attitudes and perceptions toward corporate citizenship. Very often, their measurement involved quantitative analyses that investigated the corporations’ responsible behaviours (Camilleri, 2017a; 2017b). Other research has focused on the managerial perceptions about corporate citizenship (e.g., Basu & Palazzo, 2008). A number of similar studies have gauged corporate citizenship by adopting Fortune’s reputation index (Flanagan, O’Shaughnessy, & Palmer, 2011; Melo & Garrido‐Morgado, 2012), the KLD index (Dupire & M’Zali, 2018; Fombrun, 1998; Griffin & Mahon, 1997) or Van Riel and Fombrun’s (2007) Reptrak. Such measures expected the surveyed executives to assess the extent to which their company behaves responsibly toward the environment and the community (Fryxell and Wang, 1994).

Despite the wide usage of such measures in past research, the appropriateness of these indices still remains doubtful. For instance, Fortune’s reputation index failed to account for the multidimensionality of the corporate citizenship construct; as it is suspected to be more significant of management quality than of corporate citizenship (Waddock & Graves, 1997). Fortune’s past index suffered from the fact that its items were not based on theoretical arguments as they did not appropriately represent the economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary dimensions of the corporate citizenship construct.

Pinkston and Carroll (1994) identified four dimensions of corporate citizenship, including; orientations, stakeholders, issues and decision-making autonomy. They argued that by observing orientations, one may better understand the inclinations or the posturing behaviours of organisations with respect to corporate citizenship. Pinkston and Carroll (1994) sought to identify the stakeholder groups that are benefiting from the businesses’ corporate citizenship practices. They argued that the businesses’ decision-making autonomy determined at what organisational level they engaged in corporate citizenship. In a similar vein, Griffin and Mahon (1997) combined four estimates of corporate citizenship: Fortune’s reputation index, the KLD index, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), and the rankings that are provided in the Directory of Corporate Philanthropy.

Singh, De los Salmones Sanchez and Rodriguez del Bosque (2007) adopted a multidimensional perspective on three domains, including; commercial responsibility, ethical responsibility and social responsibility. Firstly, they proposed that the commercial responsibility construct relates to the businesses’ responsibility to develop high quality products and truthful marketing communications of their products’ attributes and features among customers. Secondly, they maintained that ethical responsibility is concerned with the businesses fulfilling their obligations toward their shareholders, suppliers, distributors and other agents with whom they make their dealings. Singh et al. (2007) argued that ethical responsibility involves the respect for the human rights and norms that are defined in the law when carrying out business activities. They hinted that respecting ethical principles in business relationships has more priority than achieving superior economic performance. Their other domain, social responsibility is concerned about with corporate citizenship initiatives that are characterised by the businesses’ laudable behaviors (Camilleri, 2017c). The authors suggest that the big businesses could allocate part of their budget to the natural environment, philanthropy, or toward social works that supported the most vulnerable groups in society. This perspective supports the development of financing social and/or cultural activities and is also concerned with improving societal well-being (Singh et al., 2007).

Conclusion

There are several actors within a society, including the government and policy makers, businesses, marketplace stakeholders and civil society organisations among others (Camilleri, 2015). It is within this context that a relationship framework is required to foster corporate citizenship practices in order to enhance the businesses’ legitimacy amongst stakeholders (Camilleri, 2017; Camilleri, 2018). The corporate citizenship practices including socially responsible and environmentally sustainable practices may be triggered by the institutional and/or stakeholder pressures.

 

References

Albinger, H.S. & Freeman, S.J. (2000). Corporate social performance and attractiveness as an employer to different job seeking populations. Journal of Business Ethics, 28(3), 243-253.

Basu, K. & Palazzo, G. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: A process model of sensemaking, Academy of Management Review, 33(1), 122-136.

Camilleri, M. A. (2015). Valuing stakeholder engagement and sustainability reporting. Corporate Reputation Review18(3), 210-222.

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.

Camilleri, M. A. (2017b). Corporate Social Responsibility Policy in the United States of America. In Corporate Social Responsibility in Times of Crisis (pp. 129-143). Springer, Cham.

Camilleri, M. A. (2017c). Corporate sustainability and responsibility: creating value for business, society and the environment. Asian Journal of Sustainability and Social Responsibility2(1), 59-74.

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.

Carroll, A.B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy of Management Review, 4(4), 497-505.

Dupire, M., & M’Zali, B. (2018). CSR strategies in response to competitive pressures. Journal of Business Ethics148(3), 603-623.

Flanagan, D. J., O’shaughnessy, K. C., & Palmer, T. B. (2011). Re-assessing the relationship between the Fortune reputation data and financial performance: overwhelming influence or just a part of the puzzle?. Corporate Reputation Review14(1), 3-14.

Fombrun, C.J. (1998). Indices of corporate reputation: An analysis of media rankings and social monitors’ ratings. Corporate Reputation Review, 1(4), 327-340.

Griffin J.J. & Mahon, J.F. (1997). The corporate social performance and corporate financial performance debate twenty-five years of incomparable research. Business & Society, 36(1), 5-31.

McWilliams, A. & Siegel, D. (2001). Corporate social responsibility: A theory of the firm perspective, Academy of Management Review, 26(1), 117-127.

Melo, T., & Garrido‐Morgado, A. (2012). Corporate reputation: A combination of social responsibility and industry. Corporate social responsibility and environmental management19(1), 11-31.

Pinkston, T.S. & Carroll, A.B. (1994). Corporate citizenship perspectives and foreign direct investment in the US. Journal of Business Ethics, 13(3), 157-169.

Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard business review84(12), 78-92.

Strand, R. & Freeman, R.E. (2013). Scandinavian cooperative advantage: The theory and practice of stakeholder engagement in Scandinavia, Journal of Business Ethics, 127(1), 65-85.

Singh, J. & Del Bosque, I.R. (2008). Understanding corporate social responsibility and product perceptions in consumer markets: A cross-cultural evaluation. Journal of Business Ethics, 80(3), 597-611.

Van Riel, C.B. & Fombrun, C.J. (2007). Essentials of corporate communication: Implementing practices for effective reputation management, Routledge, Oxford, UK and New York, USA.

Waddock, S.A. & Graves, S.B. (1997). The corporate social performance-financial performance link, Strategic Management Journal, 18(4), 303-319.


This is an excerpt from one of my contributions that will appear in Springer’s Encyclopedia of Sustainable Management.

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Announcing a Call for Chapters (for Springer)

Strategic Corporate Communication and Stakeholder Engagement in the Digital Age

 

Abstract submission deadline: 30th September 2019
Full chapters due: 31st December 2019

 

Background

The latest advances in technologies and networks have been central to the expansion of electronic content across different contexts. Contemporary communication approaches are crossing boundaries as new media are offering both challenges and opportunities. The democratisation of the production and dissemination of information via the online technologies has inevitably led individuals and organisations to share content (including images, photos, news items, videos and podcasts) via the digital and social media. Interactive technologies are allowing individuals and organisations to co-create and manipulate electronic content. At the same time, they enable them to engage in free-flowing conversations with other online users, groups or virtual communities (Camilleri, 2017). Innovative technologies have empowered the organisations’ stakeholders, including; employees, investors, customers, local communities, government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as the news media, among others. Both internal and external stakeholders are in a better position to scrutinise the organisations’ decisions and actions. For this reason, there is scope for the practitioners to align their corporate communication goals and activities with the societal expectations (Camilleri, 2015; Gardberg & Fombrun, 2006). Therefore, organisations are encouraged to listen to their stakeholders. Several public interest organisations, including listed businesses, banks and insurance companies are already sharing information about their financial and non-financial performance in an accountable and transparent manner. The rationale behind their corporate disclosures is to develop and maintain strong and favourable reputations among stakeholders (Camilleri, 2018; Cornelissen, 2008). The corporate reputation is “a perceptual representation of a company’s past actions and future prospects that describe the firm’s overall appeal to all of its key constituents when compared to other leading rivals” (Fombrun, 1996).

Business and media practitioners ought to be cognisant about the strategic role of corporate communication in leveraging the organisations’ image and reputation among stakeholders (Van Riel & Fombrun, 2007). They are expected to possess corporation communication skills as they need to forge relationships with different stakeholder groups (including employees, customers, suppliers, investors, media, regulatory authorities and the community at large). They have to be proficient in specialist areas, including; issues management, crises communication as well as in corporate social responsibility reporting, among other topics. At the same time, they should be aware about the possible uses of different technologies, including; artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, big data analytics, blockchain and internet of things, among others; as these innovative tools are disrupting today’s corporate communication processes.

 

Objective

This title shall explain how strategic communication and media management can affect various political, economic, societal and technological realities. Theoretical and empirical contributions can shed more light on the existing structures, institutions and cultures that are firmly founded on the communication technologies, infrastructures and practices. The rapid proliferation of the digital media has led both academics and practitioners to increase their interactive engagement with a multitude of stakeholders. Very often, they are influencing regulators, industries, civil society organisations and activist groups, among other interested parties. Therefore, this book’s valued contributions may include, but are not restricted to, the following topics:

 

Artificial Intelligence and Corporate Communication

Augmented and Virtual Reality in Corporate Communication

Blockchain and Corporate Communication

Big Data and Analytics in Corporate Communication

Branding and Corporate Reputation

Corporate Communication via Social Media

Corporate Communication Policy

Corporate Culture

Corporate Identity

Corporate Social Responsibility Communications

Crisis, Risk and Change Management

Digital Media and Corporate Communication

Employee Communications

Fake News and Corporate Communication

Government Relationships

Integrated Communication

Integrated Reporting of Financial and Non-Financial Performance

Internet Technologies and Corporate Communication

Internet of Things and Corporate Communication

Investor Relationships

Issues Management and Public Relations

Leadership and Change Communication

Marketing Communications

Measuring the Effectiveness of Corporate Communications

Metrics for Corporate Communication Practice

Press and Media Relationships

Stakeholder Management and Communication

Strategic Planning and Communication Management

 

This publication shall present the academics’ conceptual discussions that cover the contemporary topic of corporate communication in a concise yet accessible way. Covering both theory and practice, this publication shall introduce its readers to the key issues of strategic corporate communication as well as stakeholder management in the digital age. This will allow prospective practitioners to critically analyse future, real-life situations. All chapters will provide a background to specific topics as the academic contributors should feature their critical perspectives on issues, controversies and problems relating to corporate communication.

This authoritative book will provide relevant knowledge and skills in corporate communication that is unsurpassed in readability, depth and breadth. At the start of each chapter, the authors will prepare a short abstract that summarises the content of their contribution. They are encouraged to include descriptive case studies to illustrate real situations, conceptual, theoretical or empirical contributions that are meant to help aspiring managers and executives in their future employment. In conclusion, each chapter shall also contain a succinct summary that should outline key implications (of the findings) to academia and / or practitioners, in a condensed form. This will enable the readers to retain key information.

 

Target Audience

This textbook introduces aspiring practitioners as well as under-graduate and post-graduate students to the subject of corporate communication – in a structured manner. More importantly, it will also be relevant to those course instructors who are teaching media, marketing communications and business-related subjects in higher education institutions, including; universities and colleges. It is hoped that course conveners will use this edited textbook as a basis for class discussions.

 

Submission Procedure

Senior and junior academic researchers are invited to submit a 300-word abstract on or before the 30th June 2019. Submissions should be sent to Mark.A.Camilleri@um.edu.mt. Authors will be notified about the editorial decision during July 2019. The length of the chapters should be between 6,000- 8,000 words (including references, figures and tables). These contributions will be accepted on or before the 31st December 2019. The references should be presented in APA style (Version 6). All submitted chapters will be critically reviewed on a double-blind review basis. The authors’ and the reviewers’ identities will remain anonymous. All authors will be requested to serve as reviewers for this book. They will receive a notification of acceptance, rejection or suggested modifications – on or before the 15th February 2020.

Note: There are no submission or acceptance fees for the publication of this book. All abstracts / proposals should be submitted via the editor’s email.

 

Editor

Mark Anthony Camilleri (Ph.D. Edinburgh)
Department of Corporate Communication,
Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences,
University of Malta, MALTA.
Email: mark.a.camilleri@um.edu.mt

 

Publisher

Following the double-blind peer review process, the full chapters will be submitted to Springer Nature for final review. For additional information regarding the publisher, please visit https://www.springer.com/gp. This prospective publication will be released in 2020.

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The Way Forward: Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility

An Excerpt from: Camilleri, M.A. (2017). Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility: Creating Value for Business, Society and the Environment. Asian Journal of Sustainability and Social Responsibility 2(1) 59-74. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41180-017-0016-5

In the past, CSR may have been more associated with corporate philanthropy, stewardship principles, contributions-in-kind toward social and environmental causes, environmental protection, employees’ engagement in community works, volunteerism and pro-bono service among other responsible initiatives. Very often, such altruistic CSR activities may have not resulted in financial performance to the business per se. On the contrary, certain discretionary
expenses in corporate philanthropy could have usurped the businesses’ slack resources (including financial assets, labour and time) without adding much value (in terms of corporate reputation and goodwill) to the businesses. Nevertheless, this research reported that the contemporary discourses on corporate social responsibility are opening new opportunities for the businesses themselves. The academic discourse about CSR is moving away from ‘nice-to
do’ to ‘doing-well-by-doing-good’ mantra. Evidently, the value-based approaches that were discussed in this paper could be considered as guiding principles that will lead tomorrow’s businesses to long term sustainability (in social and economic terms). Debatably, the profit motive (the business case or corporate sustainability concepts) could be linked with the corporate responsibility agenda. This way, the multinational corporations could be better prepared to address their societal and environmental deficits across the globe, whilst adding value to their business.

This review paper has built on the previous theoretical underpinnings of the corporate social responsibility agenda including Stakeholder Management, Corporate Citizenship and Creating Shared Value as it presents the latest Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility perspective. This value-based model reconciles strategic CSR and environmental management with a stakeholder approach to bring long term corporate sustainability, in terms of economic performance for the business, as well as corporate responsibility’s social outcomes. Recently, some international conferences including Humboldt University’s gatherings in 2014 and 2016 have also raised awareness on this proposition. The corporate sustainability and responsibility concept is linked to improvements to the companies’ internal processes including environmental management, human resource management, operations management and marketing (i.e. Corporate Sustainability). At the same time, it raises awareness on the
businesses’ responsible behaviours (i.e. Corporate Responsibility) toward stakeholders including the government, suppliers, customers and the community, among others. The fundamental motivation behind this approach is the view that creating connections between stakeholders in the value chain will open-up unseen opportunities for the competitive advantage of responsible businesses, as illustrated in Figure 1.

cs model

Multinational organizations are under increased pressures from stakeholders (particularly customers and consumer associations) to revisit their numerous processes in their value chain activities. Each stage of the company’s production process, from the supply chain to the transformation of resources could add value to their businesses’ operational costs as they produce end-products. However, the businesses are always expected to be responsible in their internal processes toward their employees or toward their suppliers’ labour force. Therefore, this corporate sustainability and responsibility perspective demands that businesses create economic and societal value by re-aligning their corporate objectives with stakeholder management and environmental responsibility. In sum, corporate sustainability and responsibility may only happen when companies demonstrate their genuine willingness to add corporate responsible dimensions and stakeholder engagement to their value propositions. This occurs when businesses opt for responsible managerial practices that are integral to their overall corporate strategy. These strategic behaviours create opportunities for them to improve the well-being of stakeholders as they reduce negative externalities on the environment. The negative externalities can be eliminated by developing integrated approaches that are driven by ethical and sustainability principles. Very often, multinational businesses are in a position to mitigate risk and to avoid inconveniences to third parties. For instance, major accidents including BP’s Deep Horizon oil spill in 2010, or the collapse of Primark’s Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, back in 2013, could have been prevented if the big businesses were responsible beforehand.

In conclusion, the corporate sustainability and responsibility construct is about embedding sustainability and responsibility by seeking out and connecting with the stakeholders’ varied interests. As firms reap profits and grow, there is a possibility that they generate virtuous circlesof positive multiplier effects (Camilleri, 2017). Therefore, corporate sustainability and responsibility can be considered as strategic in its intents and purposes. Indeed, the businesses are capable of being socially and environmentally responsible ‘citizens’ as they are doing well, economically. This theoretical paper has contributed to academic knowledge as it explained the foundations for corporate sustainability and responsibility. Although this concept is still evolving, the debate among academic commentators is slowly but surely raising awareness on responsible managerial practices and on the skills and competences that are needed to deliver strategic results that create value for businesses, society and the environment.

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RESEARCH: The Small Business Owner-Managers’ Attitudes toward Digital Media

An Excerpt from my latest paper: Camilleri, M.A. (2018). The SMEs’ Technology Acceptance of Digital Media for Stakeholder Engagement. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development (Forthcoming).


small-businesses-social-media

This contribution sheds light on the SME owner-managers’ attitudes toward the pace of technological innovation, perceived use and ease of use of digital media; as they communicate and interact with interested stakeholders online. It also explored their stance on responsible entrepreneurship, specifically on commercial, ethical and social responsibilities, as well as on their willingness to support other responsible stakeholders.

This empirical study and its theoretical underpinnings contribute to an improved understanding as to why today’s SMEs are expected to communicate with stakeholders through digital media. At the same time, it raises awareness of responsible entrepreneurial initiatives that could be promoted through digital media, including; corporate websites, social media and blogs, among others.

Generally, the results reported that there were high mean scores and low standard deviations, particularly when the participants were expected to indicate their attitudes on their commercial and ethical responsibilities. The nature of the SMEs’ CSR activities is usually integrated into their company culture, often implicitly in habits and routines that are inspired by highly motivated owner-managers; rather than explicitly in job descriptions or formalized procedures (Jenkins, 2006). The factor analysis indicated that the SME owner-managers were increasingly perceiving the usefulness of digital media to engage with marketplace stakeholders, including; consumers, suppliers and other businesses, as they promoted their responsible entrepreneurship behaviors.

The communications on their businesses’ social responsibility and environmentally-sound practices also served them well to engage with other interested groups; including; human resources, shareholders and investors, among others. This finding mirrors Baumann Pauly et al.’s (2013) argumentation as these authors remarked that each business decision on economic, social, and environmental aspects must take into account all stakeholders. Notwithstanding, the businesses and their marketers need to possess relevant knowledge on their stakeholders, as this will impact on the effectiveness of their CSR communication (Morsing and Schultz, 2006; Vorvoreanu, 2009).

The value of their communications lies in their ability to open-up lines of dialogue through stories and ideas that reflect their stakeholders’ interests (Fieseler and Fleck, 2013; Moreno and Capriotti, 2009). For these reasons, companies cannot afford to overstate or misrepresent their CSR communications. Their online communication with stakeholders could foster positive behaviors or compel remedial actions, and will pay off in terms of corporate reputation, customer loyalty and market standing (Tantalo and Priem, 2016; Du et al, 2010).

This study suggests that the SME owner-managers were recognizing that they had to keep up with the pace of technological innovation. Yet there were a few participants, particularly the older ones, who were still apprehensive toward the use of digital media. Eventually, these respondents should realize that it is in their interest to forge relationships with key stakeholders (Lamberton and Stephen, 2016; Taiminen and Karjaluoto, 2015; Rauniar et al., 2014; Uhlaner et al., 2004). This research posits that the owner-managers or their members of staff should possess relevant digital skills and competences to communicate online with interested parties.

Likewise, Baumann Pauly et al., (2013) also recommended that the managers must be trained, and that their CSR activities must be evaluated. These findings are in line with other contributions (Spence and Perrini, 2011; Perrini et al., 2007) that have theoretically or anecdotally challenged the business case perspective for societal engagement (Penwar et al., 2017; Baden and Harwood 2013; Brammer et al. 2012).

The regression analysis has identified and analyzed the determinants which explain the rationale behind the SME owner-managers’ utilization of digital media for stakeholder engagement and for the promotion of responsible entrepreneurship. It reported that the respondents’ technology acceptance depended on their perceived “use” and “ease of use” of digital media; and on their willingness to communicate online on their commercial, ethical and social responsibilities.

The results from the regression analysis reported positive and significant relationships between the SMEs’ online stakeholder engagement and the pace of technological innovation; and between the SMEs’ online engagement and the owner-managers’ perceived usefulness of digital media. This study indicated that the pace of technological innovation, the owner-managers’ perceived ease of use of the digital media, as well as their commercial responsibility were significant antecedents for their businesses’ online communication of their responsible behaviors. Arguably, the use of technology is facilitated when individuals will perceive its usefulness and its ease of use (Davis, 1989).

In fact, the findings from this research have specified that the owner-managers’ intention was to use digital media to communicate about their responsible entrepreneurship. They also indicated their desire to use this innovation to engage with stakeholders on other topics, including commercial and ethical issues. This is in stark contrast with Penwar et al.’s (2017) findings, as the authors contended that the SME owner-managers’ perceptions on social engagement did not hold the same virility when compared to the context of their larger counterparts. These authors argued that the tangible benefits of CSR engagement had no effect on SMEs. In a similar vein, Baumann Pauly et al.’s (2013) study reported that the larger businesses were more effective than SMEs in their CSR communications.

However, the findings from this study’s second, third and fourth regression
equations indicated that the small and micro businesses were using digital media to improve their stakeholder engagement and to communicate about their responsible entrepreneurship issues.

Implications and Conclusions

SME managers and executives are in a position to enhance the effectiveness of their businesses’ communication efforts. This study has identified and analyzed the SME owner-managers’ attitudes toward the utilization of digital media for the communication of commercial, ethical and social responsibility issues.

Previous academic research has paid limited attention to the technology acceptance of digital media among small businesses, albeit a few exceptions (Taiminen and Karjaluoto, 2015; Baumann Pauly, Wickert, Spence and Scherer, 2013; Durkin et al., 2013; Taylor and Murphy, 2004). In this case, the research findings indicated that digital technologies and applications were perceived as useful by the SME owner-managers. This implies that the utilization of digital media can be viewed as a critical success factor that may lead to an improved engagement with stakeholders.

Several SMEs are already communicating about their responsible entrepreneurship through conventional and interactive media, including; social media, review sites, blogs, et cetera. These savvy businesses are leveraging their communications as they utilize digital media outlets (e.g., The Guardian Sustainability Blog, CSRwire, Triple Pundit and The CSR Blog in Forbes among others) to improve their reach, frequency and impact of their message.

In addition, there are instances where consumers themselves, out of their own volition are becoming ambassadors of trustworthy businesses on digital media (Du et al., 2010). Whilst other stakeholders may perceive these businesses’ posturing behaviors and greenwashing (Camilleri, 2017; Vorvoreanu, 2009).

A thorough literature review suggested that the positive word-of-mouth publicity through digital media may lead to strategic and financial benefits (Camilleri, 2017; Taiminen and Karjaluoto, 2015; Durkin et al., 2013). Therefore, businesses, including SMEs, are increasingly joining conversations in social media networks and online review sites. These sites are being used by millions of users every day. Indeed, there is potential for SMEs to engage with their prospects and web visitors in real-time.

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The Corporations’ Non-Financial Disclosures

susty.png

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Jenkins Report may be considered as one of the major documents that has provided the foundations for non-financial disclosures. Notwithstanding, there were other guidelines that were developed by other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including; the Global Reporting Initiative, AccountAbility, Accounting for Sustainability (A4S), the World Intellectual Capital Initiative (WICI), the Enhanced Business Reporting Consortium, the CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), the International Corporate Governance Network, the Sustainability Reporting Standards Board and the Climate Disclosure Standards Board, among others. The International Standards Organization (ISO), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Greenpeace, Rainforest Alliance and Home Depot Certifiable, Fair Trade and the US Department of Agriculture’s USDA Organic Labelling, among others, have formulated uncertifiable, multi-stakeholder standards and instruments to support organizations in their CSR communication. In addition, certain listed corporations are adopting Fortune’s reputation index, the KLD Social index or RepTrak (Camilleri, 2017). Such measures require corporate executives to assess the extent to which their organization behaves responsibly towards the environment and the community. Despite the development of these guiding principles and indices, their appropriateness remains doubtful (Camilleri, 2015).

In 2010, the development of ISO 26000 had represented a significant milestone in integrating socially and environmentally responsible behaviors into management processes. ISO 26000 was developed through a participatory multi-stakeholder process as the International Labor Organization (ILO) had established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure that ISO’s social responsibility standard is consistent with its own labor standards. In fact, ISO 26000’s core subject on ‘Labor Practices’ is based on ILOs’ conventions on labor practices, including; Human Resources Development Convention, Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines, Forced Labor Convention, Freedom of Association, Minimum Wage Fixing Recommendation and the Worst Forms of Child Labor Recommendation, among others. Moreover, ISO’s core subject on ‘human rights’ is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (that was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948). On the other hand, many academic commentators argue that ISO 26000 has never been considered as a management standard (Camilleri, 2017). The certification requirements have not been incorporated into ISO 26000’s development and reinforcement process, unlike other standards, including ISO 9000 and ISO 14001. Notwithstanding, ISO 14001 belongs to a larger set of ISO 14000 certifications that conform with the European Union’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

The European Union (EU) has developed its non-binding guidelines for the non-financial disclosures of large, public-interest entities that engage more than 500 employees (Stubbs and Higgins, 2015; EU, 2014). The European Parliament mandated Directive 2014/95/EU on non-financial reporting; that was subsequently ratified by the European member states. Therefore, large undertakings are expected to disclose material information on their ESG behaviors. These entities are required to explain any deviations from their directive’s recommendations in their annual declaration of conformity, as per the EU’s “Comply or Explain” principle (Camilleri, 2015; EU, 2014). Their non-financial disclosures include topics, such as; social dialogue with stakeholders, information and consultation rights, trade union rights, health and safety and gender equality, among other issues. Moreover, the organizations’ environmental reporting could cover; material disclosures on energy efficiencies, the monitoring of efficiency levels their energy generation capacities, assessments on the co-generation of heating facilities, the use of renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water and air pollution prevention and control from the production and processing of metals, mineral industry, chemical industry, waste management, livestock farming, etc. (Camilleri, 2015). Therefore, large undertakings are expected to bear responsibility for the prevention and reduction of pollution. The EU recommends that the large organizations implement ILO’s Tri-partite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, as well as other conventions that promote the fair working conditions of employees. It also makes reference to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and mentions ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility (EU, 2014). Following, the EU’s mandate for non-financial reporting, it is expected that 6,000 European public interest entities will be publishing their sustainability reports in 2018, covering financial year 2017-2018 (GRI, 2017).

 


Additional Reading:

Camilleri, M.A (2015). Environmental, Social and Governance Disclosures in Europe. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. 6 (2), 224 – 242. Emerald.  http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2014-0065 Download this paper

Camilleri, M.A. (2015). Valuing Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability Reporting. Corporate Reputation Review, 18 (3), 210-222. Palgrave Macmillan DOI:10.1057/crr.2015.9 http://www.palgrave-journals.com/crr/journal/v18/n3/full/crr20159a.html Download this paper

Camilleri, M.A. (2017). Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes toward ISO’s social responsibility standard. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence. (forthcoming). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344 Download this paper

Camilleri, M.A. (2017). Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany. ISBN 978-3-319-46849-5 http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

CSRWire (2015). Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting in Europe. http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/1574-environmental-social-and-governance-disclosures-in-europe

 

 

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