Agenda 2030: Board of Directors and Firm Sustainability Performance
University of Messina, Italy
Business sustainability is based on the idea that companies must take responsibility for the environmental, social and economic impacts generated by their activities, even beyond the requests of their stakeholders. A fundamental step is to improve the current corporate governace stategies for the implentation of Sustainable Develpment Goals.
In September 2015, the United Nations approved the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development to be achieved by 2030.
The 2030 Agenda requires a strong involvement from the private and public sector. Companies all over the world are called upon to make an important contribution to the regiment of SDGs through new business models. Only a strategic planning path that harmonizes and synchronizes all the factors of sustainability can allow companies to integrate the SDG into their businesses.
In recent years, corporate governance scholars are increasingly focusing their studies on the characteristics of a BoD. The board of directors should ensure an efficient control of the management's work to adequately support the decision-making process. Strong corporate governance can be a valuable tool to mitigate agency problems and encourage managers to operate properly.
While literature has widely acknowledged the importance of the composition a board of directors on corporate financial performance financial performance, a gap of knowledge persists on the relationship between sustainability performance, that only recently has been considered as another firm’s overall performance.
Does the composition of a board of directors have a greater effect on sustainability performances?
A quantitative analysis was performed using a system-generalized method of moments (SGMM) two-step estimator to determine the relationship between the BoD and sustainable performance. Our empiri-cal analysis supports the existence of such an effect.
The sample used in this study is comprised of 362 large companies in 46 countries. The period of analysis is from 2013 to 2016. The Sustainalytics Platform database was used to extract data for the dependent and independents variables. Sustainalytics is a global leader in ESG research who spe-cializes in providing data for the world’s foremost investors. This database provides 199 items for eight sections: business ethics, corporate governance, employees, the environment, controversial ac-tivities, the supplier, the customers, and the community. Every item is rated on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best), and a final Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) score is built with the sum of weighted averages from each item. The information to build scores is extracted from multiple sources such as financial accounts, company documentation, databases, and interviews. . Scholars consider this database suitable for management studies as it uses a strong, reliable, and complete methodology in its framework.
The database was then completed with financial information from Compustat Global Vantage for the control variables.
In line with the Agency Theory, we find that the separation of board chair and CEO roles en-hances sustainability performance.Consistent with Stakeholder Theory we find that board diversity has a significant impact on sustainabil-ity performance. Our results also confirm the study Zhang, Zhu and Ding (2013), who suggest that a more diverse board provides valuable resources and should improve a firm’s performance.
Contrary to our expectation we find a negative relationship between independent directors on a board and SP. This result supports the study of Bansal et al., 2018. They show that the behavior of independent directors can be influenced by reputational risk. This risk can arise in the context of CSR disclosure decisions. The information that the independent directors receive from the management can be manipulative and misleading.
Moreover, The results confirm that the board diversity is significant associated with both social and environmental dimensions. This because the female directors and foreign directors are attentive to shareholders ‘interest, they can be more in tune with relational sustainability strategies.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our results contribute to sustainable development and corporate governance literature on multiple fronts. First, we showed that the composition of the BoD inﬂuences sustainability performance and the efficiency of corporate governance mechanisms which then allow for the integration of sustainable development goals. Secondly, our sample included companies from 46 countries that differ in their approaches to promoting sustainable development and board diversification. Lastly, we conducted a study using a dynamic model in order to take into account the complex interactions between the BoD and sustainability performance, and to answers to the call of Rao and Tilt (2016), which suggest longitudinal analysis in the study of board composition.
Contribution to Practice
Exploring empirically the relevance of corporate governance strategies on sustainable development. Knowing more about the relationship between the composition of a board of directors and social and environmental performance by clarifying that companies play a central role in global development, and along with the many other economic actors, they must be considered as development agents. In terms of strategy and planning, a BoD should act to support sustainable development along the entire supply chain. SDGs can only be achieved if adequate and prepared administrators are part of an effective governance system.
Sustainable Developmen is the 2019 R&D management conference theme. Our in-depth empirical analysis on the relationship bettween the composition of a board of directors on sustainability performance offers an original perspective of the transition between research and corporate governance practices.
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How latecomers catch up in the energy and ecological transitions: the case of Chinese electric vehicle industry
1University of Bath; 2Rennes School of Business; 3Grenoble Ecole de Management; 4Tsinghua University; 5National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi
The Chinese central government regards the electric vehicle (EV) industry as a major means to achieve nationally sustainable developments. It is worth studying when and what factors trigger technological catching up and market exploitation during the energy and ecological transitions from the traditional fuel automobile industry to clean energy one.
The industry-level catching up strategy means that domestic firms in emerging countries as latecomers close the gaps to the foreign incumbents, by foreign direct investment, imitation, government intervention and heavy investments in the improvement of capabilities and resources (Kumaraswamy et al., 2012). Malerba (2004) points out that the sectoral innovation system consists of several interacted elements, core technologies, key market knowledge, market demand, government policies as well as supply chain actors. The system would upgrade by time and continuously changes to keep generating more windows of opportunities.
Recent research shows that windows of opportunity (WOP) play an important role in catching up (Lee and Malerba,2017; Yap and Truffer, 2018). Established studies (such as Perez and Soete, 1988) identify the antecedents of WOP, including discontinuous technologies, dramatic changes in market demand, changes in policies, the interaction among technology, demand, and policies, industrial network innovation or differentiated framework innovation.
The paper selects the catching up process of the Chinese EV industry to fulfill the research gap on how to seize and utilize the WOP to catching up in a newly emerged industry of emerging markets in the global environment.
What factors trigger the emergence of the WOP and how practitioners seize the WOP in the catching up process of the Chinese EV industry?
We follow the method of case study to provide a better understanding of the research phenomenon (Eisenhardt, 1989). We conduct a qualitative inductive analysis based on the grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) for data analysis. We taped the semi-structured interviews, and then translated the salient ones into English, following the procedures of back translation (Brislin, 1970) and established the coding terms to analyze the responses from selected firms and figure out their current catching up strategies. By data analysis, we summarized the periodical characteristics and categorized the periodization of EV industry within a chronological frame.
Our research context is the Chinese electric vehicles (EV) industry, consisted of domestic and foreign groups. Our sampled domestic EV firms are BYD (14.89%), BAIC (4.84%), Geely (14.04%) and Chery (2.10%) (China Automotive Technology & Research Center, 2016), while the sampled foreign firms are: BMW (Germany), Tesla (United States), Toyota (Japan) and Volkswagen (Germany). These two groups are selected not only due to the difference between the country of origin effect (Fortanier and van Tulder, 2009) but also because of the similarity of their technological competence, market experience, and production capacity.
Our data source consists of three parts, semi-structured interviews, field observations, and archival data. We conducted 30 semi-structured interviews from April to July 2018. The informants include industry experts (managers in the consulting department and account managers that are knowledgeable at EV firms), marketing department (store managers; retail managers), managers of suppliers (clerks that in charge of sourcing). Our archival data are mainly obtained from 311 national archival reports and policy documents, 16 industrial reports, 10 media editorials, and 22 articles from patents databases.
The paper examines three antecedents of EV catching up: imitation, government intervention, and local advantages. Results indicate that WOP appeared in the introduction stage (recognize WOP in 2001 and breakthrough WOP in 2005) and the turning point from the introduction stage to the growth one (extend WOP in 2010 and general catch up in 2015) in the industry lifecycle of the Chinese EV market.
Results also show the collective actions and discourses: selected foreign auto firms strategically register EV patents in China and mainly employ intermediate entry modes (joint ventures or strategic alliances) with local auto firms and all target middle- or high-end EV market; domestic latecomers mainly adopt path-following strategy (Lee and Lim, 2001) to achieve technological catching up. They also invest heavily in innovation capabilities to decrease technology dependence and enhance competence. Domestic EV latecomers heavily rely on Chinese government financial and technological supports and local advantages to gain costs advantages while employing low-end disruption strategy (Christensen, 1997).
Our study also summarizes the current managerial challenges for sustainable development of Chinese EV industry: inadequate capabilities to acquire advanced technology, trade barriers for foreign incumbents, challenges for motivating EV purchases and excessive capacity expansion in EV production.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our study summarizes that windows of opportunities of the Chinese EV industry show three key features: diversity, dynamics, and complexity. Based on the macro-level and meso-level analysis, the study summarizes the periodization of the changes in national EV policies, EV market demand and EV technology. We examine the importance of the time scope of WOP for government and firms to recognize, breakthrough, extend WOPs to describe how dynamic changes in these three factors motivate catching up.
The study illustrates the complexity of WOP. On one hand, it can be solely stimulated by one factor, like BYD’s disruptive innovation or differentiated framework innovation (Zhu et al., 2011). On the other hand, it can be stimulated by the interactions of two or three factors. For instance, during 2015- 2018, government EV purchases and infrastructure construction program, and innovative applications by Tesla and BAIC prompt the extension of market demand window.
Contribution to Practice
Results show that government intervention is the main driver of the development of Chinese EV technology and market. We summarize four managerial challenges: 1) lag-behind industrial capacity for the domestic market to acquire the advanced EV technology, 2) trade barriers for foreign EV incumbents such as ineligible for government subsidies and stringent government requirement of technology transfer to domestic firms, 3) main challenges for market exploitation: high batteries costs, inadequate charging time and lag-behind charging points infrastructure constructions and 4) excessive capacity: excessive government incentives lead to EV overproduction, urgently questioning the batteries recycles and cleanness of energy (Xinhuanet, 2018).
Our study provides a valuable empirical example of how to trigger and manage the energy and ecological transitions. This paper offers a further understanding of the collective actions and discourses of foreign and domestic EV firms in terms of new-energy vehicle technology development and marketing strategies and their managerial challenges.
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Transitioning from fossil fuels to cities. The case of Engie Business to Territories strategy
My research focuses on the depiction of Engie's strategy shift and reorganization, since 2016, to reach new sustainable markets and to get rid of fossil fuel dependency. I lead this ethnographic study in the newly created Business to Territories (B2T) business line.
The perspective adopted in my work is grounded on Science Technology Society (STS) literature to depict the instrumented crossed-processes of deconnection from the fossil fuel industry and the framing of new markets/connection to a new industrial horizon. I use Timothy Mitchell (2011) to analyze the instrumentation of energy companies to count with or without environment and climate. I refer to Michel Callon (1998, 2013, 2017) as a conceptual framework to analyze the making of markets.
Business history literature offers both advantages of retrospective and comparative analysis of other energy companies strategy to deal with environmental issues and strategy shift. Keetie Sluyterman monography on the Royal Dutch Shell (2010), and Ans Kolk and David Levy comparative analysis of BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Texaco (2001) help qualifying energy sector composition and transformations under climate change regime.
Depiction of Engie repositioning strategy towards territory, named B2T, opens the opportunity to describe an undocumented strategic shift of an energy company in business literature.
- How does an energy company count with climate change?
- How does an energy company frame a new market (B2T)?
The qualitative methodology used to depict Engie strategy is based on complete immersion in the Business to Territories (B2T) business line as an employee and is completed with dedicated interviews.
- Strategy documents: Capital Market Days (strategy presentation to Engie's investors), Strategy Talks (internal presentation of Group's strategy); power point presentations + talk transcription
- Market documents: Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and divestment announcements (Group internal note + Financial Times), stock prices evolution (Financial Times)
- Ethnographic journal: document synthetizing observations; word, +100 pages
- Interviews: 15 interviews
The envisaged results of this research are the ethnographic depiction from the inside of the concrete means and instruments used by an energy company to perform an exit strategy from fossil fuels and projection towards new development horizons.
Contribution to Scholarship
The main expected scientific contribution of this research is to understand how companies territorialize their action. Analyzing the crossed-processes of exit from fossil fuels sector and entry in the urban market (B2T) questions the territorial mode of existence of a company. Indeed, to develop its B2T strategy, Engie needs to "de-territorialize" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980) its presence from subterrean areas to "re-territorialize" it in cities. The depiction of this territorialization process will also contribute to a new understanding of private companies involvment in the urban fabric.
Contribution to Practice
The main contribution to practice of this research is the development of an in situ depiction of the observed situation not as an external observer but as an employee of the firm. Apart from traditional questions like data confidentiality, this specific situation questions the conditions of possibility of a reflexive practice in daily life (Smith, 2005, 2018)
This contribution highlights how an energy company strategy tackle climate change and sustainability issues by questioning the concrete means used to "transition" from the world of fossil fuels to the "zero-carbon" world.
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- Michel Callon, Sociologie des agencements marchands, Presses des Mines, 2013
- Michel Callon, L'emprise des marchés : comprendre leur fonctionnement pour pouvoir les changer, La Découverte, coll. « Sciences humaines », 2017
- Keetie Sluyterman, “Royal Dutch Shell: Company Strategies for Dealing with Environmental Issues”, Business History Review, n°84, 2010
- Ans Kolk et David Levy, “Winds of Change: Corporate Strategy, Climate change and Oil Multinationals”, European Management Journal, Volume 19, 2001
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Turning hydrogen into a market: A study of hydrogen ecosystem strategies in France
1University of Nantes, i3/CRG IPF, France; 2University of Paris Dauphine, France
As a controversial pillar of the energy transition, hydrogen is facing challenges to generate a market. Pushing for favorable policy frameworks and triggers for scale economies, industrial and institutional actors are developing collective strategies, leading to a plethora of ecosystems. However, pathways of development of hydrogen markets remain unclear.
Ecosystems refer to a collective structure emerging between a set of actors who need to interact to materialize a value proposition (Adner, 2017). Ecosystems have raised a particular interest in research on energy transition strategies. Indeed, the complexity and uncertainty of energy challenges create a need for coordinated actions between various industries and stakeholders (Ansari et al, 2016; Eisenhardt et Hannah, 2017). To further explore the process through which ecosystem activities transform a technology into a market, we draw on the literature on market creation.
Market creation or “marketization” (Mason & al, 2017) refers to the process that enables the conceptualization, production and exchange of goods (Araujo & Pels, 2015). It encompasses actors’ efforts to transform market structures, to introduce devices (Kjellberg, Azimont, & Reid, 2015), or to alter behaviors (Doganova & Karnøe, 2015). Those efforts can be deployed individually or through a coordinated network (Onyas & Ryan, 2015).
Despite existing research, we still know little about the mechanisms of market generation allowed by ecosystems. In particular, there is a need to better understand how practices derived from collective configuration generate multiple types of values from an innovative technology, while allowing their scaling up.
Therefore, this research addresses the following question: how can configurations of ecosystems transform hydrogen, as an innovative technology, into a market?
We conducted a theory-building, multiple-case study (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007), since there is so far limited theoretical insights on this research object. Moreover, multiple-case study is particularly relevant for our research question, as it requires the systematic comparison of a variety of ecosystems. The study encompasses fifty hydrogen projects developed from 2013 to 2018 in France.
We conducted a theory-building, multiple-case study of fifty hydrogen projects developed from 2013 to 2018 in France. We collected data from press and external communication documents on hydrogen projects. Data were analyzed in three stages. First, we build of a database derived from our theoretical framework. For each hydrogen project, we collected descriptive information on 5 dimensions. Second, we performed an inductive coding within each dimension, to build a taxonomy of ecosystems’ main characteristics and market creation practices. Finally, we carried an axial coding to identify configurations of H2 projects and their relations with market creation mechanisms.
Findings present the configurations of H2 ecosystems resulting from the combination of the three features that emerged from the analysis (value proposition, scope of the value chain, governance). First, we found three types of value propositions engineering-driven value, business-model-driven value, territory-driven value. Second, the scope of the value chain encompassed in H2 projects can vary, focusing either more on production, distribution, uses, or integrating the three stages in a logic of “virtuous” cycle. Third, governance here refers to the structure of H2 projects in terms of members’ leadership and sources of financial support. For each configuration, we expose the marketization mechanisms, according to three dimensions (targeting, unlocking, scaling up).
Contribution to Scholarship
This study aims at contributing to a better understanding of practices performed by ecosystems’ actors, at different levels (strategic, operational, and institutional), through which they intend to generate a market. We provide insights on how such ecosystems coordinate (Doganova & Karnøe, 2015) or how they elaborate market devices to create value (Cochoy and Dubuisson-Quellier, 2013).
Contribution to Practice
Our study provides two main insights that contribute to enlighten industrials’ strategic decisions and public policies or investments. On the one hand, our taxonomy of ecosystem configurations allows to draw a clearer vision of possible pathways of development for hydrogen within the energy transition. On the other hand, we shed light on mechanisms of value creation and scaling up that can be encouraged by public authorities and industrial actors.
This study brings new insights for research on technology and innovation management, by addressing a case of “chicken-or-egg” dilemma stage in an innovative technology’s trajectory. Furthermore, this research settles in the energy transition field, which constitutes an important and promising agenda of research with both practical and academic implications.
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