Business ethics and sustainability

How Do Companies Communicate Sustainability: A Semantic Analysis of German Automotive Manufacturers

Fabienne Le, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 9(1), 2024, 1123-1139

CSR is increasingly becoming an integral part of a company´s business operation. To successfully implement a CSR strategy, companies must address their CSR actions to their stakeholders. This paper examines how companies communicate sustainability to their stakeholders through various communication channels. This paper supports the novel strand of research applying computer-aided quantitative analysis methods as an alternative to qualitative methods, commonly used in business ethics and sustainability research. With the application of a latent semantic analysis, four automotive companies were examined for their sustainability communication. The paper offers new insights into the use of different communication channels, highlighting that companies address specific aspects of their CSR actions depending on what stakeholder group they want to address.

Keywords: communication channels; computer-aided quantitative analysis; CSR; latent semantic analysis; sustainability; triple bottom line.

Self-Optimization for Individual Happiness? Title of the research article?

Lea Krähenmann, University of St.Gallen (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 9(1), 2024, 1341-1383

In our secular society, individuals are urged to find meaning in their lives despite limited opportunities. While inner hero’s journeys convey a sense of purpose, depth, and belonging, apparent promises of happiness, such as self-optimization, are gaining increasing traction. This exploratory study aims to investigate whether students perceive self-optimization as a path to a good life and how it relates to transformative journeys. Utilizing a combination of semi-structured interviews and a quantitatively analyzed questionnaire, the societal views of students, their practices and motivations for self-optimization, notions of a good life, and interconnections are explored. In the post-heroic, secular, and performance-oriented society described by students, the majority expects to self-improve. The analysis reveals that only a small fraction experiences transformative journeys, while others strive for happiness in seemingly transformative developments like self-optimization or other life projects. The hypothesis that this pursuit of happiness is based on incomplete understandings of meaning and self-awareness should be examined in further studies.

Keywords: finding meaning; good life; self-improvement; self-optimization; transformative hero journey.

Chances and challenges for the members of the Fairtrade-supply chain: a case study of Chile and Switzerland

Regina Maria Martha Förg, University of Passau (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 8(4), 2023, 993-1009

Conventional international trade has become discredited because of emerging conflicts on fairness on producers’ economic, social & ecological situation. Aiming to provide alternatives, the Fairtrade-certification was amongst the first that incorporated solidarity within the worldwide economy. Within a few decades the certification managed to exceed its pure labelling activities and implemented a whole supply chain, representative for debates about due diligence in international supply chains. While such a partnership is vital for more fairness in supply chains, it poses challenges to its agents. This paper, based on a case study of Swiss and Chilean companies, aims to explore the complexity for members in such a Fairtrade-supply chain. To this effect, it sheds light on the social and economic chances and challenges both for producers and merchandisers participating in the Fairtrade-system. The study gives evidence that this supply chain is a cooperation on eye-level which can provide an alternative to conventional free trade. Further, it shows that motivation and cultural background play a decisive role in the chances and challenges of Fairtrade-members. Ultimately, it proves that Fairtrade can be a partner for rising legal requirements in the course of due diligence laws.

Keywords: CSR; Case study; Fairtrade; Supply chain; Due diligence.

Ethical Problems in Family Firms

Elena Kowalik, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management (Bachelorarbeit)
Junior Management Science 8(2), 2023, 431-452

Various articles suggest that particular ethical problems occur in family firms, but until now, no attempt has been made to collect and structure available information on them. Based on the systematic review of 110 articles from peer-reviewed academic journals, we show that family firms face a set of unique ethical dilemmas and define those. They can either be family-based or business-based and we uncover the antecedents and outcomes of the processes that family firms employ to solve them. When family firms manage to deal with ethical problems appropriately, they will be rewarded for that in various ways, including improved financial performance and the preservation of potentially all SEW dimensions.

Keywords: Family firms; Business ethics; Socioemotional wealth.

The normalizing power of digitalization in the world of work – An analysis based on Michel Foucault’s theory of power

Sebestyén András Huszár, Free University of Berlin (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 7(4), 2022, 932-944

Digitalization – a power that shapes the whole world and, in particular the world of work anew. Digitalization brings new rules, creates new conditions and establishes new standards. It has a strong normalizing effect. As Michel Foucault describes it in his work Discipline and Punish, normalizing is one of the predominant forms of power. Foucault’s theory of power provides a perspective particularly suited to understand the processes of digitalization. The aim of this paper is to identify the most prominent effects of the normalizing power of digitalization in the world of work. In order to reach this goal, a profound qualitative content analysis is conducted, where articles from the German news magazines Die Zeit and Der Spiegel are analyzed using the method of concept coding. The result of the paper is a comprehensive category system, which describes the complex phenomenon, how digitalization normalizes the world of work. Digitalization converts the local nature of the world of work into global (Globaler Charakter), creates flexible working conditions (Flexibilität) and introduces a new level of connectedness and surveillance (Transparenz und Kontrolle). The paper provides a detailed discussion of the main components of these three categories. Results of the paper show, that digitalization changed the world of work fundamentally through normalization, and employees encounter novel challenges and opportunities.

Keywords: Digitalization; Foucault; normalizing power; worker.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Effects of Sustainable Corporate Practices and Various Greenwashing Methods on Corporate Reputation

Simon Mütze, Leibniz University Hannover (Master thesis)
Junior Management Science 7(3), 2022, 826-873

As awareness of sustainable consumption continues to grow, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming increasingly relevant. However, when it comes to communicating corporate sustainability (green marketing), false or vague claims, so-called greenwashing, have now reached epidemic dimensions. For this reason, many consumers have built up a fundamental skepticism towards this type of communication. The purpose of this study is to help marketers establish and communicate effective as well as sincere corporate practices to address the challenges posed by greenwashing. Therefore, this study uses a field experiment to investigate how often greenwashing is recognized by consumers in the first place, what companies need to consider for successful CSR and, in particular, what effects different CSR initiatives, greenwashing methods and greenwashing scandals have on corporate reputation. One of the key findings is that greenwashing is strongly condemned and has a strong negative impact on corporate reputation, but due to high consumer skepticism and confusion, as well as low environmental knowledge, it is hardly distinguished from actual CSR measures. Proposed solutions include awareness campaigns for a better understanding of environmental claims in advertising, and government reform and monitoring of eco-labels.

Keywords: CSR; Greenwashing; Unternehmensreputation; Unternehmerische Nachhaltigkeit; Umweltsiegel.

Opportunities and Challenges in Commissioning Materiality-Driven Sustainability Reporting Towards the SDGs: The Case of Cadeler A/S

Darian Nestor Weicht, University of Southern Denmark (Master thesis)
Junior Management Science 7(3), 2022, University of Southern Denmark

Frequently and recently tightening and expanding sustainability reporting policies and requirements can pose significant administrative burdens on SMEs upholding a strong culture of accountability to their stakeholder network. This seminal case study examines how a Danish offshore wind farm commissioner can efficiently (1) navigate towards credibility in and (2) derive actionable insights from their sustainability (reporting) integration trajectory by capitalizing on the increasingly emphasized materiality principle. Group-based Fuzzy AHP and Textual Analysis aim to excavate and assess senior managers’ and external stakeholders’ preferences based on the GRI Standards and the UN’s SDG targets. Internal priorities emphasize safety, compliance, and profitability, whereas external stakeholders’ and their groups’ priorities exhibit mixed findings on their type and extent of alignment with the former. Content elements assigned higher relative importance tend to be more robust to changes in decision-makers’ uncertainty and verbal bias. The author confirms that a simplicity-informativeness trade-off tends to be driven by stakeholder grouping and that a data-driven, subject-based, and objectifying approach should be complemented with context, managerial judgment, and process iteration.

Keywords: Sustainability; materiality; prioritization; credibility; actionability.

Effects of the European CSR Directive (2014/95/EU) on the Credibility of Sustainability Reporting – An Empirical Study of German Listed Companies

Tim Scheufen, RWTH Aachen University (Master thesis)
Junior Management Science 7(3), 2022, 604-642

The European Union has implemented the CSR Directive 2014/95/EU with the aim to improve sustainability reporting in order to increase the trust of different stakeholders. There is evidence in the literature that stakeholders distrust the sustainability reporting of companies. The lack of credibility may lead to a loss legitimacy or acceptance in society. Accordingly, the master thesis raises the research question whether the implemented CSR directive has increased credibility in the sustainability reporting. To answer the research question the credibility of the sustainability reporting is quantified before and after the implementation of the CSR directive in a German sample (MDAX). Credibility is measured by a credibility index which consists of the following three dimensions: (1) Truth, (2) sincerity and (3) appropriateness & understandability. The results show a statistically significant increase in the dimensions of truth and sincerity after the introduction of the CSR directive. Therefore, the master thesis delivers empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the implemented CSR directive in the context of credibility.

Keywords: CSR-Richtlinie 2014/95/EU; Glaubwürdigkeit; Nachhaltigkeitsberichterstattung; MDAX.

Nudging as an Instrument to Promote Sustainable Consumption – a Conceptual Analysis with Special Consideration of the Empirical Literature

Therese Stopper, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 7(1), 2022, 201-217

The principle of sustainable development states that resources must be used in such a way that both current needs and the needs of future generations can be met. According to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, this requires, among other things, sustainable consumption. This paper tries to explain to what extent nudging can help people make sustainable consumption decisions. Based on their high emissions in private consumption, the areas of food, housing and mobility are identified as important aspects of sustainable consumption. The majority of the paper consists of a review of empirical literature. Studies are considered that relate to the highlighted areas of sustainable consumption as well as four selected nudges. The results show that the selected nudges can promote sustainable consumption decisions. Certain aspects such as the phrasing or reference of the nudge are relevant for success.

Keywords: Nudging; Nachhaltigkeit; Nachhaltiger Konsum.

Talking is Silver, Doing is Gold? – The Influence of Corporate Social Responsibility on Corporate Financial Performance

Victoria Roth, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Master thesis)
Junior Management Science 6(3), 2021, 637-672

Sustainability has become an omnipresent topic in the media and public as well as private debate. Stakeholders see the responsibility to promote sustainability with companies, pressuring them to increase their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The relationship between CSR, being a means to satisfy a firm’s stakeholders, and Corporate Financial Performance (CFP) is extensively debated in academics. This thesis contributes to this debate and tries to overcome measuring inaccuracies of previous studies by strictly categorizing CSR activities into CSR communication and CSR commitment. A total of 656 annual and CSR reports were examined, and variables representing these CSR activities were carefully and elaborately created, resulting in, among other things, a CSR communication breadth index, as well as an accurate assessment of communication quantity. A panel data analysis on European firms across industries over the observation period of eight years was conducted. The results reveal that only CSR communication has an influence on CFP. While standalone CSR reports and communication breadth have a positive influence, high levels of communication quantity have a negative effect.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility; corporate financial performance; CSR commitment; CSR communication; stakeholder theory.

Sustainable Food Consumption of German Millennials: Exploring the “Attitude Behavior Gap”

Max Lindner, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Master thesis)
Junior Management Science 6(3), 2021, 424-467

This thesis picked up on the recent trend of sustainability and sustainable development by investigating the sustainable food consumption of German Millennials regarding an assumed gap between their attitude and their actual consumer behavior. Based on the Theory of Planned Behavior, a multi-step, qualitative research process was developed in order to find explanations for the attitude behavior gap. The process triangulated data from questioning ten German Millennial consumers via qualitative interviews, observing these consumers during a regular grocery shopping trip and analyzing the products they bought. The study revealed the following barriers preventing the participants from consuming according to their attitude: price, lack of knowledge on part of the consumers, insufficient sustainable product ranges, consumers minimizing the time spent for grocery shopping, habitualized purchase decisions and in exceptional cases a desire for unsustainable products. Accordingly, recommendations were derived for sustainable food manufacturers and supermarket chains, public policy and consumers. Additionally, this thesis contributes to consumer research on the attitude behavior gap as well as on behavioral research by applying and extending the Theory of Planned Behavior.

Keywords: Sustainable consumption; attitude behavior gap; consumer behavior; food consumption Verbal Protocol Analysis; Theory of Planned Behavior.

The Attitude-Behavior Gap – Drivers and Barriers of Sustainable Consumption

Bea Alexandra Wintschnig, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 6(2), 2021, 324-346

Individuals’ consumption behavior plays a key role on the path to a sustainable future. Understanding what influences the decision to act in a sustainable manner is therefore crucial. The aim of this thesis is to provide a structured overview of the current state of academic literature on the drivers and barriers of sustainable consumption and to discuss the related phenomenon of the attitude-behavior gap. The identified influencing factors can be broadly divided into two categories: individual-related determinants and environmental determinants. The former includes socio-demographics, personal characteristics and value orientation, non-cognitive factors (habits and emotions) and cognitive factors like knowledge. The environmental determinants comprise product-, service-, or behavior-related factors (such as stereotypes towards sustainable products), corporate activities (e.g., communication efforts), social influence as well as structural conditions like the available infrastructure. From the diversity of influencing factors and their interplay, it becomes clear that to promote sustainable behavior or to close the attitude-behavior gap, a holistic approach is needed that combines different instruments and is adapted to the specific type of consumer behavior.

Keywords: Sustainable consumption; attitude-behavior gap; sustainable choices; sustainable consumer behavior.

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Qualitative Analysis on the Strategy Formulation Process

Marie Wehinger, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Bachelor thesis)
Junior Management Science 3(4), 2018, 65-80

The urge for firms to contribute positively towards the society and the environment is increasing significantly. Demands of employees, customers, governments, NGOs and many more are putting firms under pressure to respond accordingly. Thus, it is vital for firms nowadays to formulate effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies which provide guidelines for the firm’s commitment towards the challenges of the society and environment. Plenty of research exists on the components of CSR strategy formulation, particularly regarding stakeholders, organizational vision and the CEO’s influence. However, it is important to consider the whole process of the strategy formulation and to link the components together. By means of a qualitative analytical approach, I show that the internal input provided by the CEO and the CSR team plays an important role in deciding on certain CSR initiatives. Furthermore, the strategic fit between the potential CSR issues and the core business is a significant criterion. Through assessing the potential value creation, and thus the expected impact scope, prioritizations of CSR issues take place. The continuous monitoring and evaluation of the stakeholders’ needs form an iterative process which leads to a constantly changing CSR strategy focus of the firm. My aim in this paper is to contribute to the understanding of CSR strategy formulation through a CSR strategy formulation process model. The model provides insights into firms’ CSR strategy formulation from which I derive implications for management and further research.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, Strategy Formulation, Sustainability

What makes a responsible leader? – An empirical analysis of how personality characteristics affect leadership behaviour

Mischa Haberthür, University of Zurich (Master thesis)
Junior Management Science 3(3), 2018, 1-37

This master’s thesis contributes to the ongoing discussion on responsible leadership and its antecedents by empirically analysing the relationship between various traits and responsible leadership effectiveness. In a quantitative experimental research study, the participants (62 men and 32 women) first filled out an online survey assessing their gender, age, and major field of study as well as their score in the personality dimensions honesty-humility, openness to experience, empathic concern, perspective taking, and holism. Afterwards, their second-to-fourth digit ratio was measured, and men had the option of providing a saliva sample which was used to determine their testosterone level. Finally, the participants’ performance in the leadership roles professional, facilitator, citizen, idea-provider, and total was assessed with a think-aloud protocol. By performing a multiple linear regression analysis, I found that empathic concern positively influences the roles facilitator and total, holism the role citizen, and perspective taking the role idea-provider. I also found that men and psychology students are less likely to perform well in the role idea-provider and that openness to experience negatively affects facilitator.

Keywords: Responsible leadership, Ethical leadership, Corporate social responsibility, Stakeholder approach, Personality characteristics