Sub-theme 10: (SWG) The Changing Role of Business in Global Society

Andreas Georg Scherer
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Hans van Oosterhout
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands
Kathleen Rehbein
Marquette University, USA

Call for Papers


This Standing Working Group (SWG) provides a platform to discuss the changing dynamics between business activity and society in the context of globalization (Beck, 2000; Djelic & Quack, 2003; Habermas, 2001; Scherer & Palazzo, 2008a). The dominant views of the firm in management and organization studies in general, and in subfields such as CSR or business & society in particular, still build on the economic view of the business firm that focuses on profits and operates within a regulatory framework as defined by government (Crouch, 2006). In a globalizing world, governments may be ineffective and/or retreating, thus causing corporations to operate in an institutional void (Hajer, 2003). This dynamic erodes established ideas about the division of labour between the political and economic spheres (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007, 2011).

This year's topic is concerned with the political role of corporations, specifically the co-creation and enforcement of the international rules of the game by firms. The key research aim is to better understand how firms influence and participate in the creation of governance solutions in the international arena, and how they support the enforcement of these solutions. The basic premise is that firms fill governance voids and thus turn into political actors, especially when considering their role in global governance and contributing to the production of global public goods (Flohr et al., 2010; Kaul et al., 2003; Matten & Crane, 2005; Scherer & Palazzo, 2008b, 2011; Vogel, 2007). Governance, here, is not only understood as rule making, but also involves rule implementation and enforcement (including monitoring and reporting). Today, the governance of the global economy is characterized by the involvement of private, public, and civil society actors and the use of non-coercive steering mechanisms. Business firms are playing a significant role in this new governance of the global economy (Abbott & Snidal, 2009).

This SWG looks at the supply and demand side of governance on a variety of economic, social, and environmental issues and gives special consideration to issues related to the emergence of private and/or public-private governance regimes (e.g. the UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative, or international accounting standards) (see e.g. Bexell & Mörth, 2010; Erman & Uhlin, 2010; Rasche & Kell, 2010; Vogel, 2007). These problematic issues emerge with business firms' ambivalent role as governance makers and governance takers. Apparently, the existence of non-state regulatory mechanisms provokes questions of legitimacy of private rule making and rule enforcement (Erman & Uhlin, 2010; Palazzo & Scherer, 2006; van Oosterhout, 2010) as well as the effectiveness of global business regulation.

We want to discuss the consequences and implications of the new, enlarged role of the business firm for organization studies on the macro (business-society relationships) as well as the meso (organizational structures and procedures) and micro levels of analysis (leadership and individual behaviour). We specifically invite papers which take a critical perspective on the emerging political role of the multinational firm.

Possible questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the business-role when looking at non-state regulation?
  • Which institutional arrangements support the exercise of governance in the global arena? What is the role of international organizations such as the UN, WTO or ILO?
  • What determines the legitimacy and efficiency of private regulatory schemes?
  • What are the enforcement mechanisms of private governance?
  • How can we theorize about critical issues such as corporate dominance and influence on public issues, democracy gaps, and the failure of state governance?
  • What are the success factors of private-public partnerships such as, e.g., multi-stakeholder initiatives?
  • What is the impact of a politically enlarged understanding of corporate responsibility on the theory of the firm?


Abbott, K.W. & D. Snidal (2009). "Strengthening International Regulation through Transnational New Governance: Overcoming the Orchestration Deficit." Vanderbilt Journal of International Law, 42, 501–578
Beck, U. (2000): What is Globalization? Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
Bexell, M. & Mörth, M. (eds.) (2010): Democracy and Public-Private Partnerships in Global Governance. New York: Palgrave
Crouch, C. (2006): "Modelling the Firm in its Market and Organizational Environment: Methodologies for Studying Corporate Social Responsibility." Organization Studies, 27, 1533–1551.
Djelic, M.-L. & S. Quack (eds.) (2003): Globalization and Institutions: Redefining the Rules of the Economic Game. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar
Erman, E. & A. Uhlin (eds.) (2010): Legitimacy Beyond the State? Re-examining the Democratic Credentials of Transnational Actors. New York: Palgrave
Flohr, A., L. Rieth, S. Schwindenhammer & K.D. Wolf (2010): The Role of Business in Global Governance. Corporations as Norm Entrepreneurs. New York: Palgrave
Habermas, J. (2001): The Postnational Constellation. Boston, MA: MIT Press
Hajer, M. (2003): "Policy without Polity: Policy Analysis and the Institutional Void." Policy Sciences, 36 (2), 175–195
Kaul, I., P. Conceição, K. Le Goulven & R.U. Mendoza (eds.) (2003): Providing Global Public Goods. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Matten, D. & A. Crane (2005): "Corporate Citizenship: Toward an Extended Theoretical Conceptualization." Academy of Management Review, 30 (1), 166–179
Palazzo, G. & A.G. Scherer (2006): "Corporate Legitimacy as Deliberation: A Communicative Framework." Journal of Business Ethics, 66 (1), 71–88
Rasche, A. & G. Kell (2010): The United Nations Global Compact – Achievements, Trends and Challenges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Scherer, A.G. & G. Palazzo (2007): "Toward a Political Conception of Corporate Social Responsibility: Business and Society Seen From a Habermasian Perspective." Academy of Management Review, 32 (4), 1096–1120
Scherer, A.G. & G. Palazzo (eds.) (2008a): Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar
Scherer, A.G. & G. Palazzo (2008b): "Globalization and Corporate Social Responsibility." In: A. Crane, A. McWilliams, D. Matten, J. Moon & D. Siegel (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 413–431
Scherer, A.G. & G. Palazzo (2011): "The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World – A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy." Journal of Management Studies, 48, 899–931
van Oosterhout, H. (2010): "The Role of Corporations in Shaping the Global Rules of the Game: In Search of New Foundations." Business Ethics Quarterly, 20, 253–264
Vogel, D. (2007): "Private Global Business Regulation." Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 261–282


Andreas Georg Scherer Andreas Georg Scherer holds the Chair for Foundations of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). His research interests are in Business Ethics, International Management, Organization Theory, Philosophy of Science, and Strategic Management. He has published nine books, most recently the Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship (with G. Palazzo). His work has appeared in journals such as Academy of Management Review, Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management Studies, Organization, Organization Studies. Dr. Scherer is Associate Editor of Business Ethics Quarterly and serves as a member of the editorial boards of Business & Society, Journal of Management Studies, Organization and Organization Studies.
Hans van Oosterhout is Professor of corporate governance and responsibility at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. He obtained an MA in political science from Leiden University and a PhD in management from Erasmus University (2002). His research interests include the positive and normative theory of organizations and institutions, comparative corporate governance, business regulation, business ethics, and the role and position of corporations in the global institutional matrix.
Kathleen Rehbein Kathleen Rehbein is currently an associate professor at Marquette University. Her research interests include examining the determinants and effectiveness of domestic and international corporate political strategies. She is also interested in shareholder activism, analyzing corpo-rate responses to shareholder activists as well as determining the motivation of shareholder activists. She has published in Academy of Management Journal, Decision Sciences, Business and Society, and Southern Economic Journal. Dr. Rehbein has been very involved in the gov-ernance of the International Association for Business and Society and the Social Issues Divi-sion of the Academy of Management.