Sub-theme 36: Justifications and Governance for Responsibly Developing an Inclusive Society ---> MERGED with sub-theme 54

Andreas Georg Scherer
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Vincent Blok
Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Cristina Neesham
Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Responsible innovation (RI) is the framework that governs innovations with regard to their potential harmful consequences for people and planet on the one hand, and their potential positive contributions to societal wellbeing on the other. RI can be defined as “a transparent, interactive process by which societal actors and innovators become mutually responsive to each other with a view to the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products” (von Schomberg, 2012). Consequently, organizational structures and procedures are central to RI as they can facilitate or impede the responsible creation, implementation and diffusion of new ideas, products and processes. We therefore want to hold a sub-theme that focuses on organizational structures and procedures and their role in RI governance on various organizational levels: firm, industry, national, regional, and global.
We suggest that the inclusion of and deliberation about different perspectives, interests, resources and knowledge from various stakeholders, on various levels, are central attributes of RI governance. Arguably, inclusion and deliberation are likely to lead to more legitimate, effective and efficient innovations that avoid harm and do good to people and planet (Scherer & Voegtlin, 2020; Voegtlin & Scherer, 2017).
The role of inclusive structures has been acknowledged by academics and policy makers. For example, the EU’s Research and Responsible Innovation (RRI) framework was introduced to anticipate and assess “potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation” (European Union, 2014). The RRI provides a policy framework where the consequences and responsibilities of innovative action in contemporary society can be (con)tested.
At the same time, deliberation, defined as “debate and discussion aimed at producing reasonable, well-informed opinions in which participants are willing to revise preferences in light of discussion, new information, and claims made by fellow participants” (Chambers, 2003: 309), can be used as constructive conflict in stakeholder dialogue (Cuppen, 2012), or to democratize communication processes and make them “authentic, inclusive and consequential” (Dryzek, 2009: 1379). Hence, deliberation is key to reflexive governance (Dryzek & Pickering, 2017), which, in turn, is a defining characteristic of RI.
Inclusion and deliberation can help private, public and civil society actors, jointly, to define the right goals (through public discourse), to choose the appropriate means (by involving stakeholder expertise and resources), and to secure social acceptance (by securing the support of those affected) for innovations that contribute to societal wellbeing. Yet, we need to further explore the conditions under which inclusion and deliberation can exhaust their positive potentials and influence on RI. Furthermore, RI’s normative imperatives highlight the need for governance innovation as well (Swyngedouw, 2005) – that is, the exploration of alternative forms of governance, including deliberative innovations (Goodin & Dryzek, 2006) that can nurture and enhance RI.
We therefore encourage research on RI that includes business as part of the solution to wicked problems (Dentoni et al., 2018) and grand challenges such as inequality, hunger, climate change, or pandemics (George et al., 2016). From this perspective, RI consists of three types of responsibility that are relevant for exploring the role of private, public and civil society actors in the RI process (Voegtlin & Scherer, 2017): [1] the responsibility to do no harm (Lee & Petts, 2013), [2] the responsibility to do good (Stahl & Sully de Luque, 2014), and [3] responsible governance (Scherer & Palazzo, 2011), which involves establishing institutions, structures, and procedures on multiple levels, in order to facilitate innovations that satisfy [1] and [2] and secure the joint contributions of private, public, and civil society actors.
Recent challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic crisis (aka “new coronavirus”) highlight the need for RI in governance at a significantly more complex and integrated level than we are currently practicing. For instance, various societal actors innovate ‘on the go’, independently, to accelerate responses to this unprecedented challenge: however, the key factors in these new developments are collaboration and the pooling of resources (i.e. assets, materials, knowledge, personal resources). These efforts to cope with a new global problem, whose nature we are still seeking to grasp, are not just about innovating in order to avoid harm and do good but also about creating effective governance systems that make agile and effective responses possible and at the same time lead to legitimate solutions that moderate the trade-offs between societal goals. Therefore, RI frameworks should enable us to account for post-normal innovation, i.e. innovation produced by post-normal science – which is characterized by uncertainty, contested values, high stakes and the need for urgent decisions (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 1990). They should also enable us to observe, understand and explain how our governance structures are changing, with new forms of governance emerging out of necessity.
To further explore the potential of organizational processes – and of policy frameworks, such as the EU’s RRI – to foster (or hinder?) RI, we invite conceptual and empirical contributions, both qualitative and quantitative, to investigate the role of inclusion and deliberation on multiple levels (firm, industry, national, regional, global). This sub-theme is open to a wide variety of epistemologies, theoretical lenses, levels of analysis and research designs. Submissions may address (but do not need to be limited to) research questions such as:

  • Theory development: What conceptualizations of RI (e.g., Lubberink et al., 2017) could contribute to the advancement of RI governance research? What theoretical perspectives could better explain the potential of RI governance frameworks to generate inclusive social benefit for a wide range of stakeholders? Is the RI concept itself in need of radical transformation (Blok, 2019a; Blok & Lemmens, 2015)? If so, how could or should it be transformed? Are the current conceptualizations of RI governance fit for responding to situations of crisis?

  • Methodological approaches: How can the social impact of RI governance frameworks be measured? What indicators can be used to evaluate RI governance in organizations?

  • Social agency: How do, can, or should various social actors (e.g., in government, business, civil society) relate to different approaches to RI governance? What contributions do, can, or should they make to generate more inclusive benefits to society and the natural environment? What is the role of leadership in developing inclusive and deliberative RI governance? Are democratic governance systems more capable than authoritative systems to legitimately, effectively, and efficiently govern RI, and if so, why?

  • Stakeholder interaction: What is the role of inter- and intra-value conflicts among stakeholders of RI in RI governance (Garst et al., 2019)? How do, can, or should individuals, groups, organizations and communities interact to facilitate the creation of more inclusive and deliberative RI governance frameworks? How should organizations engage their stakeholders (Blok, 2019b) in RI governance processes?

  • Legitimacy: How can research focus on innovation input legitimacy generate new, productive insights into the complexities of innovation responsibility and governance, to the benefit of vulnerable stakeholders, society and the Earth eco-system? What is the relation between input- and output- legitimacy in RI in organizations?

  • Policies and practices: What is the role of policy (at various levels) in the emergence of inclusive and deliberative governance frameworks for RI? What is the impact of inclusive and deliberative governance on RI? How can inclusive and deliberative governance, based on the timeless values of civic democracy, be maintained in the context of public health management in the fight against pandemics? How can the trade-offs between economic prosperity, public health concerns, and individual rights be managed during the COVID-19 shutdowns?

  • Industry-specific issues: What are industry-specific boundary conditions for RI and its governance? How do governance structures and processes impact RI in a particular industry sector – e.g. agriculture, extraction, banking and finance, information and communications technology, the sharing economy (Voegtlin & Scherer, 2019)?

  • Cross-sector issues: How can innovation governance in one sector help with innovation governance in another sector? Under what conditions can cross-sector solutions work?

  • Global issues: What is the role of RI governance frameworks in addressing some of the grand challenges of the contemporary world (e.g., pandemics, climate change, disaster-related migrations, impact of digital transformations on social justice/AI revolution in the future of work)?

  • Governance innovation: How can existing approaches to RI governance be innovated, and for what purposes?



  • Blok, V. (2019a): “Innovation as Ethos. Moving Beyond CSR and Practical Wisdom in Innovation Ethics.” In: C. Neesham & S. Segal, S. (eds.): Handbook of Philosophy of Management. Dordrecht: Springer,
  • Blok, V. (2019b): “From participation to interruption: Toward an ethics of stakeholder engagement, participation and partnership in CSR and responsible innovation.” In: R. von Schomberg (ed.): Handbook Responsible Innovation: A Global Resource. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 243–257.
  • Blok, V., & Lemmens, P. (2015): “The emerging concept of responsible innovation. Three reasons why it is questionable and calls for a radical transformation of the concept of innovation.” In: J. van den Hoven et al. (eds.): Responsible Innovation, Volume 2. Concepts, Approaches and Applications. Dordrecht: Springer, 19–35.
  • Chambers, S. (2003): “Deliberative democratic theory.” Annual Review of Political Science, 6 (1), 307–326.
  • Cuppen, E. (2012): “Diversity and constructive conflict in stakeholder dialogue: Considerations for design and methods.” Policy Sciences, 45 (1), 23–46.
  • Dentoni, D., Bitzer, V., & Schouten, G. (2018): “Harnessing wicked problems in multi-stakeholder partnerships.” Journal of Business Ethics, 150 (2), 333–356.
  • Dryzek, J.S. (2009): “Democratization as deliberative capacity building.” Comparative Political Studies, 42 (11), 1379–1402.
  • Dryzek, J.S., & Pickering, J. (2017): “Deliberation as a catalyst for reflexive environmental governance.” Ecological Economics, 131, 353–360.
  • European Union (2014): “Responsible research & innovation.” Horizon 2020, available at:
  • Funtowicz, S.O., & Ravetz, J.R. (1990): Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy. Berlin: Springer.
  • Garst, J., Blok, V., Branzei, O., Jansen, L., & Omta, O. (2019): “Toward a Value-Sensitive Absorptive Capacity Framework: Navigating Intervalue and Intravalue Conflicts to Answer the Societal Call for Health.” Business & Society, first published online on September 20, 2019:
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
  • Goodin, R.E., & Dryzek, J.S. (2006): “Deliberative impacts: The macro-political uptake of mini-publics.” Politics & Society, 34 (2), 219–244.
  • Lee, R.G., & Petts, J. (2013): “Adaptive governance for responsible innovation.” In: R. Owen, J. Bessant & M. Heintz (eds.): Responsible Innovation: Managing the Responsible Emergence of Science and Innovation in Society. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 143–164.
  • Lubberink, R., Blok, V., van Ophem, J., & Omta, O. (2017): “Lessons for responsible innovation in the business context: A systematic review of responsible, social, and sustainable innovation practices.” Sustainability, 9 (5), 721–751.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Palazzo, G. (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 (4), 899–931.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Voegtlin, C. (2020): “Corporate governance for responsible innovation: Approaches to corporate governance and their implications for sustainable development.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 34 (2), 182–208.
  • Stahl, G.K., & Sully de Luque, M. (2014): “Antecedents of responsible leader behavior: A research synthesis, conceptual framework, and agenda for future research.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 28 (3), 235–254.
  • Swyngedouw, E. (2005): “Governance innovation and the citizen: The Janus face of governance-beyond-the-state.” Urban Studies, 42 (11), 1991–2006.
  • Voegtlin, C., & Scherer, A.G. (2017): “Responsible innovation and the innovation of responsibility: Governing sustainable development in a globalized world.” Journal of Business Ethics, 143 (2), 227–243.
  • Voegtlin, C., & Scherer, A.G. (2019): “New roles for business: Responsible innovators for a sustainable future.” In: A. McWilliams, D. Rupp, D. Siegel, G. Stahl & D. Waldman  (eds.): Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility: Psychological and Organizational Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 337–358.
  • von Schomberg, R. (2012): “Prospects for technology assessment in a framework of responsible research and innovation.” In: M. Dusseldorp & R. Beecroft (eds.): Technikfolgen abschätzen lehren: Bildungspotenziale transdisziplinärer Methoden. Wiesbaden: Springer, 39–62.
Andreas Georg Scherer holds the Chair of Foundations of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His research interests are in the social welfare implications of Strategic Management and the political role of Multinational Corporations. In particular, he is interested in how the process of globalization leads to changes in the economic, social, ecological, and political responsibilities of MNCs. Andreas develops a critical view on Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Social Responsibility, Non Market Strategies, Political Strategies, and Stakeholder Management and contributes to the recent discourse on “Political CSR”. His work has appeared in ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Organization’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, and other journals. He is an associate editor of ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’ and member of the editorial boards of ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Organization’.
Vincent Blok is Associate Professor in Philosophy and Ethics of Technology and Innovation at the Philosophy Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands. Together with six PhDs and four post-docs, his research focuses on business ethics, philosophy of technology and responsible innovation, and he is involved in several European research projects. Vincent’s books include “Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology” (Routledge, 2017) and “Heidegger’s Concept of Philosophical Method” (Routledge, 2020). He published over 100 articles in ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, ‘Business and Society’, ‘Journal of Responsible Innovation’, and other journals.
Cristina Neesham is a Reader/Associate Professor in Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility at Newcastle University Business School, United Kingdom. She researches in environmental ethics and business, AI and business, human needs and social value in organizations, and philosophical methods for management and organization research. Cristina has published, among others, in ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’, ‘International Journal of Project Management,’ ‘Financial Accountability and Management’, ‘Philosophy of Management’, and ‘Social Responsibility Journal’. She was section editor for ‘Journal of Business Ethics’ for six years and is currently associate editor for ‘Business Ethics: A European Review’.