Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Management

Faculty/School

School of Business and Economics

First Advisor

Lorne Sulsky

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor

Abstract

Global society is currently facing a series of interrelated challenges that cross the economic, social, and environmental domains. Widespread market instability, corporate fraud, social unrest, failing states, environmental degradation, and climate change represent just a few of the most salient issues with which we are having to contend, and which could long affect future generations. Corporations, as the dominant institutions of our time, will necessarily play an important role in our ability to address these challenges. At a very basic level, corporate actions that degrade economic, social, or environmental value make the prospect of long-term sustainability increasingly uncertain. In contrast, actions that strengthen the economic, social, and environmental foundations of society potentiate a more sustainable future.

In this research I examine the behavioural underpinnings of corporate actions that either benefit or harm society, defined as strength and concern actions respectively. Specifically, I explore how different personal values relate to the propensity to engage in strength or concern actions across the economic, social, and environmental domains. Overall strong support was found for the majority of the hypotheses using a broad student sample enrolled in a variety of university programs. As predicted, the results indicate that individuals with strong economic values have a significantly greater propensity to engage in all types of concern actions as compared to individuals with different values profiles. Strong economic values were also shown to decrease the propensity for social and environmental strength actions. An unanticipated but significant finding concerns gender effects on both values and corporate actions propensity. Specifically, females were found to have significantly stronger social and environmental values and significantly weaker economic values as compared to males. Males in turn were found to have a significantly greater propensity for concern actions, and were less likely to support social and environmental strength actions.

This research also makes a number of conceptual and methodological contributions that help to advance research at the interface of business, society, and nature. In developing the contextual groundwork for this research I outline three conceptions of the relationship between business, society, and nature that are evident within the management literature. I argue that an embedded view, in which business, society, and nature are viewed as nested systems, is conceptually most valid and subsequently provides the best foundation for research addressing problems of sustainability. In addition, I build upon the existing social and environmental management literatures to develop comprehensive conceptual typologies and corresponding measures for both of the main constructs in this research. A multi-step scale development process established evidence pertaining to the reliability and validity of a new measure of corporate actions propensity. A new policy-capturing approach to values measurement was also used in this research, and holds a number of advantages over existing normative and ipsative techniques.

Convocation Year

2010

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