The Allies Of Others: How Stakeholders’ Relationships Shape Non-Market Strategy

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Corporate social responsibility
Field theory
Social movements
Social networks
Business Administration, Management, and Operations
Management Sciences and Quantitative Methods
Organizational Behavior and Theory
Other Sociology
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This dissertation shifts analytic focus from firm, stakeholder and institutional characteristics as drivers of a firm’s non-market strategy to the fields in which stakeholders are embedded which are characterized by their own social relationships, norms and identities. In so doing, I strive to develop a more socialized view of non-market strategy. The first chapter provides evidence that the identity of stakeholders in their fields and the structure of relations between them can circumscribe firms’ strategic responses to stakeholder conflict that require stakeholder cooperation. The second chapter explores the pathways by which firms attenuate stakeholder threats through an understudied phenomenon: cooperative non-market strategy, or when firms establish formal cooperative relationships with stakeholders. I find that cooperative non-market strategy is an effective way for firms allay threats from a broad swathe of stakeholders by exploiting the social networks and identity of an allied stakeholder. The first two chapters draw on a unique, self-constructed 25-year panel of all contentious and collaborative interactions between 118 environmental movement organizations and Fortune 500 firms, complemented by multiplex network data on movements and firms. While the first two chapters explore cooperative non-market strategy, the last chapter demonstrates the utility of taking account of stakeholder fields in unilateral non-market strategy, in this case, improvements in corporate social and environmental performance. Drawing on a dataset of 250 million media-reported events to construct comprehensive socio-political networks and stakeholder fields across 42 countries, I find that stakeholder ties to country-level socio-political networks and to each other, and who participates in stakeholder fields and mobilizes against firms, manifest in observable differences in corporate social and environmental performance across countries. In addition to establishing that stakeholder fields are central to explanations of non-market strategy, this dissertation finds that the mechanisms underlying their impact are multi-faceted, and consistently operate through two characteristics of stakeholder fields: the relational ties of stakeholders, and the identity of stakeholders within their field. Stakeholder fields are central to understanding firms’ strategic management of stakeholders because fields constrain stakeholder agency, are susceptible to influence through their relational structures and member identities, and in turn, influence issue salience for outsiders.

Witold J. Henisz
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