In today’s uncertain global landscape, the question of how firms can win the hearts and minds of political actors and stakeholders more broadly is increasingly core to their strategy and, arguably, to their survival. The valuation of the giants of the new economy like Uber, Facebook, and Amazon -- as well as firms within nascent and well-established industries -- are built not only on their operational excellence, financial acumen and value proposition to customers, but also on the means by manage the perceptions of stakeholders in their market and non-market environments. Will the value they hope to generate be perceived to be worth the costs of the disruption they cause? The promise of the recent wave of globalization and neoliberal reforms was felled not by its inability to generate efficiency gains, but by the inattention to the distribution of those gains by the firms and stakeholders that captured the lion’s share of its benefits. As the current backlash of populism, nationalism and de-globalization evolves, the answers to the questions of how far and fast we pull back from the peak levels of global integration; how impactful populism and nationalism will be on tax policy, public spending and regulation; and the potential scope for civil and international conflict triggered by or associated with the implementation of this agenda are very much open.
Financiers, investors and analysts are increasingly recognizing the importance of non-traditional environmental, social and governance factors for their investment strategies. At the same time, however, they are often making contravening demands for cost control, global standardization, or rapid growth at all costs. Policymakers seek to create value and jobs for their citizens but also protect them from perceptions of unfair foreign competition. Furthermore, politicians may divide their citizens for political purposes into in-groups deserving of protection or empowerment and out-groups who have benefitted unfairly despite the economic or scientific evidence to the contrary. Subsets of non-governmental organizations and activists decry the impact of multinational corporations on the natural environment, human and animal rights, while other NGOs and activists partner with companies to address these very same global challenges.
Joseph Wharton founded the Wharton School in a similar period of tumult when capitalism was under threat from a populist movement decrying the abuse of power by monopolies and trusts. Wharton together with a group of progressive business leaders and policymakers sought to insure that managers were broadly perceived as capable of addressing “the social problems incident of our civilization.” In this time of uncertainty surrounding global policy, technology and international relations, it is appropriate for the Wharton School to again host a gathering of academics seeking to explore the intersection of Strategy and the Business Environment.
We invite rigorous academic papers from scholars across disciplines and methodological traditions that generate robust insight into questions such as:
- How can firms’ political and stakeholder strategies help them to earn the Social License to Operate and improve perceptions that the disruptions and stakeholder costs that they generate are outweighed by the gains that they offer?
- How can financial actors better identify the value of firms’ investments in political and stakeholder strategies?
- What should the balance be between community, sub-national, national and international political and stakeholder strategies?
- What form of relationships should firms seek to develop and maintain with NGOs, administrative and political actors?
- How do these political and stakeholder investments vary by geographic region, sector, entry mode and function?
- How should firms organize their activities internally to insure that the management of political and social stakeholder relationships is a core element of strategy formulation and implementation as opposed to a support function and cost center?
- How should firms respond in face of aggressive misinformation campaigns by activists, saboteurs or competitors that seek to undermine stakeholder’s perceptions of the firm or of policy debates in which the firm perceives itself to have an interest?
- What are the material consequences for managers of engaging in policy debates in their national environment or among subsets of their customers that contravene the moral or ethical values held my managers, employees and other members of the value chain?
Submissions should be sent to email@example.com with subject line "SBE2018 Submission" by January 16, 2018. The program will be announced by the end of February 2018. Travel to the conference and accommodations at the conference will be covered for all paper presenters and discussants.