I am a management scholar whose interests lie at the intersection of strategy and sustainability. I am broadly interested in managers, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders as strategic actors in relation to economic, environmental, and social systems. My overarching research question is, “How can a company be both profitable and sustainable?” Given the next two decades of my scholarly pursuits, I assume a capitalist system exists. My two main areas of inquiry in this space are: (1) How do firms influence sustainability definitions and get influenced by external stakeholder efforts to define sustainability? and (2) What determines the performance of strategies based on transparency, voluntary commitments, and supply chain governance? My third area of research examines the effect of knowledge production practices on the rigor and relevance of published strategy research. My work has been published in the Journal of International Business Studies, Behavioral Science & Policy, and in edited books and online outlets, and I have a pipeline of working papers from late- to early-stage development. Overall, my work contributes to the development of sustainable business theory explaining how firms can be both profitable and sustainable.
My work on how firms influence and are influenced by sustainability definitions combines strategy and international business theory with environmental governance theory. The latter tradition draws on both social and natural sciences to understand the sustainable management of natural ecosystems. Combining these theoretical traditions contributes to the ongoing integration of natural sciences into management theory. My ecochains paper integrates these theoretical approaches to develop the first model of sustainability capable of differentiating sustainable from unsustainable firms. This advances sustainability theory beyond its present approach of viewing firms as traveling a sustainability journey but not capable of identifying when that journey ends. My paper provides a tangible means of explaining when a firm is sustainable, complementing our existing theory explaining when a firm is profitable. Combined, these approaches enable understanding my overarching question of how firms can be profitable and sustainable.
A second project in this area stems from my dissertation on corporate social responsibility strategy and the ability to use CSR to influence stakeholder behavior toward the firm. This empirical work utilizes econometric techniques to test and contribute to stakeholder influence capacity theory that claims CSR affects firm financial performance by first altering stakeholder behavior. I utilize a new, grant-funded data source to measure CSR, enabling the first empirical test of the theory’s mediation hypotheses. Data limitations in prior work enabled tests of moderation, finding some support for stakeholder influence capacity theory but posing a mismatch with the theory’s mediation logic. My work also contributes to ongoing developments in stakeholder theory on recognizing heterogeneous stakeholder preferences for corporate behavior, including CSR and sustainability actions.
A third project in this area extends international business theory by examining the effect of conflict between countries on foreign direct investment (recently published in Journal of International Business Studies). This work identifies conflict as an undertheorized area of responsible business management and empirically examines how firms develop political capabilities that moderate the impact of conflict cessation on investment. We find that firms with political capabilities in their host country are affected by conflict cessation differently than firms without such capabilities, suggesting that nonmarket strategy is an important component of how firms decide on investment in countries experiencing the end of conflict periods.
My second area of sustainable business inquiry examines the performance of sustainability strategies based on transparency, voluntary commitments, and supply chain governance. This project has been strongly affected by the pandemic and remains in development. I use comparative case study methods to collect, code, and analyze the performance of global agribusiness firm supply chain strategies. Such firms are an ideal context to study sustainability strategy performance because they depend on natural resource ecosystems like agro-ecological landscapes, forests, fisheries, and watersheds. They are directly exposed to systemic changes arising from climate change and are at the forefront of innovation on transparency, disclosure, and supply chain strategies designed to both manage stakeholder pressure and manage tangible ecosystem impacts. Preliminary results from exploratory data analysis suggest firms perform better when they elevate their definition of sustainability from the firm up to the landscapes in which they and other firms and stakeholders operate. This insight suggests sustainability strategy performance might depend on multi-stakeholder engagement at the landscape level, rather than actions that apply only to the focal firm.
I also work on the effect of knowledge production practices on the rigor and relevance of strategic management research. In this work, I have a paper conceptualizing knowledge production as an interplay of theory building and theory testing and argue that strategy overproduces theory building and underproduces theory testing, leading to a credibility crisis. I develop concepts necessary to rebalancing the interplay of building and testing necessary to produce and maintain rigorous and relevant published literatures. A second paper in this area empirically examines publication policies at prominent strategy journals and analyzes whether journal policies support the transparency and openness practices needed to produce rigorous findings.
Overall, my research and teaching goal is to understand how firms can be managed both profitably and sustainability. My industry experience and interdisciplinary background suggest to me that the core problem of answering this question is to first understand what it means for a firm to be sustainable, just as we have theorized what it means for a firm to be profitable. And an important component of that work is ensuring knowledge production practices that produce rigorous and relevant knowledge to performance and sustainability research.