Business-interest organizations and social activism in the context of "grand challenges"


This summer MSM’s Associate Professor in Sustainable Business, Jakomijn van Wijk, presented a paper at the annual conference of the European Group for Organization Studies (EGOS) in Tallinn, Estland. EGOS is a leading membership organization of scholars who study different types of organizations and the contexts in which they operate.

Dr. Van Wijk joined the session titled “Grand Challenges: Institutions, Innovation, Impact” that included more than 45 paper presentations on how different organizational actors address complex societal challenges like climate change, inequality and persistent poverty. Papers ranged from studies on collaborative innovation in food security programs in Africa to the emergence of the venture philanthropy industry in Europe. Jakomijn presented a co-authored paper (with Jean-Baptiste Litrico from Canada’s Smith School of Business and José Carlos Marques from Canada’s Telfer School of Management) that theorizes the interplay between social movement organizations, companies and business-interest organizations like trade associations.

Social movement organizations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth challenge industries and firms to make the production and consumption of their goods and services more sustainable. Material damage, consumer boycotts, marches and petitions are examples of movement tactics these organizations use to pressure firms to take action. Trade associations increasingly respond to such social activism, but there is little understanding of their response strategies and the implications of such business collective action for the transition towards sustainability in the targeted industry. In their theoretical paper, Jakomijn and her co-authors address this knowledge gap.

Studying the interplay between business (including their representative organizations) and society aligns with MSM’s long tradition of teaching and research activities in the fields of sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility. MSM has also been active in strengthening business-interest organizations in developing and emerging economies, recognizing the key role these organizations play in industrial upgrading.

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