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Responsible Business, Business Ethics and Management History in Conversation - Can History Inform Corporate Responsibility?


Special issue call for papers from Journal of Management History

Guest Editors:
Nicholas Burton, Northumbria University
Kevin Tennent, University of York

There is continued and increasing academic interest in responsible business - and how this interacts and informs management and organization strategy and practice (eg, Porter and Kramer, 2011).  Recent scholarship and practice has put the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other corporate responsibility initiatives, such as B-corporation accreditation, centre stage in driving forward the agenda (eg. Voegtlin & Scherer, 2017; Moroz, et al., 2018).

At the same time, scholarship in management history has examined the origins and directions of corporate responsibility (eg, Hoffman, 2007; Marens, 2008; Singleton, 2018) and the literature on ‘social movements’, the forerunners of contemporary concerns, is especially rich and diverse. For example, see work on cooperatives (eg, Wilson, Webster and Vorberg-Rugh, 2013), credit unions (Ward and McKillop, 2005), mutuality (Batiz-Lazo and Billings, 2012), social entrepreneurship (eg, Murphy, et al., 2018), and religiously-grounded movements such as the Quakers (Prior and Kirby, 2006, Robertson, Korczynski and Pickering, 2007), to name a few.  Though this wide range of work focuses largely on historical events and chronologies, what contemporary scholars of socially responsible management can learn from this rich and varied history has received much less attention. This special issue seeks to redress this balance.

This special issue represents the beginning of a deeper conversation about the contours of the relationship between responsible business, business ethics, and management history.  Thus, we invite contributions from a broad range of management and organization disciplines on the following topics, but not limited to:

  • Is there a connection between movements of the past and contemporary ‘responsibility’ movements (such as UN Global Compact, B-corporations, etc)?
  • How has responsible management changed over time? How are the practices or processes shaped by their particular social, historical or religious/spiritual contexts?
  • What role, if any, does religion or spirituality play in the histories of movements of the past?     
  • What, if any, is the relationship between endogenous and exogenous factors in the change or decline of historical movements?
  • How have historical movements influenced the evolution of particular industries?
  • What, if any, is the possible relationship between the organization’s corporate or legal form and responsible business and ethics?
  • To what extent does Government policy, regulation and the law promote or inhibit responsible business? 
  • Is corporate or legal form associated with more or less responsible approaches to human resource management, supply chain management, marketing and distribution, production, decision-making or other strategic processes? 
  • What role, if any, do changes (strengthening/weakening) to corporate governance play in responsible business over time? What factors led to changes in corporate governance?
  • What role, if any, does leadership or vision play in the creation, renewal and/or decline of historical movements?
  • What, if any, effect does significant organization change events have on its approach to responsible business (e.g., acquisition, mergers, divestment, changes in leadership, etc.)?
  • Is an ‘ethical capitalism’ possible?

Time Scale:
Papers first presented: January 2019Pre-submission review: October 2019
Submission: January 2020
Final Revisions: January 2021