Investigating the Influence of Stakeholder Dialogue                   Joyce Miller, Doctoral Candidate
On Corporate Processes & Decision-Making                       1 December 2005 


Outline of Presentation







First, a Definition

Stakeholders are:


     “individuals or groups with which business interacts who have a ‘stake’, or vested interest
in the firm” (Carroll, 1993:22) with whom firms are seen to be inextricably embedded
(Andriof & Waddock, 2002)


             e.g. employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, creditors, communities, media, regulators, professional & trade
      associations, public interest groups, social & environmental activists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs)


Research Question


How does stakeholder dialogue influence corporate organisational processes
and decision-making?

Motivation for Study


Ø    Broadening vision of firm’s roles & responsibilities, beyond profit maximisation

Ø    Current lenses see these actors primarily as source of pressure
è prescription: “manage” these relationships

Ø    Surge in public demand for corporate transparency & accountability

Ø    Technologies increasingly need social acceptance

Ø    Stakeholder dialogue conceived as mechanism to gain social acceptance


My Study is Inspired and Informed By:


1)          Stakeholder Theory

·  Replacement of “Input-Output” model of the firm with the Stakeholder Model
(Freeman, 1984; Carroll, 1993; Clarkson, 1995; Donaldson & Preston, 1995; Jones, 1995; Campbell, 1997; Clarkson, 1998)

·  Stakeholders are essential for corporate performance; influence decision-making; companies reap benefits
(Mitroff, 1983; Freeman, 1984; Hart, 1995; Starik et al, 1996; Wheeler & Sillanpää, 1997; Elkington, 1998; Sharma & Vredenburg, 1998;       Svendsen, 1998; Heugens et al, 1999; Andriof & Waddock, 2002))

·   Companies operationalised responsibility-responsiveness concept by establishing boundary-spanning units
(Post et al, 1982; Fennel & Alexander, 1987; Meznar & Nigh, 1995; Wood & Jones, 1995; Waddock & Graves, 1997; Berman et al, 1999)

2)        Institutional Theory

·        Organisations obtain legitimacy & social acceptance by complying with the demands of external constituencies
(Zucker, 1977; DiMaggio & Power, 1983; Meyer & Scott, 1983; Scott, 1987; Oliver, 1991; Sutton, 1993; Scott & Meyer, 1994; Suchman, 1995)

3)        Resource Dependence Theory

·        Organisations depend on external environment for resources & support; organisations must negotiate for scarce resources, effectiveness requires managing numerous, sometimes incompatible demands; balance of power is the intervening variable  (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978)

4)        Organisational Learning

·        Learning organisations are adaptable & responsive to change
(Hedberg, 1981; Peters & Waterman, 1982; Kanter, 1989; Senge, 1990)

·        R&D is a key source of firm’s internal learning (Dodgson, 1993)

·        “absorptive capacity” resides in boundary-spanning or gate-keeping roles (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990)


Where is there a Gap in Literature & Theory?


·       How does proactive engagement with stakeholders -- e.g. stakeholder dialogue --
influence corporate processes/decision-making and act as source of value creation?

How Did I Get Methodological Background to Address My Research Question?


Ø    HEC courses – meagre at the time

Ø    Swiss Summer School (2 weeks Lugano)
- qualitative data (discourse & narrative analysis)
- survey techniques

Ø    Organised own follow-up course at University of Geneva
- made proposal, got funding from Swiss National Science Foundation

Ø    Essex Summer School (2 weeks UK)
- interpretive methodologies; constructivism research paradigm

Ø    Wrote papers & presented at conferences (GIN: Raleigh, Bangkok; Org Discourse: London)
- participation funded by UNIL/HEC
- opportunity for peer feedback, exchange

Ø    Studied other relevant PhD theses


A Qualitative Approach; Inductively Building Theory


Criteria for choosing my research method

Ø    Nature of research topic

Ø    Research question being posed

Ø    Extent of control over behavioural events

Ø    Focus on contemporary not historical events

Conclusion:  Case Study is Most Appropriate for My Research Question



Ø    Suitable for answering “how” and “why” questions (Yin, 1984)

Ø    Searches for meaning & understanding (Neuman, 1994)

Ø    Appropriate for research in new topic where insights can be used to inductively build theory (Eisenhardt, 1989)

Ø    Case studies can provide description, test theory, generate theory (Eisenhardt, 1989)

Ø    Analysis of complex phenomena in natural setting; can uncover plethora of causal factors & operational links to grasp holistic patterns (Miles & Huberman 1994; Naumes & Naumes 1999)

Ø    Provides longitudinal aspect; study phenomenon at different points in time (Meyer et al, 1993)




Every Research Strategy has Advantages & Disadvantages


Case study has been criticized for:

·       Producing overly complex theory due to intensive use of empirical evidence

·       Providing little basis for scientific generalization

·       Lacking rigor

·       Producing lengthy, unreadable narrative

…the reader does not see “how the researcher got from 3600 pages of field notes to the final conclusions,
as sprinkled with vivid illustrations as they may be“ (Miles & Huberman, 1994:2)

·       Yielding weak construct validity & overall reliability

Typical questions posed:

Ø    Can empirical accounts stemming from observations/documents really confirm or refute elements of conceptual framework?

Ø    Was researcher biased?

Ø    Did researcher suppress contradictory data; seek only confirming data?

Ø    Would another researcher investigating same phenomenon using same methodology
arrive at same results?



I’m Following Eisenhardt’s (1989) Roadmap




      Allowed me to identify kind of organisation
to approach and once there, what data to collect




      Caution: pre-ordained theoretical perspectives/
         propositions may bias & limit findings

















Eisenhardt’s approach synthesizes previous work by Glaser & Strauss (1967) on developing grounded theory; Yin (1981, 1994) on the design of case study research; and Miles & Huberman (1984) on procedures for analysing qualitative data


Important Points regarding Case Selection


Keep in mind:

·        An appropriate population controls extraneous variation and helps define limits for generalizing findings

·        “Increasing the number of cases serves only to reduce proportionately the
 that can be given to any one of them”
(Wolcott, 1994:182)

·        Multiple case studies give:

Ø           reassurance that events & processes in one well-described setting are not wholly idiosyncratic
(Miles & Huberman, 1994)

Ø           comparison through replication of results enables ‘analytic generalization’ (Yin, 1984)

·        Within-sector cases facilitate:

Ø           control of relevant external influences -- degree of regulation, industry-wide environmental standards & common practices, level of scrutiny by media/special interest groups (Yin, 1984)

Which Sites were Chosen for Data Collection?


3 instrumental cases chosen from European biotechnology sector
involving use of GMOs in food/household products




Case Selection Defines Limits of Findings


Why focus on cases in this sector?

Ø          Introduction of GMO technology has met with fierce public resistance in Europe

Ø            Companies have made high-level commitments to stakeholder dialogue

Ø            Public statements that stakeholder engagement informs corporate strategy

Ø            Commitments operationalised through launch of major stakeholder dialogue initiatives

Ø            Significant resources being devoted to stakeholder dialogue

Ø            Access to companies & multiple perspectives

Ø            Availability of public information (allowing triangulation)


Why these 3 Cases?

Each of these companies has:

·       History of engaging with environmental stakeholders

·       Strong public reporting records

·       Launched products using GMOs aimed at food sector; more launches planned in future

·       Been subject of tremendous public concern in Europe regarding use & deliberate release of GMOs into environment

·       Varying acceptance of products by society

·       Made a high level, formal commitment to stakeholder dialogue

·       Operationalised stakeholder dialogue

·       Failure to get society’s acceptance of use of GMOs/biotechnology could seriously jeopardize each company’s economic performance




Overview of Cases

Case #1 - Pioneer

- published 1st CER in ’91

- target of numerous campaigns to block its marketing of GM seeds in Europe

- launched major stakeholder dialogue initiative in Oct 99 due to crisis
- company was merged; IPO spun-off unit involved in GMO (Sept 2000)
- stakeholder dialogue will “help us make decisions about the development,
   use, and stewardship of new agricultural technologies”


“We shall seek an active dialogue with our stakeholders to help us develop and strengthen our business”

One of 6 company “Values”

Case #2 - Viking

- has published a CER since ’94, received many international awards

- leading producer of industrial enzymes (used in food products)

- de-merged company into 3 autonomous entities (Nov 2000)

- launched dialogue due to 1980s crisis; now world leader” best-in-class”,
   reputation for openness, stakeholder engagement


“We focus on external stakeholders and work in partnership to deliver our business”

One of 5 company “Principles”

Case #3 – Helvetica

- doing environmental reporting since ’97

- Seeds Division is at heart of GMO controversy

- Seeds Division was put into new joint venture, separated from main company
  (Nov 2000),  now world’s largest agribusiness

- stakeholder engagement has been put at heart of crafting & implementing
  corporate vision (crisis in industry, not in company)

“We commit to an ongoing dialogue with all interested parties to understand the issues and concerns related to this technology”
One of 5 elements from
company “Pledge”




Ensuring a Rigorous, Transparent Approach


Actions taken to mitigate weaknesses of case study approach

·       Identified & interviewed all individuals in case sites engaged in company’s stakeholder dialogue process

·       Transcription from audio-tapes

·       Planned data analysis in advance; ensuring process is transparent and well-documented

·       Faithfully following Eisenhardt’s (1989) roadmap for building theory from case study research

·       Will interpret research findings in 3 steps: data display, reduction, conclusion-drawing
according Miles & Hubermann’s (1994) suggestion

·       Utilizing software tool that allows me to manage, extract, compare, explore, and reassemble meaningful pieces from voluminous qualitative data in a creative, yet systematic way, and produce targeted, digestible case reports






Seeking Multiple Voices


Data sources

·       Interviews with all key internal people doing stakeholder dialogue

·       Interviews with external people guiding/advising/consulting on stakeholder dialogue

·       Relevant corporate reports, speeches, documents, position papers

Data gathering

è      Used semi-structured questionnaire, given in advance

è      Interviewed 49 people, mostly face-to-face, tape-recorded
- respondents spanned 8 countries
- 5 telephone interviews

è      All interviews fully transcribed & checked

è      Data collection in 2 phases
(Aug 1999 - Oct 2000 + May 2001 - Feb 2002)




Interview Guide – 1st Round, Aug 99 – Oct 2000

0.    What is your background, history, position in the company? Your responsibilities vis-à-vis the biotech issue?

1.            What do you see as the company’s role & responsibility in sustainable development?

2.          Is biotechnology related to sustainable development? If so, how?

3.          Why is there resistance to the introduction of biotechnology/GMOs in Europe?

4.          How do Life Science companies ‘connect’ with stakeholders on the biotechnology/GMO issue?

5.          Who are the company’s stakeholders on the biotechnology/GMO issue?

6.          What are the company’s key messages to its stakeholders vis-à-vis biotechnology/GMOs?

7.          Does the company’s Corporate Environmental Report help deal with stakeholders on biotech issues? If so, how?

8.          Who is involved in developing the company’s Corporate Environmental Report?

9.          How do you measure the success of the company’s Corporate Environmental Report

10.     What are the challenges still ahead for the company vis-à-vis biotechnology and GMOs?



Interview Guide – 2nd Round, May 2001 – Feb 2002

1.            Why has the company engaged in stakeholder dialogue?

2.          Can stakeholder dialogue be a spark for innovation?

3.          How has the company organised its engagement/dialogue with stakeholders?

4.          Who is involved in the dialogue process from the company side?

5.          Which stakeholders are involved in the dialogue process?

6.          What systems have been established to collect information from stakeholder dialogue?

7.          How is the information obtained from stakeholder dialogue analysed and evaluated?

8.          What are the results/outputs of the stakeholder dialogue process?

9.          How are the outcomes of stakeholder dialogue used by the company?

10.     Are stakeholders now more accepting of the company’s biotechnology products?

11.       Have new product introductions that incorporate stakeholder feedback fared better
in the marketplace?

12.     Has stakeholder dialogue increased the company’s competitiveness?



Handling Myriad, Divergent Empirical Raw Data



·       Developed simple model drawing together elements from literature review
- formulated propositions

·       Using qualitative data analysis software tool: ATLAS/ti

- converts overwhelming amount of data into concise, coherent, consistent analysis
- respects principles of reliability, validity
- maintains direct access to the context (codes reference text)

·        1st round of coding (relevant chunks of text or “hits”)
started with pre-established coding scheme
- initial codes cover main elements of research question/interview guide derived from literature review

·       Adding new codes for “hits” that don’t match existing scheme but seem to be relevant

·       2nd round: more focus, attempt to falsify the propositions
- eliminate & merge codes to remove redundancy

·        3rd round: group remaining codes into clusters = basis for writing up case reports
- case reports encapsulate complex meaning
- allow readers to vicariously experience happenings & draw own conclusions (Stake, 1998)



Evolving Coding Scheme


Industry context

Biotechnology context

Consumer context


Corporate context


Attitude towards stakeholders


Definition of stakeholder dialogue


Trigger for stakeholder dialogue


- rebuilding image
- acceptance
- freedom to operate
- build trust


Operationalisation of stakeholder dialogue
- internal involvement
- top management commitment

- external involvement

- structure

- process

- transformation

- dissemination


- decision-making impact
- organisational impact
- product level impact
- strife
- learning potential
- innovation
- competitiveness



Displaying the Data


Pioneer – Aims linked with Impact of Stakeholder Dialogue




Within and Cross-Case Analysis


·       Within-Case Analysis

-         detailed case study write-up for each site

-         become intimately familiar with each case as standalone entity (Eisenhardt, 1989)

-         investigate unique patterns of each case


·       Cross-Case Analysis

-         search for cross-case patterns

-         generalize patterns across cases



è      allow theoretical categories to emerge solely from the evidence (Eisenhardt, 1989:534)

è      force search for subtle similarities & differences, break simplistic frames

è      comb multiple sources of data (triangulation)

è      constantly compare data (emergent theory) and existing theory (literature)



Aim: To Make a Contribution



Expected Outcome

è      Generation of theory that is “conceptually dense”
    (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998)

-         relationships, stated as propositions, presented in discursive form

-         connects multiplicity of perspectives with patterns & processes of action/interaction linked with carefully specified conditions & consequences

-         not just another set of phrases !

-         systematic statements of plausible relationships