Media Focus on the Darker Side of Genetic Manipulation

       ‘All This Biotechnology is Scary’

          New York Times, 20 November 1998

‘The Frankenstein Food Scare that Killed U.K. Biotech’

  National Post, 7 May 1999

  ‘Genetically Modified Food: Alarmingly Out of Control’

  International Herald Tribune, 5 August 1999

   ‘How Safe is Genetically Modified Food?’

Business & Technology, 26 July 1999

      ‘Now It’s the Franken-Fish’

      Daily Mail, 29 July 1999

4 specific fears:

·             Unintended consequences potentially disastrous

·             Individual decisions are not possible

·             Biotech is technically complicated

·             Are we smart enough to play God?




Research Question

To what extent can stakeholder dialogue
facilitate the introduction of biotechnology?




The Emergence of Stakeholder Dialogue

·       Shell:
- “finding ways to involve our stakeholders in some of what we do, particularly when we are making crucial decisions which will have a serious impact, perhaps for generations to come”

·       Monsanto
- dialogue “is a search for answers. It’s a search for common ground; for constructive solutions that work for a wide range of people. Debate tends to be ‘either/or’ and dialogue tends to be ‘both/and’”

·       Elkington (1998) “priorities & strategies are better-rooted in emerging realities, more credible with all stakeholders, and, as a result, more robust”

Literature Review:  Motivations for Engaging with Stakeholders

·       Harrison & St. John (1996) on justifications for stakeholder management

Instrumental Perspective (“we should do it because it will pay off in the end”)

Enhanced ability to predict /control the external environment

Higher percentage of successful new product/service introductions

Higher levels of operating efficiency

Fewer accidents of damaging moves by stakeholders (i.e. boycotts, strikes, bad press)

Less conflict with stakeholders resulting in fewer legal suits

More favorable legislation/regulation

More reasonable contracts

Higher entry barriers leading to more favorable competitive environment

Higher levels of trust

Higher levels of profitability ?

Greater organizational flexibility

Normative Perspective (“we should do it because it is the right thing to do”)

Moral and philosophical basis for recognition of stakeholder interests

Increased media power and heightened interest in corporations

Statutes that allow board of director consideration of a broader group of stakeholders

·       For Hart (1995), benefits relate to incorporating “the voice of the environment”

·       Heugens et al (2000) – ‘buffering’, ‘co-optation’, ‘mutual learning’, ‘meta problem-solving’

·       Meznar & Nigh (1995)
- “buffering”: a firm either resists environmental change or tries to control it
- “bridging”: a firm promotes internal adaption to changing external circumstances

Developing Multiple Case Studies in the Biotech Sector

Research Method

·       Exploratory case studies

-        suitable for answering “how” and “why” questions

-        well-suited to my goal of generating & building theory in an area
where little data or theory exists (Yin, 1984)

-        multiple cases provide reassurance that “events and processes in one
well-described setting are not wholly idiosyncratic” (Miles & Huberman, 1994)

·       Within-sector cases facilitates:

-        comparison through replication of results to enable ‘analytic generalization’
(Yin, 1984)

-        control of relevant external influences
- degree of regulation, industry-wide environmental standards & common
  practices, scrutiny by the media/special interest groups, etc.



Why These Cases?

3 Cases in the Biotech Sector:

·       They each have a long history of engaging with environmental stakeholders

·       They each have strong public reporting records (on economic, environmental, and increasingly social dimensions)

·       Each company has launched products aimed at the food sector that use GMOs and each is expected to launch additional GMO products in the future

·       They are each the subject of tremendous public concern in Europe regarding their use and deliberate release of GMOs into the environment

·       Each company has had varying acceptance of its products by society

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

·       Each company has made a high level, formal commitment to stakeholder dialogue

·       Stakeholder dialogue has been operationalised in each company by varying degrees

Data Gathering and Analysis

Data sources

1)             interviews inside companies

2)           interviews with people involved in guiding/advising/consulting
on their stakeholder dialogue process

3)           relevant corporate reports, speeches, documents,
position papers

Analysis of Qualitative Data

·      variable clusters

·      use of interpretive methods (eg. discourse analysis)