Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 95, Issue 2, pp 297–318 | Cite as

When Suits Meet Roots: The Antecedents and Consequences of Community Engagement Strategy

  • Frances BowenEmail author
  • Aloysius Newenham-Kahindi
  • Irene Herremans


Understanding firms’ interfaces with the community has become a familiar strategic concern for both firms and non-profit organizations. However, it is still not clear when different community engagement strategies are appropriate or how such strategies might benefit the firm and community. In this review, we examine when, how and why firms benefit from community engagement strategies through a systematic review of over 200 academic and practitioner knowledge sources on the antecedents and consequences of community engagement strategy. We analytically describe evidence on the rise of the community engagement strategy literature over time, its geographical spread and methodological evolution. A foundational concept underlying many studies is the ‘continuum of community engagement’. We build on this continuum to develop a typology of three engagement strategies: transactional, transitional and transformational engagement. By identifying the antecedents and outcomes of the three strategies, we find that the payoffs from engagement are largely longer-term enhanced firm legitimacy, rather than immediate cost–benefit improvements. We use our systematic review to draw implications for future research and managerial practice.


citizens community engagement community groups corporate philanthropy social partnerships social strategy stakeholder engagement systematic review 


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We would like to thank the Leadership Council of the Research Network for Business Sustainability (RNBS) for commissioning and funding this research. We are grateful for the insights and guidance provided by members of the Leadership Council, Jocelyn Daw, Kevin Brady, Tom Ewart and Dr. Tima Bansal. We gathered many of the ideas in this report through attending events during the 2007--2008 academic year, and interacting with attendees on their experiences of community engagement. These events included the Pembina Institute's “Unlikely Allies” Report launch (November 2007, Calgary), Canadian Business for Social Responsibility's Annual Summit (November 2007, Toronto), Imagine Canada's “Corporate Community Investment” Conference (February 2007, Calgary), and RNBS' “Knowledge Forum on Engaging the Community” (February 2007, Toronto). We have also had the opportunity to refine our findings at events hosted by the International Resources and Sustainability Centre at the University of Calgary, the Said Business School at the University of Oxford, the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Society for Engineering Management, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Suncor Energy Inc., the Community Development Program at Simon Fraser University and the Alberta utilities multi-stakeholder group. Omissions and errors, naturally, remain our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frances Bowen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aloysius Newenham-Kahindi
    • 2
  • Irene Herremans
    • 1
  1. 1.Haskayne School of BusinessUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Edwards School of BusinessUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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