A growing body of work suggests that the presence of women and of independent directors on boards of directors is associated with higher corporate environmental performance. However, the mechanisms linking board composition to corporate environmental performance are not well understood. This study proposes and empirically tests the mediating role of sustainability-themed alliances in the relationship between board composition and corporate environmental performance. Using the population of public oil and gas firms in the United States as the sample, the study relies on renewable energy alliances to measure sustainability-themed alliances and longitudinally analyzes lagged data for independent and control variables. The study found that (1) the higher the representation of women on a firm’s board, the more likely the firm is to form sustainability-themed alliances, and (2) the higher the representation of independent directors on a firm’s board, the more likely the firm is to form sustainability-themed alliances. Such alliances, in turn, positively contribute to corporate environmental performance. This paper discusses the study’s contributions to the board composition-social performance literature.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
We are indebted to one of our anonymous reviewers for this suggestion.
Accenture, & UNGC. (2010). A new era of sustainability: UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study 2010. New York: United Nations Global Compact and Accenture.
Adams, R. B., & Funk, P. (2012). Beyond the glass ceiling: Does gender matter? Management Science, 58(2), 219–235.
Arts, B. (2002). Green alliances’ of business and NGOs: New styles of self-regulation or ‘dead-end roads’? Corporate Social—Responsibility and Environmental Management, 9(1), 26–36.
Asch, S. E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, 193(5), 31–35.
Ayuso, S., Rodríguez, M. A., García-Castro, R., & Ariño, M. A. (2012). Maximizing stakeholders’ interests: An empirical analysis of the stakeholder approach to corporate governance. Business and Society, 20(10), 1–26.
Bagliani, M., Dansero, E., & Puttilli, M. (2010). Territory and energy sustainability: The challenge of renewable energy sources. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 53(4), 457–472.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.
Baysinger, B., & Hoskisson, R. (1990). The composition of boards of directors and strategic control: Effects on corporate strategy. Academy of Management Review, 15(1), 72–87.
Bear, S., Rahman, N., & Post, C. (2010). The impact of board diversity and gender composition on corporate social responsibility and firm reputation. Journal of Business Ethics, 97(2), 207–221.
Bernardi, R. A., Bosco, S. M., & Columb, V. L. (2009). Does female representation on boards of directors associate with the ‘Most Ethical Companies’ list? Corporate Reputation Review, 12(3), 270–280.
Boulouta, I. (2013). Hidden connections: The link between board gender diversity and corporate social performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 113(2), 185–197.
Burt, R. S. (2005). Brokerage and closure: An introduction to social capital. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cameron, A. C., & Trivedi, P. K. (2009). Microeconometrics using Stata. College Station, TX: Stata Press.
Carpenter, M. A., Pollock, T. G., & Leary, M. M. (2003). Governance, the experience of principals and agents, and global strategic intent: Testing a model of reasoned risk taking. Strategic Management Journal, 24, 803–820.
Carpenter, M. A., & Westphal, J. D. (2001). The strategic context of external network ties: Examining the impact of director appointments on board involvement in strategic decision making. Academy of Management Journal, 44(4), 639–660.
Chan, K., & Li, J. (2008). Audit committee and firm value: Evidence on outside top executives as expert-independent directors. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 16(1), 16–31.
Dacin, M. T., Oliver, C., & Roy, J.-P. (2007). The legitimacy of strategic alliances: An institutional perspective. Strategic Management Journal, 28(2), 169–187.
Daily, C. M., Dalton, D. R., & Cannella, A. A., Jr. (2003). Corporate governance: Decades of dialogue and data. Academy of Management Review, 28(3), 371–382.
Darnall, N., Henriques, I., & Sadorsky, P. (2010). Adopting proactive environmental strategy: The influence of stakeholders and firm size. Journal of Management Studies, 47(6), 1072–1094.
Das, T. K., & Teng, B. S. (1998). Resource and risk management in the strategic alliance making process. Journal of Management, 24(1), 21–42.
Davidson, D. J., & Freudenburg, W. R. (1996). Gender and environmental risk concerns: A review and analysis of available literature. Environment and Behavior, 28(3), 302–339.
De Dreu, C. K. W., & West, M. A. (2001). Minority dissent and team innovation: The importance of participation in decision-making. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(6), 1191–1201.
Diamantopoulos, A., Schlegelmilch, B. B., Sinkovics, R. R., & Bohlen, G. M. (2003). Can socio-demographics still play a role in profiling green consumers? A review of the evidence and an empirical investigation. Journal of Business Research, 56(6), 465–480.
Du, S., & Vieira, E. T., Jr. (2012). Striving for legitimacy through corporate social responsibility: Insights from oil companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(4), 413–427.
Duguid, M. M., Loyd, D. L. T., & Pamela, S. (2012). The impact of categorical status, numeric representation, and work group prestige on preference for demographically similar others: A value threat approach. Organization Science, 23(2), 386–401.
Dussauge, P., Garrette, B., & Mitchell, W. (2000). Learning from competing partners: Outcomes and durations of scale and link alliances in Europe, North America and Asia. Strategic Management Journal, 21(2), 99–126.
Finkelstein, S., & Mooney, A. C. (2003). Not the usual suspects: How to use board process to make boards better. Academy of Management Perspectives, 17(2), 101–113.
Fodio, M. I., & Oba, V. C. (2012). Boards’ gender mix and extent of environmental responsibility information disclosure in Nigeria: An empirical study. European Journal of Business and Management, 4(14), 163–169.
Forbes, D. P., & Milliken, F. J. (1999). Cognition and corporate governance: Understanding boards of directors as strategic decision-making groups. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 489–505.
Fryxell, G. E., & Lerner, L. L. (1989). Contrasting corporate profiles: Women and minority representation in top management positions. Journal of Business Ethics, 8(5), 341–352.
Galbreath, J. (2011). Are there gender-related influences on corporate sustainability? A study of women on boards of directors. Journal of Management & Organization, 17(1), 17–38.
Gardner, W., Mulvey, E. P., & Shaw, E. C. (1995). Regression analyses of counts and rates: Poisson, overdispersed Poisson, and negative binomial models. Psychological Bulletin, 118(3), 392–404.
Gordon, J. N. (2007). The rise of independent directors in the United States, 1950–2005: Of shareholder value and stock market prices. Stanford Law Review, 59(6), 1465–1568.
Grolin, J. (1999). Corporate legitimacy in risk society: The case of Brent Spar. Business Strategy and the Environment, 7(4), 213–222.
Groysberg, B., & Bell, D. (2013). Dysfunction in the boardroom. Harvard Business Review, 91(6), 89–97.
Hambrick, D. C. (2007). Upper echelons theory: An update. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 334–343.
Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. (1984). Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 193–206.
Hart, S. L., & Milstein, M. B. (1999). Global sustainability and the creative destruction of industries. Sloan Management Review, 41(1), 23–25.
Helland, E., & Sykuta, M. (2004). Regulation and the evolution of corporate boards: Monitoring, advising, or window dressing? Journal of Law and Economics, 47(1), 167–193.
Hillman, A. J., Cannella, A. A., Jr., & Harris, I. C. (2002). Women and racial minorities in the boardroom: How do directors differ? Journal of Management, 28(6), 747–763.
Hillman, A., Cannella, A., & Paetzold, R. (2000). The resource dependence role of corporate directors: Strategic adaptation of board composition in response to environmental change. Journal of Management Studies, 37(2), 235–255.
Hillman, A. J., & Dalziel, T. (2003). Boards of directors and firm performance: Integrating agency and resource dependence perspectives. Academy of Management Review, 28(3), 383–396.
Hoepner, A. G. F., Yua, P.-S., & Ferguson, J. 2010. Corporate social responsibility across Industries: When can who do well by doing good? SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1284703.
Ibrahim, N. A., & Angelidis, J. P. (1994). Effect of board members’ gender on corporate social responsiveness orientation. Journal of Applied Business Research, 10(1), 35–40.
Ibrahim, N. A., & Angelidis, J. P. (1995). The corporate social responsiveness orientation of board members: Are there differences between inside and outside directors? Journal of Business Ethics, 14(5), 405–410.
Jaffee, S., & Hyde, S. J. (2000). Gender differences in moral orientation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 126(5), 703–726.
Johnson, R. A., & Greening, D. W. (1999). The effects of corporate governance and institutional ownership types on corporate social performance. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 564–576.
Johnson, R. A., Hoskisson, R. E., & Hitt, M. A. (1993). Board of director involvement in restructuring: The effects of board versus managerial controls and characteristics. Strategic Management Journal, 14(S1), 33–50.
Kakabadse, A. P. (2007). Being responsible: Boards are reexamining the bottom line. Leadership in Action, 27(1), 3–6.
Kanter, R. M. (1977). Some effects of proportions on group life: Skewed sex ratios and responses to token women. American Journal of Sociology, 82(5), 965–990.
Karpoff, J. M., Lott, J. R., Jr., & Wehrly, E. W. (2005). The reputational penalties for environmental violations: Empirical evidence. Journal of Law and Economics, 48(2), 653–675.
Kassinis, G., & Vafeas, N. (2002). Corporate boards and outside stakeholders as determinants of environmental litigations. Strategic Management Journal, 23(5), 399–415.
Kimball, A., Palmer, D., & Marquis, C. (2012). The impact of women top managers and directors on corporate environmental performance. Davis, CA: University of California.
Klineberg, S., McKeever, M., & Rothenbach, B. (1998). Demographic predictors of environmental concern: It does make a difference how it’s measured. Social Science Quarterly, 79(4), 734–753.
Konrad, A. M., Kramer, V. W., & Erkut, S. (2008). The impact of three or more women on corporate boards. Organizational Dynamics, 37(2), 145–164.
Kor, Y. Y. (2006). Direct and interaction effects of top management team and board compositions on R&D investment strategy. Strategic Management Journal, 27(11), 1081–1099.
Lindgreen, A., Maon, F., Reast, J., & Yani-De-Soriano, M. (2012). Guest editorial: Corporate social responsibility in controversial industry sectors. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(4), 393–395.
Long, J. S. (1997). Regression models for categorical and limited dependent variables. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Luchsinger, V. (2009). Strategy issues in business sustainability. Business Renaissance Quarterly, 4(3), 163–174.
Mallin, C. A., & Michelon, G. (2011). Board reputation attributes and corporate social performance: An empirical investigation of the U.S. Best Corporate Citizens. Accounting and Business Research, 41(2), 119–144.
Marquis, C., & Lee, M. (2013). Who is governing whom? Executives, governance, and the structure of generosity in large U.S. firms. Strategic Management Journal, 34(4), 483–497.
Mattingly, J. E., & Berman, S. L. (2006). Measurement of corporate social action: Discovering taxonomy in the Kinder Lydenburg Domini ratings data. Business and Society, 45(1), 20–46.
McInerney, M. L., Mader, D. D., & Mader, F. H. (2010). Gender differences in responses to hypothetical business ethical dilemmas by business undergraduates. Journal of Diversity Management, 5(1), 37–42.
McInerney-Lacombe, N., Bilimoria, D., & Salipante, P. F. (2008). Championing the discussion of tough issues: How women corporate directors contribute to board deliberations. In S. Vinnicombe, V. Singh, R. J. Burke, D. Bilimoria, & M. Huse (Eds.), Women on Corporate Boards of directors: International research and practice (pp. 123–139). Cheltenham: Edward Edgar.
McNulty, S. (2008). Pressure on ExxonMobil to appoint ‘green’ chief. Financial Times.
Money, K., & Schepers, H. (2007). Are CSR and corporate governance converging? A view from boardroom directors and company secretaries in FTSE 100 companies in the UK. Journal of General Management, 33(2), 1–11.
Oliver, C. (1990). Determinants of interorganizational relationships: Integration and future directions. Academy of Management Review, 15(2), 241–265.
Olk, P., & Ring, P. S. (1997). Part V: Other consequences of corporate reputation: Strategic alliances and firm-based legitimacy. Corporate Reputation Review, 1(2), 109–114.
Orlitzky, M., Schmidt, F. L., & Rynes, S. L. (2003). Corporate social and financial performance: A meta-analysis. Organization Studies, 24(3), 403–441.
Ortiz-de-Mandojana, N., & Aragon-Correa, J. A. (2013). Boards and sustainability: The contingent influence of director interlocks on corporate environmental performance. Business Strategy and the Environment. doi:10.1002/bse.1833.
Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G. R. (1978). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper Row.
Phillips, L. A. (1999). Green attitude. American Demographics, 21(4), 46–47.
Podolny, J. M., & Page, K. L. (1998). Network forms of organization. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 57–76.
Post, C., Rahman, N., & Rubow, E. (2011). Green governance: Boards of directors’ composition and environmental corporate social responsibility. Business and Society, 50(1), 189–223.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36(4), 717–731.
Pye, A., & Pettigrew, A. (2005). Studying board context, process and dynamics: Some challenges for the future. British Journal of Management, 16, S27–S38.
Rahim, M. M. (2012). Corporate governance as social responsibility: A Meta-regulation approach to raise social responsibility of corporate governance in a weak economy. In S. Boubaker & D. K. Nguyen (Eds.), Board directors and corporate social responsibility (pp. 145–166). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rahman, N., & Korn, H. J. (2009). Fit between corporate strategy and alliance purpose: Implications on partnering firms’ performance. International Journal of Strategic Business Alliances, 1(2), 132–149.
Rahman, N., & Korn, H. J. (2012). Alliance longevity: Examining relational and operational antecedents. Long Range Planning. doi:10.1016/j.lrp.2012.05.003.
Rahman, N., & Post, C. (2012). Measurement issues in environmental corporate social responsibility (ECSR): Toward a transparent, reliable, and construct valid instrument. Journal of Business Ethics, 105(3), 307–319.
Rao, K. K., Tilt, C. A., & Lester, L. H. (2012). Corporate governance and environmental reporting: An Australian study. Corporate Governance, 12(2), 143–163.
Resch, G., Held, A., Faber, T., Panzer, C., Toro, F., & Haas, R. (2008). Potentials and prospects for renewable energies at global scale. Energy Policy, 36(11), 4048–4056.
Rhoades, D. L., Rechner, P. L., & Sundaramurthy, C. (2000). Board composition and financial performance: A meta-analysis of the influence of outside directors. Journal of Managerial Issues, 12(1), 76–91.
Roberts, J., McNulty, T., & Stiles, P. (2005). Beyond agency conceptions of the work of the non-executive director: Creating accountability in the boardroom. British Journal of Management, 16, S5–S26.
Roeck, K. D., & Delobbe, N. (2012). Do environmental CSR initiatives serve organizations’ legitimacy in the oil industry? Exploring employees’ reactions through organizational identification theory. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(4), 397–412.
Saxton, T. (1997). The effects of partner and relationship characteristics on alliance outcomes. Academy of Management Journal, 40(2), 443–461.
Sharma, S., & Henriques, I. (2005). Stakeholder influences on sustainability practices in the Canadian forest products industry. Strategic Management Journal, 26(2), 159–180.
Stafford, E. R., Polonsky, M. J., & Hartman, C. L. (1998). Environmentalist-business collaboration and strategic bridging: An analysis of the Greenpeace–Foron alliance. Business Strategy and the Environment, 9(2), 122–135.
Stanwick, P. A., & Stanwick, S. D. (1998). The determinants of corporate social performance: An empirical examination. American Business Review, 16(1), 86–93.
Swann, C. (2013). Oil barons and tech hipsters share a dark side. In Reuters (Ed.), Breakingviews. Retrieved from http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/01/07/oil-barons-and-tech-hipsters-share-a-dark-side/.
Tihanyi, L., Ellstrand, A. E., Daily, C. M., & Dalton, D. R. (2000). Composition of the top management team and international diversification. Journal of Management, 26(6), 1157–1177.
Torchia, M., Calabrò, A., & Huse, M. (2011). Women directors on corporate boards: From tokenism to critical mass. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(2), 299–317.
Tuggle, C. S., Schnatterly, K., & Johnson, R. A. (2010). Attention patterns in the boardroom: How board composition and processes affect discussion of entrepreneurial issues. Academy of Management Journal, 53(3), 550–571.
van Ees, H., Gabrielsson, J., & Huse, M. (2009). Towards a behavioral theory of boards and corporate governance. Corporate Governance: An International Journal, 17(3), 307–319.
Walls, J. L., Berrone, P., & Phan, P. H. (2012). Corporate governance and environmental performance: Is there really a link? Strategic Management Journal, 33(8), 885–913.
Walls, J. L., & Hoffman, A. J. (2013). Exceptional boards: Environmental experience and positive deviance from institutional norms. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(2), 253–271.
Webb, E. (2004). An examination of socially responsible firms’ board structure. Journal of Management and Governance, 8(3), 255–277.
Westphal, J. D., & Fredrickson, J. W. (2001). Who directs strategic change? Director experience, the selection of new CEOs, and change in corporate strategy. Strategic Management Journal, 22(12), 1113–1137.
Wood, D. J. (1991). Corporate social performance revisited. Academy of Management Review, 16(4), 691–718.
Yoder, J. D. (1991). Rethinking tokenism: Looking beyond numbers. Gender & Society, 5(2), 178–192.
Zadek, S., & MacGillivray, A. (2007). The state of responsible competitiveness 2007: Making sustainable development count in global markets. AccountAbility. http://www.accountability.org/images/content/0/7/075/The%20State%20of%20Responsible%20Competitiveness.pdf.
Zhang, L. (2012). Board demographic diversity, independence, and corporate social performance. Corporate Governance, 12, 686–700.
Zhang, J. Q., Zhu, H., & Ding, H.-B. (2013). Board composition and corporate social responsibility: An empirical investigation in the post Sarbanes-Oxley era. Journal of Business Ethics, 114(3), 381–392.
The sample of oil and gas companies for this study (in alphabetic order)
|BJ Services Company|
|Chesapeake Energy Corporation|
|Helmerich & Payne|
|Murphy Oil Corporation|
|National Oilwell Varco|
|Southwestern Energy Company|
|Ultra Petroleum Corporation|
|XTO Energy (formerly Cross Timbers Oil Company)|
About this article
Cite this article
Post, C., Rahman, N. & McQuillen, C. From Board Composition to Corporate Environmental Performance Through Sustainability-Themed Alliances. J Bus Ethics 130, 423–435 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2231-7
- Board composition
- Board independence
- Environmental corporate social responsibility
- Social performance