International Accountability Standards have proliferated in the last 20 years, with the UN Global Compact (GC) as the most widely accepted principle-based standard catalyzing voluntary participation by firms. This study aims to improve understanding about the factors that determine companies’ progress in adopting principle-based standards. Drawing on the resource-based view of the firm, we examine the direct and combined influences of different organizational resources (firm-specific resources, innovative capability, length of participation, and internationalization of the firm) on standard implementation as perceived by 213 Spanish GC signatories. Our results reveal that the level of firm-specific resources has a positive effect on the extent of GC principles implementation and that innovative capability and length of GC participation strengthen this effect. Contrary to our expectations, we find that the internationalization of firms does not have an effect on GC principles implementation. We discuss the implications of these findings for scholars and practicing managers.
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.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
One year after our data collection, the UNGC Differentiation Programme was launched (25 February 2011), which categorizes business participants based on their level of disclosure on progress made in integrating the Global Compact principles and contributing to broader UN goals. Based on a self-assessment covering the content of their COP, companies are classified in one of three categories: CG Advanced, GC Active, and Learner. Companies qualifying for the GC Advanced level have to meet 24 criteria, among others, that the COP is independently verified by a credible third party.
The company names were taken from the website of the Spanish Global Compact Network (www.pactomundial.org). We compared the list of company participants in the Spanish Global Compact Network with the list of the Global Compact Head Office (www.unglobalcompact.org), and identified four additional Spanish companies.
For testing the interaction effect of the quantitative variable “innovative capability”, both independent (firm-specific resources) and moderating variable (innovative capability) were centered before forming the product term.
Our initial analysis included financial performance as a control variable, but we decided not to include it because it did not prove to be significant in any of our models.
Communication on Progress
Corporate Social Responsibility
International Accountability Standard
International Organization for Standardization
Nomenclature statistique des activités économiques dans la Communauté Européenne
Small and medium enterprise
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Resource-based view of the firm
United States of America
Aguilera-Caracuel, J., Hurtado-Torres, N. E., & Aragón-Correa, J. A. (2012). Does international experience help firms to be green? A knowledge-based view of how international experience and organisational learning influence proactive environmental strategies. International Business Review, 21(5), 847–861.
Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Antal, A. B., & Sobczak, A. (2004). Beyond CSR: Organisational learning for global responsibility. Journal of General Management, 30(2), 77–98.
Aravind, D., & Christmann, P. (2008). Institutional and resource-based determinants of substantive implementation of ISO 14001. In Best Paper Proceedings of the sixty-seventh Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management.
Aravind, D., & Christmann, P. (2011). Decoupling of standard implementation from certification: Does quality of ISO 14001 implementation affect facilities’ environmental performance? Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1), 73–102.
Arevalo, J. A., & Aravind, D. (2010). The impact of the crisis on corporate responsibility: The case of UN Global Compact participants in the USA. Corporate Governance, 10(4), 406–420.
Arevalo, J. A., Aravind, D., Ayuso, S., & Roca, M. (2013). The Global Compact: An analysis of the motivations of adoption in the Spanish context. Business Ethics: A European Review, 22(1), 1–15.
Bansal, P. (2005). Evolving sustainability: A longitudinal study of corporate sustainable development. Strategic Management Journal, 26(3), 197–218.
Bansal, P., & Roth, K. (2000). Why companies go green: A model of ecological responsiveness. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 717–736.
Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120.
Barney, J. B. (1999). How a firm’s capabilities affect boundary decisions. Sloan Management Review, 40(3), 137–145.
Barney, J., Wright, M., & Ketchen, D. (2001). The resource-based view of the firm: Ten years after 1991. Journal of Management, 27(6), 625–641.
Behnam, M., & MacLean, T. L. (2011). Where is the accountability in International Accountability Standards? A decoupling perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1), 45–72.
Bennie, L., Bernhagen, P., & Mitchell, N. J. (2007). The logic of transnational action: The good corporation and the Global Compact. Political Studies, 55(4), 733–753.
Bernstein, S., & Cashore, B. (2007). Can non-state global governance be legitimate? An analytical framework. Regulation and Governance, 1(4), 347–371.
Brammer, S. J., & Pavelin, S. (2006). Corporate reputation and social performance: The importance of fit. Journal of Management Studies, 43(3), 435–455.
Brammer, S. J., Pavelin, S., & Porter, L. A. (2006). Corporate social performance and geographical diversification. Journal of Business Research, 59(9), 1025–1034.
Branco, M. C., & Rodrigues, L. L. (2006). Corporate social responsibility and resource-based perspectives. Journal of Business Ethics, 69(2), 111–132.
Carmeli, A., & Tishler, A. (2004). The relationships between intangible organizational elements and organizational performance. Strategic Management Journal, 25(13), 1257–1278.
Cetindamar, D., & Husoy, K. (2007). Corporate social responsibility practices and environmentally responsible behavior: The case of the United Nations Global Compact. Journal of Business Ethics, 76(2), 163–176.
Chan, R. K. (2005). Does the natural-resource-based view of the firm apply in an emerging economy? A survey of foreign invested enterprises in China. Journal of Management Studies, 42(3), 625–672.
Christmann, P. (2000). Effects of best practices of environmental management on cost advantage: The role of complementary assets. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 663–680.
Déniz-Déniz, M. C., & García-Falcón, J. M. (2002). Determinants of the multinational’s social response.Empirical application to international companies operating in Spain. Journal of Business Ethics, 38(4), 339–370.
Deva, S. (2006). Global Compact: A critique of the UN’s “public-private” partnership for promoting corporate citizenship. Syracuse Journal of International Law & Commerce, 34(1), 107–151.
Dierickx, I., & Cool, K. (1989). Asset stock accumulation and sustainability of competitive advantage. Management Science, 35(12), 1504–1511.
Dillman, D. A. (1978). Mail and telephone surveys: The total design method. New York: Wiley.
DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(82), 147–160.
Gilbert, D. U., & Rasche, A. (2007). Discourse ethics and social accountability: The ethics of SA8000. Business Ethics Quarterly, 17(2), 187–216.
Gilbert, D. U., & Rasche, A. (2008). Opportunities and problems of standardized ethics initiatives: A stakeholder theory perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(3), 755–773.
Gilbert, D. U., Rasche, A., & Waddock, S. (2011). Accountability in a global economy: The emergence of International Accountability Standards. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1), 23–44.
Gjǿlberg, M. (2009). The origin of Corporate Social Responsibility: Global forces or national legacies? Socio-Economic Review, 7(4), 605–637.
Gjǿlberg, M., & Ruud, A. (2005). The UN Global Compact—A contribution to sustainable development? Working Paper no. 1/05, Centre for Development and the Environment (University of Oslo), Oslo, Norway.
Grant, R. M. (1991). The resource-based theory of competitive advantage: Implications for strategy formulation. California Management Review, 33(3), 114–135.
Hart, S. (1995). A natural resource-based view of strategy. Academy of Management Review, 20(4), 986–1014.
Hillman, A. J., & Keim, G. D. (2001). Shareholder value, stakeholder management, and social issues: What’s the bottom line? Strategic Management Journal, 22(2), 125–139.
Hitt, M. A., Bierman, L., Shimizu, K., & Kochhar, R. (2001). Direct and moderating effects of human capital on strategy and performance in professional service firms: A resource-based perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 44(1), 13–28.
Jamali, D. (2010). MNCs and International Accountability Standards through an institutional lens: Evidence of symbolic conformity or decoupling. Journal of Business Ethics, 95(4), 617–640.
Knudsen, J. S. (2011a). Company delistings from the UN Global Compact: Limited business demand or domestic governance failure? Journal of Business Ethics, 103(3), 331–349.
Knudsen, J. S. (2011b). Which companies benefit most from UN Global Compact membership? The European Business Review. Accessed January 9, 2013, from http://www.europeanbusinessreview.com.
Lindell, M. K., & Whitney, D. J. (2001). Accounting for common method variance in cross-sectional research designs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(1), 114–121.
MacGregor, S. P., & Fontrodona, J. (2008). Exploring the fit between CSR and innovation. Working Paper WP-759, IESE Business School (University of Navarra), Barcelona, Spain.
Marcus, A., & Geffen, D. (1998). The dialectics of competency acquisition: Pollution prevention in electric generation. Strategic Management Journal, 19(12), 1145–1168.
Mathews, J. A. (2002). A resource-based view of Schumpeterian economic dynamics. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 12(1–2), 29–54.
Peng, M. W. (2001). The resource-based view and international business. Journal of Management, 27(6), 803–829.
Perez-Batres, L. A., Miller, V. V., & Pisani, M. J. (2011). Institutionalizing sustainability: An empirical study of corporate registration and commitment to the United Nations Global Compact guidelines. Journal of Cleaner Production, 19(8), 843–851.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.
Rasche, A. (2009a). ‘A necessary supplement’: What the United Nations Global Compact is and is not. Business and Society, 48(4), 511–537.
Rasche, A. (2009b). Toward a model to compare and analyze accountability standards: The case of the UN Global Compact. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 16(4), 192–205.
Ray, G., Barney, J. B., & Muhanna, W. A. (2004). Capabilities, business processes, and competitive advantage: Choosing the dependent variable in empirical tests of the resource-based view. Strategic Management Journal, 25(1), 23–37.
Runhaar, H., & Lafferty, H. (2009). Governing corporate social responsibility: An assessment of the contribution of the UN Global Compact to CSR strategies in the telecommunications industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 84(4), 479–495.
Russo, M. V., & Fouts, P. A. (1997). A resource-based perspective on corporate environmental performance and profitability. Academy of Management Journal, 40(3), 534–559.
Sharfman, M., Shaft, T., & Tihanyi, L. (2004). A model of the global and institutional antecedents of high-level corporate environmental performance. Business and Society, 43(1), 6–36.
Sharma, S., & Vredenburg, H. (1998). Proactive corporate environmental strategy and the development of competitively valuable organizational capabilities. Strategic Management Journal, 19(8), 729–753.
Spicer, D. P., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2006). Organizational learning in smaller manufacturing firms. International Small Business Journal, 24(2), 133–158.
Strike, V. M., Gao, J., & Bansal, P. (2006). Being good while being bad: Social responsibility and international diversification of US firms. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6), 850–862.
Surroca, J., Tribó, J., & Waddock, S. (2010). Corporate responsibility and financial performance: The role of intangible resources. Strategic Management Journal, 31(5), 463–490.
Teece, D. (1986). Profiting from technological innovation: Implications for integration, collaboration, licensing, and public policy. Research Policy, 15(6), 285–305.
United Nations. (1999). Secretary-general address to the world economic forum in Davos, SG/SM/6881, Press release, February 1.
United Nations Global Compact. (2011). United Nations Global Compact Annual Review 2010. New York: United Nations Global Compact Office.
Vormedal, I. (2005). Governance through learning: The UN Global Compact and corporate responsibility. Report no. 7/05, Centre for Development and the Environment (University of Oslo), Oslo, Norway.
Waddock, S. (2008). Building a new institutional infrastructure for corporate responsibility. Academy of Management Perspectives, 22(3), 87–108.
Wernerfelt, B. (1984). A resource-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 5(2), 171–180.
Ziegler, O. (2007). Global Compact membership in Europe and the US: A case study of the automobile industry. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 26, 53–68.
Appendix: Measuring Instruments Used in the Survey
Appendix: Measuring Instruments Used in the Survey
Firm-Specific Resources (RES)
Please assess your firm’s possession of the following resources (seven-point scale ranging from ‘1 = scarce’ to ‘7 = abundant’)
Financial resources (RES 1)
Physical resources (e.g., equipment) (RES 2)
Human resources (RES 3)
Organizational resources (e.g., having well-established quality control systems and cash management systems) (RES 4)
Technological resources (e.g., unique technologies to produce quality products) (RES 5)
Reputation (RES 6)
Innovative Capability (INN)
Relative to your major competitors, your firm focuses on (seven-point scale ranging from ‘1 = strongly disagree’ to ‘7 = strongly agree’):
being the first to try new methods and technologies (INN 1)
using the latest technology in production (INN 2)
capital investment in new equipment and machinery (INN 3)
being a leader in product innovation (INN 4)
being a leader in process innovation (INN 5)
GC Principles Implementation Prior to GC Signature (PRI)
Prior to joining the GC, to what extent did your firm… (seven-point scale ranging from ‘1 = minimally’ to ‘7 = to a great extent’)
support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights? (PRI1)
make sure that it is not complicit in human rights abuses? (PRI2)
uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining? (PRI3)
uphold the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor? (PRI4)
uphold the effective abolition of child labor? (PRI5)
uphold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation? (PRI6)
support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges? (PRI7)
undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility? (PRI8)
encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies? (PRI9)
work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery? (PRI10)
GC Principles Implementation (IMP)
Now as a GC participant, to what extent does your firm… (seven-point scale ranging from ‘1 = minimally’ to ‘7 = to a great extent’)
support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights? (IMP1)
make sure that it is not complicit in human rights abuses? (IMP2)
uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining? (IMP3)
uphold the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor? (IMP4)
uphold the effective abolition of child labor? (IMP5)
uphold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation? (IMP6)
support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges? (IMP7)
undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility? (IMP 8)
encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies? (IMP9)
work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery? (IMP10)
About this article
Cite this article
Ayuso, S., Roca, M., Arevalo, J.A. et al. What Determines Principle-Based Standards Implementation? Reporting on Global Compact Adoption in Spanish Firms. J Bus Ethics 133, 553–565 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2412-4
- International Accountability Standards
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
- Global Compact (GC)
- Innovative capability
- Resource-based view of the firm (RBV)