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Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 917–937 | Cite as

Peer conformity, attention, and heterogeneous implementation of practices in MNEs

  • Rodolphe Durand
  • Anne JacqueminetEmail author
Article

Abstract

How do subsidiaries respond to normative demands from both their headquarters and local external constituents? We propose that subsidiaries pay varying levels of attention to demands depending on their peers’ norm-conforming behavior, resulting in heterogeneous practice implementation. We study the implementation of 25 practices, associated with three corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues in 101 worldwide subsidiaries of a multinational enterprise (MNE). Consistent with the idea that attention is limited and therefore selective, we find that external peers’ conformity to the CSR norm directs subsidiaries’ attention toward the CSR-related demands of external constituents at the expense of the demands from the headquarters. However, internal peers’ conformity increases attention to both external and headquarters’ demands related to CSR. As higher attention levels result in higher practice implementation, internal and external peers’ conformity drives the heterogeneity of practice implementation in the MNE. Our results suggest the need to rethink the influence of peers’ conformity on subsidiaries’ implementation of practices, as it not only triggers mimicry based on legitimacy but also and simultaneously a more strategic response based on internal and external competitive threats and attention allocation.

Keywords

multinational corporations (MNCs) and enterprises (MNEs) institutional theory corporate social responsibility practice implementation attention simultaneous equation modeling 

Abstract

Comment les filiales répondent-elles aux demandes normatives de leur siège social et de mandants externes locaux ? Nous suggérons que les filiales accordent des niveaux différents d’attention aux demandes en fonction de la conformité aux normes de comportement de leurs pairs, aboutissant à la mise en œuvre hétérogène de pratiques. Nous étudions la mise en œuvre de 25 pratiques, associées à trois questions de responsabilité sociale des entreprises (RSE), dans 101 filiales internationales d’une entreprise multinationale (EMN). En cohérence avec l’idée que l’attention est limitée, et par conséquent sélective, nous trouvons que la conformité des pairs extérieurs aux normes de RSE oriente l’attention des filiales vers les demandes liées à la RSE de mandants externes au dépend des demandes émanant du siège. Cependant, la conformité des pairs internes augmente à la fois l’attention aux demandes de RSE externes et à celles du siège. Comme les niveaux plus élevés d'attention se traduisent par une mise en œuvre plus élevée de la pratique, la conformité des pairs internes et externes entraîne l'hétérogénéité de la mise en œuvre de la pratique au sein de l’EMN. Nos résultats soulignent la nécessité de repenser l'impact de la conformité des pairs sur la mise en œuvre des pratiques par les filiales, car non seulement il déclenche un mimétisme fondé sur la légitimité mais aussi et simultanément une réponse plus stratégique fondée sur les menaces concurrentielles internes et externes et sur la répartition de l'attention.

Abstract

¿Cómo responden las filiales a las demandas normativas de su casa matriz y a las de los componentes externos locales? Proponemos que las subsidiarias prestan distintos niveles de atención a las demandas dependiendo del comportamiento conforme a las normas que tienen sus pares, lo que resulta en la implementación de una práctica heterogénea. Estudiamos la implementación de 25 prácticas asociadas con tres asuntos de responsabilidad social empresarial (RSE) en 101 subsidiarias de una empresa multinacional alrededor del mundo. En consonancia con la idea de que la atención es limitada y, por lo tanto, selectiva, encontramos que la conformidad con las normas de RSE de los pares externos dirige la atención de las filiales hacia demandas asociadas con RSE de los componentes externos a expensas de las demandas de la casa matriz. No obstante, la conformidad de los pares internos aumenta la atención que se le presta tanto a las demandas de RSE externas como a las de la casa matriz. Debido a que un mayor nivel de atención resulta en una mayor implementación de prácticas, la conformidad de los pares internos y externos impulsa la heterogeneidad de la implementación de la práctica en la empresa multinacional. Nuestros resultados sugieren la necesidad de repensar la influencia que tiene la conformidad de los pares en la implementación de prácticas en las empresas filiales, debido a que no solo desencadena imitación basada en legitimidad, sino que también y, de manera simultánea, genera una respuesta más estratégica basada en amenazas de la competencia interna y externa y en la manera como se asigna la atención.

Abstract

Como as subsidiárias respondem às exigências normativas de suas sedes e do ambiente externo local? Propomos que as subsidiárias atribuem diferentes níveis de atenção às demandas entre si, e que esta diferença depende do comportamento de conformidade às normas das demais subsidiárias, o que leva à implementação de práticas heterogêneas. Nós estudamos a implementação de 25 práticas associadas a três questões de responsabilidade social corporativa (CSR) em 101 subsidiárias espalhadas pelo mundo pertencentes a uma empresa multinacional (MNE). Consistente com a ideia de que a atenção é limitada e, portanto, seletiva, encontramos que a conformidade com os pares externos às normas de CSR direciona a atenção das subsidiárias em direção às exigências relacionadas à CSR tanto do ambiente externo quanto das exigências da sede. No entanto, a conformidade às subsidiárias do mesmo grupo aumenta a atenção das demandas relacionadas à reponsabilidade social corporativa dos pares externos e da matriz. Como níveis mais altos de atenção resultam em aplicações práticas superiores, a conformidade interna e externa às demais subsidiárias impulsiona a heterogeneidade da aplicação prática nas MNE. Nossos resultados sugerem a necessidade de repensar a influência da conformidade com seus pares na implementação das práticas das subsidiárias, uma vez que isso não só provoca mimetismo com base na legitimidade, mas também, simultaneamente, uma resposta mais estratégica baseada em ameaças competitivas internas ou externas e alocação de atenção.

Abstract

子公司如何对其总部和当地外部机构的规范要求作出回应?我们提出子公司根据他们同行的规范附合行为对需求给予不同水平的关注, 从而导致了其实践实施的异质性。我们研究了25项实践的实施情况, 结合3个企业社会责任 (CSR) 问题针对全球跨国公司 (MNE) 101家子公司进行了调查。与我们的观点一致, 注意力是有限的, 因此也是有选择性的, 我们发现外部同行对CSR规范的遵守会指导子公司的注意力转向外部以总部需求为代价的CSR的相关需求。然而, 内部的同行规范一致性增加了兼顾外部和总部有关CSR的要求。由于较高的关注水平导致较高的实践实施情况, 内部和外部同行一致性推动了跨国企业实践实施的异质性。我们的研究结果表明, 需要重新思考同行一致性对子公司实践实施的影响, 因为它不仅引发了基于合法性的模仿, 而且同时也是基于内部和外部竞争威胁和注意力分配的更具战略性的回应。

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Ulf Andersson, the area editor and the three anonymous reviewers who helped us improve our manuscript tremendously. They thank the SnO Research Center, the GDF-SUEZ Business and Sustainabilty Chair, and the HEC Foundation for helping finance this research. They also wish to thank Tomi Laamanen and Ignacio Canales and the participants of the Vth Medici Summer School in June 2013 for their valuable feedback on earlier version of this article.

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Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Strategy and Business Policy, Society and Organizations Research Center, HEC ParisJouy-en-JosasFrance
  2. 2.Department of Management and TechnologyBocconi UniversityMilanItaly

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