Advertisement

Journal of International Business Policy

, Volume 1, Issue 3–4, pp 208–233 | Cite as

Multinational enterprises and the Sustainable Development Goals: An institutional approach to corporate engagement

  • Jan Anton van Zanten
  • Rob van Tulder
Article

Abstract

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without the contributions of multinational enterprises (MNEs). However, extant international business research hardly covers the private sector’s role in achieving international policy goals. This article conceptualises the SDGs as a goal-based institution. Building on institutional theory, it develops propositions that help explain MNEs’ engagement with SDGs. Exploratory survey results from 81 European and North American Financial Times Global 500 companies indicate that MNEs engage more with SDG targets that are actionable within their (value chain) operations than those outside of it, and more with SDG targets that “avoid harm” than those that “do good”. Differences in SDG engagement based on MNEs’ home- and host-countries and their industrial sectors are also explored. We draw policy conclusions for a more pro-active involvement of MNEs in sustainable development, and we define avenues for future international business research. In particular, cross-sector partnerships deserve further attention.

Keywords

corporate sustainability sustainable development Sustainable Development Goals institutional theory cross-sector partnerships corporate social responsibility 

INTRODUCTION

In 2015, all 193 United Nations (UN) member states unanimously committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 (UN, 2015). These 17 goals were established following a massive stakeholder consultation (Kharas & Zhang, 2014) that involved governments, companies, civil society organisations, and knowledge institutes, while including the voices of over a million people from around the globe (UNDG, 2013). The SDGs aim to simultaneously advance a diverse range of sustainable development themes with universal coverage (Figure 1). Notwithstanding criticism for either being too ambitious (Copenhagen Consensus, 2016) or not being ambitious enough, especially concerning the modalities of their execution (Pogge & Sengupta, 2015), the SDGs are likely to constitute the most important frame of the global development agenda until 2030 (Kolk, 2016; Kolk, Kourula, & Pisani, 2017; Pattberg & Widerberg, 2016; Sachs, 2014).
Figure 1

The Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/news/communications-material/.

The SDGs present a noticeable break with earlier leading paradigms of sustainable development, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the “Washington Consensus”. The SDGs instigate a shift from a state-centred, duty-based, and negatively framed agreement aimed at “developing countries”, to a partnering-centred, opportunity-based, and more positively framed ambition aimed at developed as well as developing countries. Noteworthy also is the emphasis placed on the importance of corporate efforts in realising sustainable development. Then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented: “Governments must take the lead in living up to their pledges. At the same time, I am counting on the private sector to drive success” (UN News Centre, 2015). Helen Clark, at the time head of the UN Development Programme, added that “the new sustainable development agenda cannot be achieved without business” (UN News Centre, 2015).

Companies – many of which were involved as stakeholders in the creation of the SDGs – responded supportively. In 2015, 71% of businesses claimed that they were already planning how they would engage with the SDGs. 41% stated that they would embed the SDGs in their strategies within five years (PwC, 2015). A 2016 survey showed that 87% of a representative sample of CEOs worldwide believe that the SDGs provide an opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation, while 70% of them see the SDGs as providing a clear framework to structure sustainability efforts (Accenture & UN Global Compact, 2016). The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) added to these figures by describing the SDGs as “an effective way for companies to communicate their contribution to sustainable development” (WBCSD, 2015: 8). There is a clear business logic to these responses: contributing to the SDGs can unlock 12 trillion USD annually in business opportunities (Business & Sustainable Development Commission, 2017). Whether companies can make this material depends on their further actions, in interaction with governmental policies and strategies of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (GRI, UN Global Compact, & WBCSD, 2015; Hajer et al., 2015; UN Global Compact, 2017).

International business (IB) research has not kept pace with the expanding role of companies in sustainable development – in particular in agenda-setting activities such as the MDGs or SDGs. Studies on the role of multinational enterprises (MNEs) in sustainable development have generally focused on the macro-level of analysis, primarily by offering insights on the link between FDI and (mainly economic) development (Dunning & Fortanier, 2007; Kolk & van Tulder, 2010). In addition, a rich – albeit still fragmented – literature is developing on how companies can reach the “base of the pyramid” (e.g. London & Hart, 2004) and bridge the “institutional divide” between higher and lower segments of society (Rivera-Santos, Rufín, & Kolk, 2012). Recent literature reviews show that although certain studies have discussed companies’ influence over specific sustainable development challenges, for instance, relating to poverty and inequality, energy and climate change, and peace (e.g. Kolk et al., 2017; Kolk, Rivera-Santos & Rufín, 2018), far fewer research efforts have examined the actual actions of individual firms in sustainable development (e.g. Kolk, 2016; Kolk et al., 2017; van Tulder, Verbeke, & Strange, 2014), understood as meeting the environmental, social, and economic needs of current and future generations (WCED, 1987).

The limited attention paid to the role of MNEs in the sustainable development discourse is remarkable considering the mainstreaming of concepts such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate citizenship, and corporate sustainability (e.g. Dahlsrud, 2008; Garriga & Melé, 2004; van Marrewijk, 2003 on terminology).1 Scholars have used these concepts to explore corporate engagement with sustainable development using academic perspectives related to business ethics (e.g. Donaldson & Dunfee, 1999; Frederiksen, 2010; Hemingway & Maclagan, 2004), strategic management (e.g. McWilliams & Siegel, 2001; Orlitzky, Siegel, & Waldman, 2011), stakeholder management (Parmar et al., 2010), institutional theory (e.g. Campbell, 2007; Matten & Moon, 2008), and political theory (e.g. Scherer & Palazzo, 2011; Scherer, Palazzo, & Matten, 2014). However, most efforts applying a CSR-related angle have studied outcomes on the performance of the firms engaging in such behaviour, rather than the impacts on society (Kolk, 2016).

Although there is no conclusive body of research on MNEs’ impacts on society and the environment, many researchers have made critical remarks about the degree to which companies contribute to sustainable development. They observe that the majority of companies develop reactive strategies towards sustainability challenges, and regularly use their CSR/sustainability strategy as window dressing or greenwashing (Banerjee, 2008; van Tulder & van der Zwart, 2006). Within three years of their adoption, allegations that companies engage in “SDG washing”, i.e. the use of the SDGs as an excuse for malpractice or as a cover up for modest efforts, emerged (Eccles & Karbassi, 2018; Nieuwenkamp, 2017).

By defining the world’s sustainable development priorities, the SDGs offer a unique opportunity for studying MNEs’ engagement with diverse and interlinked development challenges. But the SDGs are more than a wish list. They are an intergovernmental agreement – based on multi-stakeholder engagement processes – that urges companies to help solve developmental challenges. The effects of global goal frames, such as yesterday’s MDGs and today’s SDGs, on the policies of MNEs is not extensively studied. This partly stems from the novelty of the SDGs, the MDGs’ governmental emphasis, the lack of proper evaluation methods for contributions to such frames (e.g. Hák, Janoušková, & Moldan, 2016), and the limited attention paid to the role of MNEs in institution building (other than through lobbying activities towards governments). However, the advent of the SDGs as a global consensus on sustainable development priorities by the private and public sectors alike fundamentally changes the discourse. The aims of this article are to conceptualise the SDGs as a topic for international business strategies, to use this conceptualisation to obtain initial evidence on MNEs’ engagement with the SDGs, and to outline a policy and research agenda for further enhancing MNEs’ contributions to the SDGs.

We adopt an institutional lens in proposing how institutional pressures may influence MNEs’ sustainability efforts, including those that emerge from the SDGs themselves. By being an intergovernmental agreement, an institutional approach lies at the heart of the SDGs. Moreover, political and economic institutions govern corporate behaviour, including their sustainability activities (Campbell, 2007; Matten & Moon, 2008), their ethical activities, their internationalisation strategies (Marano & Kostova, 2016), as well as the ways in which they address stakeholder concerns (Freeman, Wicks, & Parmar, 2004). For these reasons, and following Campbell (2007), we consider institutions as an important and primary – but not the sole – driver for MNEs to engage with specific SDGs.

This article makes several contributions to the literature. We conceptualise the SDGs as a goal-based institution for international business and develop propositions that argue how MNEs’ engagement is influenced by traits of SDGs and traits of MNEs. We posit that two SDG traits are important: (1) the actionability of an SDG target, which can be internal or external to MNEs’ (value chain) operations; and (2) the ethical duties conveyed by the SDG target, which can be positive (“doing good”) or negative (“avoiding harm”). Together, these traits describe the moral behaviour of MNEs in terms of ability and type, respectively. We further argue that engagement with SDGs is influenced by two traits of MNEs: (1) their home- and host-country contexts; and (2) their industrial sector. Providing detailed empirical proof of our propositions is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we present exploratory survey results from 81 European and North American Financial Times (FT) Global 500 companies. These indicate that MNEs engage more with internally than externally actionable SDG targets, that SDG engagement is higher for SDG targets that seek to avoid harm rather than do good, that European MNEs engage with more SDG targets than North American MNEs, and that MNEs in industrial sectors with negative externalities engage more with SDG targets that seek to avoid harm. Building on our analysis, we discuss policies for the further and more pro-active engagement of MNEs in achieving the SDGs.

The remainder of this article is organised as follows. The next section discusses literature relating to institutional theory and the role of MNEs in sustainable development to conceptualise the SDGs as a goal-based institution. Expanding on this discussion, we develop propositions that indicate MNEs’ engagement with specific SDGs. The methodology section describes the survey design and sample. The findings indicate how and to what degree a selection of MNEs engage with SDG targets. Subsequently, we aim to explain MNEs’ engagement with specific SDG targets, characterise MNEs as agents in sustainable development, and propose how MNEs can be further involved in realising the SDGs. The final section offers conclusions, identifies limitations, and delineates avenues for future research.

INSTITUTIONS AND MNEs’ ENGAGEMENT WITH THE SDGS

This section firstly discusses how institutions influence the role of MNEs in sustainable development. It subsequently argues that the SDGs can be understood as a goal-based institution.

Institutions and the Role of International Business in Sustainable Development

Companies are governed by institutions, which can be defined as the formal and informal “rules of the game” (North, 1990). Institutions constrain and enable corporate activities at the macro (international, national), meso (interorganisational), and micro (company) levels (e.g. Campbell, 2004). They can broadly be categorised into three types (1) regulative institutions, or formal rule systems enforced by the state; (2) normative institutions, which are related to professional societies that set roles and expectations for specific groups; and (3) cultural-cognitive institutions that describe the accepted beliefs and values shared among individuals of a society (Scott, 1995). Abiding by institutions is important as it confers legitimacy on companies through coercive, mimetic, and normative isomorphic processes (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983).

Institutions are highly relevant in debates on the role of MNEs in sustainable development. Governments in developed and developing countries have increasingly enacted policies that require companies to provide environmental and social protection (e.g. Rivera, 2010; Wijen, Zoeteman, Pieters, & van Seters, 2012). International agreements as developed since the second half of the twenty-first century further testify to this trend. Examples include the UN and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on human rights and labour conditions. Moreover, norms and values in societies change over time and increasingly require MNEs to pay attention to ethical and sustainability issues (Crane & Matten, 2016; Swanson, 2018). Hence institutionalism helps explain why companies engage in socially responsible behaviour (Campbell, 2007), how corporate sustainable development is shaped (Bansal, 2005), and how such activities differ across companies from, and operating in, different countries (e.g. Matten & Moon, 2008; Marano & Kostova, 2016).

But institutions are not simply imposed on companies by regulators and cultural groups. Rather, MNEs play a role in shaping the institutions that influence their behaviour – particularly when operating in the “normative free space” (Donaldson & Dunfee, 1999) and the “institutional void” that lies beyond national regulatory regimes. The influence of institutions on MNEs and vice versa has rendered institutional distance one of the most salient factors to take into account when studying the behaviour of MNEs (Verbeke, Puck, & van Tulder, 2018). This equally applies to the role of MNEs in sustainability issues. Reflecting a broader trend of greater corporate engagement in sustainable development (Blowfield, 2012), over the past decades, MNEs have expanded their involvement in international negotiations on institutional frameworks for sustainable development, including those on the SDGs (Scheyvens, Banks, & Hughes, 2016). As such, MNEs help form institutions that can not only govern, but also guide, their sustainable development activities.

Aside from influencing regulations, MNEs have also increasingly developed normative institutional initiatives to make their operations more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible by creating norms, rules, and standardised procedures for their own sustainable business conduct (Brammer, Jackson, & Matten, 2012). Four types of normative institutional initiatives that encourage companies to contribute to sustainable development have become particularly widespread in recent years (Rasche, Waddock, & McIntosh, 2013). This includes (1) principle-based initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which urge companies to commit to specific norms in their day-to-day operations; (2) certification initiatives that address developmental issues associated with the production of specific goods, like the Marine Stewardship Council and Social Accountability 8000; (3) reporting initiatives (e.g. the Global Reporting Initiative) that seek to advance the disclosure of companies’ social and environmental information pertaining to companies; and (4) process-based initiatives, such as AccountAbility’s standards, set up procedures for managing corporate responsibility (Rasche et al., 2013). Because institutional initiatives seek to govern corporate outcomes on the environment and on society, they have been understood as an institution for transnational governance (Barkemeyer, Preuss, & Lee, 2015; Rasche & Kell, 2010; Scherer & Palazzo, 2011; Waddock, 2008).

In this light, the SDGs represent the culmination of a number of internationally agreed-upon rules, guidelines, and principles for MNEs, as well as of normative institutional initiatives. Corporate engagement with sustainable development themes – such as those defined by the SDGs – will thus be influenced by existing (formal and informal) institutions (e.g. Bondy, Moon, & Matten, 2012; Campbell, 2007; Matten & Moon, 2008). Yet the SDGs themselves can also be thought of as an institutional initiative. The next section applies an institutional lens to the SDGs to understand their potential influence on the role of MNEs in sustainable development.

The SDGs as a Goal-Based Institution

The SDG framework can be considered as a combined effort of governments, businesses, knowledge institutes, and civil society in developing an institutional initiative for realising sustainable development. The SDGs signal a shift in institutional focus from the MDGs (Fukuda-Parr, 2016) which communicated a simplified concept of development as meeting basic needs, without mentioning the need to reform institutions. Several authors warned that the “negotiations around the post-2015 development agenda should go beyond just re-writing goals and targets that adhere to “sustaining” the same old economic and social models” (Moore, 2015: 801). This raises the question of how the SDGs can be understood as an institutional initiative.

As a set of internationally agreed-upon goals, the SDGs define the sustainable development aspirations of all countries and major stakeholder groups. Their voluntary nature, lack of sanctions, and the few formal mechanisms in place to ensure the achievement of the goals (Biermann, Kanie, & Kim, 2017; Bowen et al., 2017), allow for understanding the SDGs as “soft” international law (Persson, Weitz, & Nilsson, 2016). An important dimension of the SDG framework is, therefore, the liberty it offers to governments, as well as to other stakeholders, to decide which goals to act upon (Stevens & Kanie, 2016). Additionally, by starting with aspirations without defining concrete implementation methods, the SDGs are an opportunity for an institutional initiative centred on creative thinking that involves increasingly diverse actors (Stevens & Kanie, 2016). On this basis, Biermann et al. (2017) argue that the SDGs amount to a distinct type of institution – termed “global governance through goals” – that introduces a unique and new way of steering global development efforts.

As a goal-based institution, the SDGs can influence corporate policies for sustainable development. Goals are critical for orienting and socially mobilising multiple stakeholders’ activities in a consistent manner towards a specific, concise, measurable, and new trajectory of sustainable development, while simultaneously putting peer pressure on agents regarding their progress made towards the goals (Sachs, 2015). The SDGs’ bottom-up approach that encourages the participation of a wide variety of stakeholders (Biermann et al., 2017) also helps mobilise businesses (Hajer et al., 2015; Schönherr, Findler, & Martinuzzi, 2017). Seen this way, the SDG framework, which importantly includes five principles to guide agents’ efforts – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnering (UN, 2015) – can be understood as applying normative institutional pressure to work towards the achievement of the SDGs. Contributing to these goals, then, can be a source of organisational legitimacy (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983), which is most likely obtained if a company is able to show the benefits it achieves from working towards the SDGs (Donoher, 2017).

DEVELOPMENT OF PROPOSITIONS

Institutions, including the SDGs themselves, thus apply pressure on MNEs to engage with the SDGs. But because the SDGs are a voluntary institutional arrangement, agents have the liberty to decide which goals they want to work towards. This section aims to understand better which traits of SDGs and of MNEs are more likely to lead to MNEs’ engagement. We focus on two selected SDG traits: the actionability of SDG targets; and the ethical duties conveyed by SDG targets. These two traits recognise that sustainable development is an ethical concept (cf. WCED, 1987). They were selected because they, jointly, describe the moral behaviour of companies. Actionability describes a company’s ability to act on a SDG target, while ethical duties describes the type of intended behaviour. We further include MNEs’ home- and host-country and industry levels (Delmas & Toffel, 2008), to assess how traits of MNEs relate to the extent to which they engage with the SDGs.

Actionability

The SDG agenda urges agents from all sectors in society, including governments, the private sector, and civil society, to contribute to their achievement. Each of the sectors brings complementary capabilities for contributing to sustainable development challenges (Brinkerhoff & Brinkerhoff, 2011; Selsky & Parker, 2005). Yet not all actors are equally equipped to contribute to all types of sustainable development themes. For example, certain themes demand governmental action while others primarily need the private sector to provide solutions (van Tulder & van der Zwart, 2006). Notwithstanding a certain degree of interconnectedness among the goals (Le Blanc, 2015; Nilsson, Griggs, & Visbeck, 2016), the 17 SDGs and their underlying 169 targets define highly diverse sustainability challenges. As a result, the actionability of – and the responsibility for – their implementation varies across the targets. At the same time, some SDG targets are so complex that they can only be realised through collective action in which governments, companies, and civil society organisations work in partnership (van Tulder & Keen, 2018).

SDG targets can be characterised according to whether they are internally or externally actionable. Internally actionable SDG targets can be engaged with within MNEs or throughout their value chains. Hence these SDG targets fall in a company’s sphere of influence (cf. Ruggie, 2008). Externally actionable SDG targets cannot be meaningfully advanced within a company’s internal and value chain operations. Significant contributions towards their achievement can only be made when working in partnership with other types of agents. To illustrate, SDG target 16.5, to “Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms”, can be implemented throughout a company with relatively little help from the government or civil society, thus being internally actionable. In contrast, to “provide access to affordable and safe housing for all” (SDG target 11.4), is externally actionable, thereby requiring partnerships between the private sector, states, and civil society.

Externally actionable SDG targets are vulnerable to the “free rider” problem, in which agents are reluctant to act collectively towards reaching a goal unless it is likely that progress is made and others are held accountable for their contributions (Bowen et al., 2017). Cross-sector partnerships could overcome this problem by promoting collaboration among actors in a structured manner. However, even though such partnerships have become increasingly widespread, they are relatively complex for companies to create and operationalise (Babiak & Thibault, 2009; Pattberg & Widerberg, 2016; van Tulder & Pfisterer, 2014). In addition to collaboration between societal sectors, arm’s length strategies, such as philanthropy and corporate volunteering, can lead to engagement with externally actionable SDGs. Yet such policies are frequently disconnected from companies’ core activities (Austin & Seitanidi, 2012).

In this light, it appears easier for MNEs to address sustainability challenges that are internally actionable. In this endeavour, MNEs are helped by existing normative institutions, which have a dominant focus on self-regulation (Brammer et al., 2012). Using such institutional arrangements, companies have increasingly regulated their own and their value chain activities with the purpose of improving their impact on sustainable development themes (Scherer et al., 2014). Illustrative of this trend is the spread of codes of conduct (e.g. Bondy et al., 2012; Kolk, van Tulder, & Welters, 1999; Painter-Morland, 2006; van Tulder, van Wijk, & Kolk, 2009), the reporting mechanisms that communicate a company’s social and environmental footprints (e.g. Barkemeyer et al., 2015), as well as the introduction of the “Ruggie principles” that guide MNEs’ human rights policies (Ruggie, 2007, 2008).

On this basis, we propose that internally actionable SDG targets, by helping MNEs apply ethical principles to their operations, reducing their negative environmental and social footprints, and regulating their own activities, receive greater engagement than externally actionable SDG targets that require MNEs to act in partnership with the state or civil society:

Proposition 1

Companies are more likely to engage with internally actionable SDG targets compared to externally actionable SDG targets.

Ethical Duties

Cultural-cognitive institutions, or simply the norms and values in societies, describe the type of behaviour that is expected of companies. Companies can act in socially responsible and in socially irresponsible ways (e.g. Giuliani, Macchi, & Fiaschi, 2014; Jones, Bowd, & Tench, 2009; Strike, Gao, & Bansal, 2006). Socially responsible behaviour is a prerequisite for contributing to sustainable development, yet can take different forms. Ethical theory distinguishes between positive and negative ethical duties (e.g. Rawls, 1972). Positive duties entail making additional contributions to the well-being of society, or “doing good”, while negative duties imply pre-empting negative impacts on communities and the environment, thereby “avoiding harm”. This distinction is common in business research (cf. Crilly, Ni, & Jiang, 2016; Lin-Hi & Müller, 2013), and is also prevalent in the normative practice of many professions: see for instance, the widespread application of “do no harm” principles in the medical profession, or the compliance practices of large companies.

Activities that aim to avoid doing harm are expected of every good citizen; actions that seek to do good exceed social expectations (Davis, 1973; Lin-Hi & Müller, 2013). Lichtenberg explains that “No one disputes that people have duties not to harm others; these so-called negative duties are about as well established as any moral duties could be. But the very existence of ‘positive’ duties to render aid is controversial” (Lichtenberg, 2010: 557). The same applies to companies: avoiding negative impacts occurring is a minimum behavioural standard regarding the company’s relationship to its stakeholders (cf. Campbell, 2007: 951). As a cultural-cognitive institution, avoiding harm can thus be considered to be a stronger norm than actively creating positive change. Emphasis on negative duties is also widespread in regulative and normative institutions that address corporate impacts on society and the environment. These overwhelmingly intend to reduce companies’ negative externalities, or abuse of power and influence, while paying less attention to helping companies engage in radical or systemic change that will be necessary for achieving many of the SDGs.

The various recent corporate scandals and the public outrage that consequently ensued – from the 2018 Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data hijacking scandal, the 2015 Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill – are clearly rooted in companies’ violation of the norm and their (negative or fiduciary) duty to “avoid doing harm”. In contrast, when companies abstain from actively “doing good”, norms are not violated to the same extent. Moreover, companies that actively try to “do good” without mitigating their negative impacts are vulnerable to accusations of greenwashing (e.g. Banerjee, 2008).

The distinction between avoiding harm and doing good can be applied to the SDGs. SDG target 2.3, to “double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers by 2030”, illustrates the doing good category. An example of an SDG target that seeks to avoid harm is target 6.3: to “improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping, and minimising the release of hazardous chemicals and materials”. Based on this assessment, we formulate proposition 2:

Proposition 2

Companies are more likely to engage with SDG targets that intend to avoid harm than with SDG targets that aim to do good.

Home-Countries and Host-Countries

Corporate sustainability policies are influenced by institutions in MNEs’ home-countries (Doh & Guay, 2006; Kolk & van Tulder, 2010; Matten & Moon, 2008). In an effort to characterise the nature of countries’ institutional infrastructures, the “varieties of capitalism” approach distinguishes between liberal and coordinated market economies (Hall & Soskice, 2001). Companies operating in liberal market economies rely heavily on hierarchies and competitive market arrangements, whereas companies operating in coordinated market economies depend on their embeddedness in broader societal networks (Hall & Soskice, 2001). Following such institutional differences, North American companies, influenced by the liability orientation of American institutions (also known as the “substantial equivalence principle”), tend to have a defensive/reactive sustainability approach (Doh & Guay, 2006). They are characterised by explicitly assuming and articulating responsibility for a relatively narrow set of societal interests (Matten & Moon, 2008). European companies are argued to apply “precautionary principles” that prevail in the European context (Doh & Guay, 2006) and they implicitly assume a role within the wider formal and informal institutions for societal interests (Matten & Moon, 2008). We therefore formulate proposition 3a as follows:

Proposition 3a

Companies headquartered in Europe will engage with more SDG targets than companies headquartered in North America.

When companies act beyond their home-countries they are likely to encounter a wider variety of relevant sustainability challenges. To illustrate, climate change mitigation by reducing deforestation is a particularly urgent issue in tropical regions, and low- and middle-income countries are challenged to eradicate absolute poverty while high-income societies grapple with relative poverty. Thus although the SDGs apply globally, the relevance of the specific challenges outlined by the goals is dependent on local contexts. The SDG Index of the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network clearly illustrates that the world’s countries are on diverse trajectories towards achieving the SDGs (Sachs, Schmidt-Traub, Kroll, Durand-Delacre, & Teksoz, 2017).

In addition to encountering more diverse sustainability challenges, internationalisation expands a firm’s legitimating environment to also include host-country institutional contexts (Kostova & Zaheer, 1999). Governments around the world are increasingly requiring companies to contribute to issues related to sustainable development (Rivera, 2010; Wijen et al., 2012). This causes more internationalised companies to face a wider variety of regulations, which may induce the company to engage with sustainability challenges it has little prior experience with. Companies in South Africa, for instance, are required to contribute to the empowerment of previously disadvantaged people via Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) regulations, in order to help overcome the injustices of the apartheid regime (Arya & Bassi, 2011). And similar to regulative institutions, normative institutions that relate to professional or industrial societies, and the norms and values at the cultural-cognitive level, differ across countries (Husted & Allen, 2006; Jamali & Neville, 2011). Internationalisation therefore increases the number and diversity of stakeholder pressures on the firm (Brammer, Pavelin, & Porter, 2006; Sharfman, Shaft, & Tihanyi, 2004), which can be argued to both positively and negatively affect corporate responsiveness (e.g. Kolk & Fortanier, 2013).

Host-country institutional environments are important for foreign MNEs as they may suffer from a “liability of foreignness” (e.g. Zaheer, 1995). Abiding by regulations and norms, responding to stakeholder concerns, and contributing to relevant development issues in host-countries may help in obtaining local legitimacy and thereby overcoming this liability (Attig, Boubakri, El Ghoul, & Guedhami, 2016; Bhanji & Oxley, 2013; Brammer, Pavelin, & Porter, 2009; Crilly et al., 2016; Schaltegger & Hörisch, 2017; Yin & Jamali, 2016).

We therefore propose that internationalisation, by leading companies to gain exposure to a wider variety of relevant SDGs, as well as to more diverse institutional environments calling for engagement with SDGs, increases the extent to which companies engage with SDGs:

Proposition 3b

More internationalised companies will engage with more SDG targets than less internationalised companies.

Industrial Sectors

A final factor to take into account is sectoral. Certain industrial sectors are associated with greater negative externalities than others (Brammer & Pavelin, 2006). Direct negative social and environmental impacts have been related to sectors such as agriculture, alcohol, tobacco, chemicals, mining, metal manufacturing, paper, and pulp (e.g. Brammer & Pavelin, 2006; Cai, Jo, & Pan, 2012; Clemens, 2001; Radley & Vogel, 2015). Similarly, certain sectors are uniquely positioned to contribute to specific social or environmental challenges. For example, the pharmaceutical sector seems well-placed to contribute to health challenges, while agriculture links to issues of food security. Thus opportunities to both reduce negative impacts (Hall & Vredenburg, 2003) and benefit from sustainability initiatives (Carroll & Shabana, 2010), differ across industries.

In many cases, institutions that influence corporate sustainability policies apply on a sectoral basis. Governmental regulations frequently address sustainability challenges arising from specific industries. For example, the globally adopted Montreal Protocol caused industrial companies to phase out chemicals that damage the Ozone layer, thereby reducing their pollution (DeSombre, 2000). Companies often also collectively implement regulations via the industrial associations they belong to, as to ensure that their members act in socially responsible ways (Campbell, 2007). An illustration is the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, which brings together companies and other societal actors that affect sustainability challenges pertaining to the palm oil sector. Finally, cultural-cognitive institutions are influenced by a company’s industrial sectors. To illustrate, stakeholder expectations, and the ability to obtain their legitimacy, depend on the industry in which a company operates (Bansal, 2005; Scherer, Palazzo, & Seidl, 2013; Spar & La Mure, 2003). Companies active in sectors that are typically associated with negative externalities are evaluated worse in terms of social performance than companies in sectors with more positive externalities (Crilly et al., 2016) and more likely to experience NGO activism (Vachani, Doh, & Teegen, 2009).

This discussion points to institutions frequently being used to mitigate negative externalities. As a result, companies in sectors associated with negative externalities are more likely to implement sustainability policies to avoid doing harm (e.g. Baron, 1996). It can also be argued that such companies face more pressure to actively do good by contributing to local societal challenges as to obtain positive stakeholder evaluations (Crilly et al., 2016). Following this discussion, we formulate the following proposition:

Proposition 4

Companies from industries associated with negative externalities will engage with more SDG targets than companies from industries with more positive externalities.

METHODOLOGY

Identifying and Characterising Relevant SDG Targets

We used the SDGs as a benchmark for corporate engagement with specific sustainable development themes, thereby adopting an issue-based approach to understanding the role of MNEs in sustainable development (cf. Kolk, 2016). The breadth of the 17 SDGs, including their 169 targets with more than 300 indicators, makes it challenging to study MNEs’ engagement with sustainable development themes. While the full list of 169 SDG targets can be argued to be too specific to serve as an effective framework for companies, a focus on SDG targets rather than the overarching 17 goals is valuable in order to obtain a more complete picture of companies’ developmental efforts. Therefore, our aim was to derive a representative listing of SDG targets that are relevant to companies, so as to facilitate their inclusion in a survey without causing validity constraints.

To this end, our starting point was the 126 substantive official SDG targets (i.e. the SDG targets that have a number rather than a letter). To condense this list, we excluded SDG targets that are primarily aimed at governmental action. This led to the elimination of 34 targets. Examples of SDG targets that were excluded are: “14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information”; “16.9 By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”; and “17.10 Promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization…”. Most of the excluded targets relate to SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities (5 targets), SDG 16 – Peace, Justice, and strong Institutions (5 targets), and SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals (12 targets).

The list of 92 remaining SDG targets was further condensed using two methods. First, various SDGs contain highly similar targets. We merged multiple targets into one target that captures the essence of all. For example, SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and 13 (Climate Action) call for improved disaster and emergency planning. We included this target once, but for all three SDGs. Second, we summarised similar, and often highly specific, SDG targets, to capture their main essence. For example, there are nine targets supporting SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being – ranging from reducing maternal mortality (target 3.1) to reducing deaths and illnesses from pollution (target 3.9). We aggregated them into three targets: (1) Health-care services and medicines for all; (2) Mental health and well-being; and (3) Occupational health and safety. In doing so, we took explicit – political – linkages between the targets into account (e.g. Le Blanc, 2015). Again, targets that explicitly relate to multiple SDGs were characterised as such. An example is reducing air, water, and soil pollution (which in addition to SDG 3 also relates to SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation – and to SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production).

In merging and summarising the SDG targets we – where possible – followed the wording of the SDG business themes that are included in the SDG Compass (GRI et al., 2015) so as to improve the extent to which the targets relate to the private sector. Along these lines, we reworded certain targets to relate better to corporate activities. An example of a target that was rephrased to link better to the private sector is target 12.7, to “Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities”. We reworded this target as “Socially responsible and environmentally sustainable sourcing”.

We consequently obtained a total of 59 SDG targets that are particularly relevant to the private sector. Many of these targets relate to multiple SDGs, causing these 59 SDG targets to have 100 linkages with specific SDGs. Building on the earlier discussion, we characterised each of these targets according to two traits: being internally or externally actionable, and intending to avoid harm or to do good as to describe ethical duties. First, SDG targets that are relevant to a company’s internal and value chain operations were characterised as being internally actionable. In contrast, SDG targets that describe sustainability challenges that require the actions of all spheres of society, including the public, private, and civil society sectors, were characterised as being externally actionable. Second, we characterised the ethical duties conveyed by the SDGs’ targets by differentiating between “doing good” and “avoiding harm”. Targets in the former category were defined as helping companies exceed social expectations by generating positive externalities. Targets in the latter category seek to reduce negative externalities, thus indicating outcomes that are expected of responsible companies. The samples constructed along both traits are relatively equally distributed: (1) internal–external actionability (31–28); (2) avoiding harm – doing good (27–32). An overview of the targets, how they link to the SDGs, and their categorisations along these traits are shown in Table 1.
Table 1

SDG targets included in the study

SDG target

Nexus of relevant SDGs

Actionability

Ethical duties

Socially responsible and environmentally sustainable sourcing

1

2

8

12

14

15

Internal

Doing good

Fair payment to small-scale suppliers

1

     

Internal

Doing good

Goods and services for those on low incomes

1

     

Internal

Doing good

Access to financial services for all, including the most vulnerable

1

8

9

10

  

External

Doing good

Sustainable food production

2

13 

15 

   

Internal

Doing good

Healthy and sufficient food for those on low incomes

2

3

    

External

Doing good

Agricultural productivity of small-scale suppliers

1

2

    

External

Doing good

Small-scale producers’ ownership over land and other property

1

2

    

External

Doing good

Actual and potential impacts on local communities

1

2

    

External

Avoiding harm

Occupational health and safety

3

8

    

Internal

Avoiding harm

Mental health and well-being

3

     

External

Avoiding harm

Health-care services and medicines for all

3

5

    

External

Doing good

Employee training and education

4

8

    

Internal

Doing good

Education to promote sustainable development

4

12

13 

   

External

Doing good

Children’s access to education

4

     

External

Doing good

Water, sanitation, and hygiene

6

     

External

Doing good

Water use efficiency

6

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Energy efficiency

7

8

    

Internal

Avoiding harm

Energy infrastructure

7

     

External

Doing good

Renewable energy

7

     

External

Doing good

Access to energy for all

7

     

External

Doing good

Labour rights and practices in the supply chain

8

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Elimination of forced labour and child labour

8

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Economic growth and productivity, particularly in developing countries

8

     

External

Doing good

Employment for all, particularly young people and people with disabilities

8

     

Internal

Doing good

Resilient and sustainable infrastructure

9

     

External

Doing good

Sustainable technologies and sustainable industrial processes

9

     

External

Doing good

Responsible finance

10

     

External

Doing good

Investment (e.g. FDI) in developing countries

10

17 

    

Internal

Doing good

Access to information and communication technology for all

9

     

External

Doing good

Access to affordable and sustainable transport for all

11

     

External

Doing good

Access to affordable and safe housing for all

11

     

External

Doing good

Cultural and natural heritage and diversity

11

     

External

Doing good

Greenhouse gas emission reductions

13

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Funding for developing countries’ climate change actions

13

     

Internal

Doing good

Transfer of (sustainable) technologies to developing countries

12

17

    

Internal

Doing good

Resilience to climate-related hazards

13

     

External

Avoiding harm

Disaster and emergency planning

1

11

13

   

Internal

Avoiding harm

Reducing air, water, and soil pollution

3

6

12

   

Internal

Avoiding harm

Sustainable waste management

3

6

8

11

12

 

Internal

Avoiding harm

Marine, coastal, and other water-related ecosystems

6

14

    

External

Avoiding harm

No overfishing and illegal-, unregulated- and destructive-fishing

2

14

    

External

Avoiding harm

Ecosystems and biodiversity on land

15

     

External

Avoiding harm

Halt poaching and trafficking of protected species

15

     

External

Avoiding harm

Halt or reverse deforestation and/or desertification

15

     

External

Avoiding harm

No corruption and bribery

16

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Accountable and transparent governance

16

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Responsive and inclusive decision-making at all levels

16

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Equal pay and opportunities for men and women, at all levels

5

10

    

Internal

Avoiding harm

No discrimination and anti-discrimination laws and policies

5

8

16

   

Internal

Avoiding harm

No workplace violence and harassment

5

16

    

Internal

Avoiding harm

Childcare services and benefits

4

5

    

Internal

Doing good

Collective bargaining for wages and benefits along the supply chain

1

8

    

Internal

Avoiding harm

Social protection systems for all

1

10

    

External

Doing good

Protection of privacy

16

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

External reporting on sustainability

12

     

Internal

Avoiding harm

Data availability and public access to information

16

17

    

Internal

Doing good

Tools to monitor impacts on sustainable development

12

17

    

Internal

Avoiding harm

Partnerships with the public and civil society sectors

17

     

Internal

Doing good

The relevance of our shortlist of SDG targets, including their traits, was validated through (face-to-face or Skype) conversations with four CSR/corporate sustainability professionals, working for MNEs in the financial services and food and agricultural sectors, and with one corporate responsibility programme manager at the UN.

Digital Survey

Our survey allowed for obtaining the viewpoints of a wide array of companies in a standardised manner. The survey consisted of two parts. The first part requested participants to identify to what extent, on a labelled five-point scale, they think their company’s policies contribute to each of the identified 59 SDG targets. The second part asked respondents how they think their companies’ policies contribute to each of the 17 SDGs. Participants were given five options, which partially relate to the elements the UN Global Compact (2013) considers to be critical to a comprehensive sustainability approach: embedding the SDG in the company’s strategy; contributing philanthropically; engaging in partnerships with the public and/or civil society sectors; having advocacy campaigns; and/or sharing data.

Our study concentrated on large MNEs from Europe and North America because these are faced with a relatively developed institutional context regarding sustainability regulation that nevertheless portrays noticeable differences (see the discussion earlier). Among globally operating companies, North American and European companies have also adopted the most prominent role in sustainable development. European companies in this subsample have thereby taken a more active role. In the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index, for instance, European companies lead in 16 out of 24 sectors.

We used the 2015 FT Global 500 to identify such firms. Out of these 500 firms, a total of 350 were headquartered in Europe (122) or North America (228). For each of these 350 companies, we approached executives whose work relates to their company’s role in sustainable development challenges. This includes executives in corporate sustainability and CSR departments. This selection was made in an effort to maximise the possibility that the respondents have an understanding of their company’s engagement with the SDGs. For 301 of these companies, we found either personal contact details or contact details of corporate sustainability or CSR departments (111 European and 190 North American firms).

The survey was sent to a total of 382 email addresses. Hence multiple email addresses were retrieved for certain companies. The questionnaire was conducted anonymously to reduce sensitivity and limit the likelihood that participants offered socially desirable answers. Our control questions were relatively generic. Too detailed questions about the companies (e.g. on profitability, turnover, or exact size) were not included because in our experience this dramatically limits the willingness to participate and/or provide meaningful answers on strategic issues. Eighty-nine corporate representatives filled out the survey. Eight responses were incomplete and therefore dropped, leaving a total of 81 respondents, which also represent 81 unique companies (response rate 21%). Table 2 displays the demographic details of the respondents, including selected details of their companies. The findings were analysed using SPSS.
Table 2

Details of respondents and their companies

Gender respondent (N = 80)

Number of respondents

Percentage of respondents

Female

45

56

Male

35

44

Operates in number of countries (N = 79)

  

 < 10

13

16

 10–49

19

24

 > 50

47

59

Region of company headquarters (N = 81)

  

 Europe

54

67

 North America

27

33

Sector (N = 80)

  

 Fast moving consumer goods

9

11

 Extractive industries

6

7

 Professional services

18

23

 Manufacturing

12

15

 Transport and retail

9

11

 ICT

11

14

 Finance

15

19

The respondents had the possibility to skip questions. Therefore, N does not always add up to 81.

RESULTS

This section presents a general overview of corporate involvement in the SDGs. It first shows to what extent and how the respondents believe their companies are engaging with each of the 59 SDG targets, as well as to the overarching 17 SDGs. The statistical analysis helps to explain these general findings on a more detailed level.

General Findings

For 81 companies, we were able to assess the extent to which they engage with the 59 SDG targets.2 Based on median scores, these targets can be grouped into those that received high, moderate, and low contributions (Table 3).
Table 3

MNEs’ engagement with different types of SDG targets (N = 81)

Extent of engagement with SDG targets

Actionability (%)

Ethical duties (%)

Internal (%)

External (%)

Avoid harm (%)

Doing good (%)

High (median score: 4–5) (N = 21)

90

10

71

29

Moderate (median score: 3) (N = 21)

43

57

33

67

Low (median score: 1–2) (N = 17)

18

82

21

79

Twenty-one targets received a median score of five (indicating an extreme contribution to the target) or four (indicating a substantial contribution to the target). Companies indicate particularly high contributions to SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and strong Institutions), and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

Twenty-one targets received a median score of three, indicating that the respondents’ policies moderately contribute to these targets. Many of these targets contribute to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). Other targets included in this segment particularly relate to SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 6 (Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

The remaining 17 targets received a median score of 2 (a slight contribution), or 1 (no contribution at all). The policies of the respondents’ firms are thus relatively disconnected from these targets. Multiple targets included in this category support SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 14 (Life below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

The scores on each SDG’s underlying targets were summed, equally weighting the targets. As such, a composite score per SDG was created. This allowed for the calculation of a mean score of the extent to which companies’ policies engage with each SDG, as displayed in Figure 2. It shows that there is considerable diversity among the SDGs to which the companies aim to contribute.
Figure 2

Extent to which companies contribute to the SDGs (N = 81).

The survey further asked how the respondent’s companies contribute to each of the 17 SDGs, offering pre-defined options. Multiple options could be picked. This helped reveal the interconnections between the SDGs and understand the importance of each goal. The ‘not applicable’ category is thereby equally important. It reveals a lack of priority and can help in gauging the extent to which specific SDGs provide an institutional arena in which companies are inclined to actively contribute to common goals. Explicitly non-applicable SDGs ranged from a 2% low (SDG 17 – Partnerships) to a 51% high (SDG 14 – Life below water). Figure 3 shows the proportion of each type of contribution as a percentage of the total number of contributions that were indicated per SDG.
Figure 3

Types of contributions to the SDGs (% of types per SDG).

Statistical Analysis: Explaining MNEs’ Engagement with the SDGs

We analysed the survey results using non-parametric tests of differences, either paired (i.e. the Wilcoxon signed-rank test), for two (i.e. the Mann–Whitney U test), or for more samples (i.e. the Kruskal–Wallis test), to provide initial insights on the propositions. We focused on respondents’ average contributions to aggregations of our SDG targets (in total as well as for subgroups of targets). Robustness tests were conducted using median scores as to reflect the ordinal nature of (non-aggregated) Likert-type data. These tests revealed the same results.

We first explored the effects associated with SDG traits, finding that engagement with internally actionable SDG targets exceeds engagement with externally actionable SDG targets. On the 1–5 scale, engagement with internally actionable SDG targets received a mean score of 3.4, compared to a mean score of 2.6 for externally actionable SDG targets. A Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed that 75 respondents indicated a higher mean score on internally actionable targets, while six respondents had a higher mean score on externally actionable SDG targets. These differences were found to be statistically significant \((Z = - 7.686, \;p < .001)\). Results on the ethical duties trait indicate similar patterns. “Avoiding harm” targets received a mean score of 3.3, compared to a mean score of 2.8 for “doing good” targets. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed that 69 out of 81 respondents indicated a higher mean score on “avoiding harm” than “doing good” SDG targets. These differences are statistically significant \((Z = - 6.505,\; p < .001)\).

We then studied effects related to traits of MNEs. Companies from different home-countries/regions indicate varying SDG engagement. Mann–Whitney U tests show that European companies indicate greater involvement with SDG targets \(\left( {U = 531.5, \;p = .048} \right)\). This also applies to SDG targets that are externally actionable \(\left( {U = 487, \;p = .015} \right)\). However, North American companies tend to engage more with SDG targets characterised as “doing good” \(\left( {U = 509.5,\; p = .028} \right)\). Engagement with internally actionable SDG targets \(\left( {U = 576, \;p = .125} \right)\) and SDG targets intending to “avoid harm” \(\left( {U = 591, \;p = .167} \right)\) does not differ significantly across North American and European firms.

The respondents were subsequently categorised according to the number of countries in which their firm operates: (1) more than one but less than ten countries; (2) ten to fifty countries; and (3) more than fifty countries. A Kruskal–Wallis H test showed that, between these three different groups, there were no statistically significant differences in total engagement with SDG targets \((X^{2} (2),\; p < .480)\), in engagement with internally actionable SDG targets \((X^{2} (2), \;p < .707)\), externally actionable SDG targets \((X^{2} (2), \;p < .326)\), in engagement with “avoiding harm” targets \((X^{2} (2), \;p < .986)\), as ll as with “doing good” targets \(\left( {X^{2} \left( 2 \right), \;p < .148} \right)\).

We finally examined differences across industrial sectors (Table 4). A Kruskal–Wallis H test revealed no statistically significant differences between MNEs in different sectors and total involvement with the SDG targets \(\left( {X^{2} \left( 6 \right), \;p < .154} \right)\), involvement with internally actionable \(\left( {X^{2} \left( 6 \right), \;p < .088} \right)\) or externally actionable SDG targets \(\left( {X^{2} \left( 6 \right), \;p < .282} \right)\), and engagement with “doing good” targets \(\left( {X^{2} \left( 6 \right), \;p < .309} \right)\). A statistically significant difference was found between engagement with “avoiding harm” targets and respondents in the different industries \(\left( {X^{2} \left( 6 \right), \;p < .026} \right)\). Post hoc tests were conducted to assess between which sectors these differences occur. Seven statistically significant differences in scores on “avoiding harm” targets between sectors were found. Both the FMCG and extractive industries sectors indicate greater, and significant, engagement with “avoiding harm” targets than the professional services, ICT, and finance sectors. The transport and retail sectors indicate more, and significant, engagement with “avoiding harm” targets than financial services companies.
Table 4

Summaries of Kruskal–Wallis tests on different sectors’ engagement with “avoiding harm” targets

Sector A

Sector B

Explained variance (%)

Kruskal–Wallis H

Asymp. Sig.

Sector

N

Mean rank

Sector

N

Mean rank

FMCG

9

7.72

Extractive industries

6

8.42

1

0.087

0.768

FMCG

9

19

Professional services

19

12.37

15

3.975

0.046*

FMCG

9

12.89

Manufacturing

12

9.58

7

1.461

0.227

FMCG

9

10.17

Transport and retail

9

8.83

2

0.282

0.596

FMCG

9

13.39

ICT

11

8.14

21

3.908

0.048*

FMCG

9

16.28

Finance

15

10.23

18

4.128

0.042*

Extractive industries

6

18.86

Professional services

19

11.16

21

4.965

0.026*

Extractive industries

6

12.33

Manufacturing

12

8.08

15

2.543

0.111

Extractive industries

6

9.5

Transport and retail

9

7

8

1.129

0.288

Extractive industries

6

13.58

ICT

11

6.5

48

7.658

0.006*

Extractive industries

6

17

Finance

15

8.6

39

7.885

0.005*

Professional services

19

14.5

Manufacturing

12

18.38

4

1.337

0.248

Professional services

19

12.95

Transport and retail

9

17.78

8

2.11

0.146

Professional services

19

15.55

ICT

11

15.41

0

0.002

0.966

Professional services

19

17.08

Finance

15

18.03

0

0.077

0.781

Manufacturing

12

10.33

Transport and retail

9

11.89

2

0.323

0.57

Manufacturing

12

13.63

ICT

11

10.23

7

1.444

0.23

Manufacturing

12

15.58

Finance

15

12.73

3

0.861

0.353

Transport and retail

9

13.22

ICT

11

8.27

18

3.467

0.063

Transport and retail

9

16.22

Finance

15

10.27

17

4.004

0.045*

ICT

11

12.59

Finance

15

14.17

1

0.27

0.603

*Denotes statistically significant differences at the 0.05 level.

DISCUSSION

This section discusses the extent to which the initial survey findings support or reject the formulated propositions and what their implications are for the role of MNEs in sustainable development. We then delineate policy implications for furthering MNEs’ engagement with the SDGs.

An Institutional Approach to the Role of MNEs in Sustainable Development

An institutional approach is important in studying the role of the SDGs in IB strategies. This is reinforced by the priority that companies themselves attached in particular to SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions). Our exploratory analysis firstly aimed to add to our understanding of the SDGs as a goal-based institution. Proposition 1 is supported: MNEs are more likely to engage with internally actionable SDG targets compared to externally actionable SDG targets. Proposition 2 also receives support: companies are more likely to engage with SDG targets that intend to avoid harm, compared to SDG targets that intend to actively do good. Thus these two SDG traits can be considered important indicators for MNEs’ engagement with the SDGs.

The extent to which MNEs engage with the SDGs was found to be influenced by their home-countries/regions. European MNEs engage with more SDGs in general. They also engage more with externally actionable SDGs. Yet North American MNEs indicate greater involvement with SDG targets that help them actively do good, which in the sample is related to the North American institutional environment placing relatively more emphasis on philanthropy (e.g. Matten & Moon, 2008). These findings are partially aligned with proposition 3a. Proposition 3b, which expected more internationalised companies to engage with more SDG targets, was neither supported nor rejected. This result might be influenced by a selection bias in favour of the world’s largest firms or the relative simplicity of the measurement of internationalisation in our survey (with no distinction between the types of countries, the respondents’ firms engage in and the institutional distance they experience, for instance). This finding could also reflect that MNEs are at an initial stage of engaging with the SDGs, causing efforts to be more global than local, and more generic than specific. Proposition 4, which expected MNEs from industrial sectors with greater negative externalities to engage with more SDG targets, was partially supported. Such MNEs were found to engage more with “avoiding harm” targets than companies in sectors with smaller societal footprints.

In addition to the extent of their engagement with the SDGs, we explored how MNEs say to contribute to different SDGs. Philanthropic contributions are mostly made to SDGs that tend to represent highly complex (macro) challenges (SDG 1 – No Poverty; SDG 2 – Zero Hunger; SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being; and SDG 4 – Quality Education). MNEs mainly share data regarding SDGs that represent collective action and/or public good challenges (SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy; SDG 13 – Climate Action; SDG 14 – Life below Water; SDG 15 – Life on Land). Public advocacy is geared towards many goals, but is considered the most prominent method of contributing to SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions). Partnerships with civil society organisations and the public sector concentrate on SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 4 (Quality Education), and 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). These are general challenges in which the link between short-term and longer-term integration in future core business might be established through a combination of philanthropic and partnering activities. MNEs aim to align their core strategy to internally actionable SDGs that are most obviously in their direct interests: SDGs 5 (Gender Equality); 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth); 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); and 13 (Climate Action). Because the more philanthropic the nature of a contribution is, the less relevant it can be considered for the core business of the company (Austin & Seitanidi, 2012), these patterns corroborate propositions 1 and 2 that are internally actionable and “avoiding harm” SDGs are placed at the core of MNEs’ policies.

These findings have implications for the role of MNEs in sustainable development. MNEs have been argued to increasingly become actively engaged agents, as opposed to distant or passive tools, in sustainable development (Blowfield, 2012). In line with their institutional environments, the MNEs in our sample have adopted a relatively narrow role in sustainable development. They primarily engage with SDG targets that are internally actionable and that seek to avoid doing harm. This is important: accountability for, and mitigation of, negative impacts on societies and the environment are critical requirements for achieving the SDGs (Kumi, Arhin, & Yeboah, 2014). Nevertheless, sustainable development also necessitates a radical diversion from current practices (Chang, 2010). There is a need to go “beyond business as usual” (Scheyvens et al., 2016) and extend a company’s sphere of influence (Ruggie, 2008). Focusing only on internally actionable and “avoiding harm”-centred SDG targets tends to make MNEs rather passive sustainable development agents. Greater and actively managed positive spill-over and sustainable development effects (cf. Dunning & Fortanier, 2007; Kolk and van Tulder, 2010) are externally actionable and require a positive duty approach.

Table 5 provides a gap analysis on the SDG targets with which the companies engage least, framed along the dimensions of the two SDG traits used in this study. Internally actionable SDG targets that receive low engagement (category [C]) require investments in developing countries and are aimed at actively creating positive externalities, for instance, through technology transfer. Institutional barriers in intellectual property rights regimes, the organisation of international value chains (in particular in food), and host-country regulation arguably play an important role here.
Table 5

Gaps in MNEs as development agents: SDG targets that MNEs do not or only slightly engage with

 

Actionability

Internal

External

Ethical duties

Avoiding harm

[A] None

[B] Many

∙ Deforestation and/or desertification

∙ Poaching

∙ Marine and other water-related ecosystems

∙ Overfishing

Doing good

[C] Few

∙ Transfer of technologies

∙ Sustainable food production

∙ Funding for climate change action in developing countries

[D] Most

∙ Access to affordable and sustainable transport, housing, energy, financial services, ICT

∙ Agricultural productivity of small holders

∙ Cultural and natural heritage and diversity

∙ Healthy and sufficient food for those on low incomes

To broaden their role in sustainable development, companies should move from the narrow end to the broad end of the continuum (categories [B] and [D]). A number of specific gaps appear in the engagement of European and North American MNEs with the SDG targets. In particular, “tragedy of the commons” type problems require the joint efforts of governments, companies, and civil society to reduce negative externalities (Hardin, 1968). However, companies indicate low engagement with such SDG targets, especially those related to environmental deterioration (category [B]). Furthermore, the greatest challenge is provided by SDGs that aim to maximise positive externalities, such as providing access to affordable housing and energy (category [D]). These SDGs require involvement of all societal actors. In this complex category, we see only a few companies that are willing to take up such challenges.

Philips is an example of a globally operating company that is using the SDG framework to reposition itself as an innovative health company and broaden its role in sustainable development. It aligns with all SDGs in general and with three SDGs in particular: SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and SDG 13 (Climate Action) (Philips, 2016b). SDGs 12 and 13 are internally actionable and predominantly seek to avoid doing harm. SDG 3 is a challenge that – to a large extent – is externally actionable and seeks to do good, thus relating to the broader, more active, developmental role. The “doing good” aspect is illustrated by Philips’s official target to contribute to the health of more than 3 billion people, and have 95% of its revenues by 2020 linked to the SDGs (Philips, 2016a). To achieve this ambition, the company is proactively establishing partnerships with a variety of non-market players like NGOs and governments (Philips, 2017; PrC, 2011).

In an effort to broaden their engagement with sustainable development themes, certain MNEs have also actively influenced the creation of institutions. Unilever’s role in the making of the SDG Agenda is an example. SDG target 6.2 promotes access to sanitation and hygiene and has as an indicator the “proportion of the population using safely managed sanitation services, including a hand-washing facility with soap and water”. This SDG target and related indicator mirror Unilever’s global strategy of contributing to sustainable development by giving people access to its hygiene products. The position of Paul Polman, Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer, as a leading member of the UN SDG advocacy group cannot be underestimated in the formulation of this target.

Nevertheless, as Table 5 illustrates, our exploratory findings presents a sizable research gap in an important area of IB: how can MNEs move beyond their relatively narrow/passive role in the SDGs and plan and implement business models that support externally actionable SDGs that seek to actively do good? Given the influence of institutions over MNEs’ engagement with the SDGs, the next section explores the policy implications of our study.

Policy Implications: The Need for Cross-Sector Partnerships

The introduction of the SDGs highlights a successful joint effort of governments and societal actors to increasingly involve MNEs in the sustainable development agenda. A first policy aim, therefore, is to increase the number of companies that support the SDGs, acknowledging that this will probably imply relatively narrow involvement aimed at not doing harm. The adoption of the SDGs by most MNEs is a clear illustration of a bandwagon effect. The exact interpretation of that effect is open to debate and the challenge to materialise the SDGs in MNEs’ strategies is still substantial. This challenge lies partly with governments, concerning the creation of policies that stimulate companies to adopt broader development roles.

Regulatory policies seem to be limited in their potential to stimulate positive corporate actions. Subsidy policies have been effective but highly disputed (because of the problems associated with “selecting winners” or “backing losers”). The experience with market-based mechanisms, such as carbon pricing, proves particularly difficult to implement. Non-traditional regulatory measures have used “nudges”, endorsements, and market-based mechanisms as incentive to “do good” (cf. Thaler & Sunstein, 2008) within the direct sphere of influence of companies. Additionally, it is important to realise that our exploratory results indicate that most of the gaps in the involvement of MNEs in sustainable development concern externally actionable SDGs. These involve systemic, collective action problems that require a greater emphasis on the creation of positive externalities and a focus on “doing good” (cf. van Tulder & Keen, 2018). Notwithstanding this finding, MNEs do indicate a willingness to engage in cross-sector partnerships: just 2% of the MNEs in our survey indicated “not applicable” when asked how they aim to contribute to SDG 17 (Partnerships). Thus a more complex policy challenge for governments and civil society is to reach out to MNEs and establish collaborative projects in support of specific – complementary – SDG targets that fall into categories [C] or [D] of Table 5.

Partnerships between actors from the public, private, and civil society sectors are critical for realising the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. This is recognised by both the fifth basic Principle of the SDGs (Partnering) and the seventeenth SDG, which is fully dedicated to promoting partnerships for realisation of the goals. Partnerships can adapt current activities to better fit with the SDGs (Pattberg & Widerberg, 2016), but are also crucial for enabling the private sector to broaden its role in sustainable development and contribute to those targets that cannot be achieved by individual societal sectors (e.g. Kolk, van Tulder & Kostwinder, 2008; Reed & Reed, 2009; Seitanidi & Crane, 2009; 2014). Earlier we argued that in particular for those SDGs that companies consider “not applicable” (SDG 2 – Zero Hunger; and SDG 14 – Life below Water), governments can anticipate a relatively inactive corporate audience. Controlling for the sectoral bias in the sample, however, indicates that companies engaged in food and nutrition, are much more active in support of these SDGs. Thus the task for governments is also to align policies to industries, and within those industries to relevant frontrunners that are willing to include these particular SDGs in their strategic planning and make them part of their core business through partnerships.

Thousands of cross-sector partnerships have materialised in the area of sustainable development (PrC, 2011). By way of illustration, governments of many previous “donor” countries (in particular from Europe and North America) have developed policies for stimulating companies to engage in public–private partnerships (PPP). Countries thereby prioritise specific SDGs in support of their own “core capabilities” as well. The Netherlands, for instance, has initiated PPP-initiatives around SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). Along these lines, the adoption of the SDGs has sparked the creation of SDG platforms in which all societal sectors are represented, sometimes in general and sometimes around specific SDGs. Such platforms could provide fertile ground for involving MNEs in partnerships for the SDGs.

Our results indicate that MNEs are adopting partnerships as a way to contribute to SDGs that are complex and externally actionable (in particular to SDG 1 – No Poverty; SDG 2 – Zero Hunger; and SDG 4 – Quality Education). MNEs mitigate their lack of actionability over such themes by searching for partners that have the right sets of skills and expertise. This relationship also works the other way around. Agents in partnerships other than companies can also be characterised by having various degrees of actionability over working towards the realisation of an SDG. As a result, partnering with the private sector can cause these actors to benefit from a company’s expertise, for example, related to general business operations such as finance, supply chain management, and HR, or a company’s skills related to its sector. On this basis, it can be proposed that partnerships for sustainable development are most effective when the combined actionability of the agents involved in the partnership over the sustainable development theme is high.

A telling example of a partnership that succeeds in increasing the combined actionability of partners over a sustainability issue is “Seeing is Believing”. This partnership between Standard Chartered Bank and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) dates back to 2003 and ambitions to combat avoidable blindness and visual impairment (most of which affects low- and middle-income countries). Over the past 15 years, the partnership has raised nearly US$100 million, implemented projects in 37 countries with numerous governmental and NGO organisations, and expanded its interventions to include prevention alongside treatment. The partnership capitalises on both partners’ capabilities. Standard Chartered’s commercial strengths are valuable in raising financing, mobilising employees, promoting eye health at an institutional level, and governing the Seeing is Believing partnership. IAPB, as an internationally operating alliance of 148 organisations working to promote eye health, has thorough eye health expertise which helps ensure that Seeing is Believing projects work with the best-suited implementing partners, that these projects’ impacts are maximised, and that best practices are facilitated throughout the sector. As such, partnering with IAPB enabled Standard Chartered to contribute to an externally actionable sustainability challenge and helped it to “do good”.

This discussion provides a clear imperative for MNEs to contribute to externally actionable SDG targets through partnerships. Companies’ core capabilities can be of significant value in realising these targets when other agents use their knowledge and higher degrees of actionability over the target to ensure that provided solutions are effective. Because institutional frameworks influence corporate contributions to specific SDG targets, an opportunity for further expanding the role of companies in sustainable development lies in including partnerships in institutions. Since it is complicated for governments to require companies to formally engage in partnerships for sustainable development, and as including such demands in cultural-cognitive institutions in the foreseeable future is unlikely, this particularly applies to normative institutional initiatives. Discussions on this topic with major institutions, such as the UN Global Compact and the WBCSD, could deliver practical results while simultaneously building theoretical knowledge on the SDGs as a goal-based institution.

Nevertheless, the cross-sector partnering literature – from a policy as well as a company perspective – is still in its infancy (Kolk et al., 2017). Most of the research is hampered by the fact that partnerships are only a recent phenomenon, while their effectiveness is difficult to measure – certainly when they claim to have an impact on the achievement of complex goals like the SDGs. As a result, partnering gets criticised for not adequately – or measurably – addressing the manifold problems for which it is introduced. A second line of critique concerns the partnership composition, including sub-optimal partnering configurations (Wettenhall, 2003); not addressing the actual complexity of the problem (Pattberg & Widerberg, 2016); a too dominant private sector (Dauvergne & LeBaron, 2014); too limited ambitions; non-optimal issue-partner fits (van Tulder & Pfisterer, 2014); and over-ambition that creates all sorts of “collaborative complexities” (Schneider, Wickert, & Marti, 2017). Thirdly, ill-conceived partnerships have been criticised for undermining the legitimacy of the whole partnering phenomenon (Bäckstrand, 2006), for instance, owing to overly optimistic or superficial claims, subdued responsibilities, or poor governance structures (Brinkerhoff & Brinkerhoff, 2011).

In response to such criticisms, many have reiterated that partnerships cannot be considered a panacea for development problems (Kolk, 2014). Collaboration does not come easily, hence success cannot be assured (Bryson, Crosby, & Bloomberg, 2015). The effectiveness of partnering is highly context-dependent and susceptible to change. A potential pitfall of such partnerships is that the distance between the company’s business model (or its profit-driving activities) and its sustainable development efforts widens too far, making the company’s contributions to the SDGs financially unsustainable. An illustration is the partnership between logistics company TNT and the World Food Programme (WFP) that aimed to eradicate hunger. At the inception time of the partnership, hunger did not appear as a problem of insufficient food produced, but primarily as a problem of unequal distribution. As ending hunger is externally actionable, TNT contributed to the partnership through its core capabilities in transport. WFP, on the other hand, had fewer transport capabilities compared to TNT, but a high knowledge about feeding those in need. This way, the partners’ combined actionability over the sustainable development theme – i.e. ending hunger – was high. However, no clear link was established between this partnership and TNT’s commercial activities, rendering it primarily a philanthropic sponsoring programme, which posed a risk to the sustainability of the partnership (van Tulder, 2008). This contrasts with Standard Chartered’s Seeing is Believing partnership to some degree, as this partnership’s activities take place in countries where the bank has a presence, thus offering opportunities for increasing local legitimacy. Although no formal reason was provided, in 2015 TNT terminated the partnership. Hence contributing to complex SDGs in partnership with other actors is likely to be most efficient when links can be made with the company’s business model.

Notwithstanding these concerns, the fact that so many companies, governments, as well as NGOs have embraced the SDGs makes cross-sector partnerships relevant as a study object. This not only concerns the measurement of outcomes, but also as a frame to help participants improve the effectiveness of their efforts. The interaction between the SDGs as a goal-based institution that necessitates expanding a company’s actionability and “doing good” efforts, and national institutions that are often aimed at companies’ internal actionability and mitigating “avoiding harm”, is critical in creating a policy mix that enhances companies’ impacts on sustainable development.

CONCLUSIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH

This article intended to frame an important topic of research in international business: MNEs’ adaptation to, as well their (co)creation of, institutions. The SDGs provide a central and lasting framework in which companies are not only asked to adapt to a policy agenda in the form of universal goals with specific local adaptations, but in which they are also required to create new institutions. The role of MNEs is without dispute; not least because they have actively collaborated in the formulation of the SDGs themselves. This study conceptualised the SDGs as a goal-based institution. It subsequently explored the first patterns of alignment between the strategies of an important group of often leading MNEs from two distinct institutional backgrounds – North America and Europe – and the SDGs. We found general and specific patterns and identified clear implications for the role of MNEs in contributing to sustainable development.

Our initial findings indicate that MNEs primarily engage with internally actionable SDG targets, and that they engage with SDGs to avoid negative impacts on sustainable development. Acting on externally actionable SDGs and proactively “doing good” is to a far lesser extent associated with MNEs’ actions. SDGs that represent complex areas of general institution building, for instance, for public goods, receive relatively little support other than through philanthropic means. By mainly engaging with SDGs that “avoid harm” and thus mitigating negative externalities, MNEs have adopted an important but fairly narrow/passive role in contributing to the SDGs. Sustainable development, however, demands that SDGs that seek to “do good” are also realised. Since many of the “doing good” SDG targets are externally actionable, we argue that partnerships for sustainable development are critical for the broader and more active involvement of MNEs in achieving the SDGs. These have to be placed at the fore of international business policy research. Our discussion earlier provides a first attempt.

Three consequences of our exploratory study should be taken into account. First, sampling issues have to be addressed. Our empirical data were obtained from companies headquartered in Europe or North America that are listed in the 2015 FT Global 500. The survey’s sample size (81 respondents) can be argued to be representative of these two groups but not of a wider group of MNEs from different regulatory regimes. Previous studies find operational and conceptual differences in sustainability policies of companies from different cultures and societies (Jamali, 2010; Matten & Moon, 2008; Muller, 2006) and of companies of different sizes (Baumann-Pauly, Wickert, Spence, & Scherer, 2013). Our study did not include the sustainable development efforts of subsidiaries (and the effect of specific country portfolios on more consolidated sustainability strategies). Countries adopt varying kinds of SDG policies based on national priorities. The interaction between company and country priorities provides an additional avenue for further research. Moreover, the sample overlooks companies that were established with an explicit social and/or environmental mission. Scarce IB research on this topic, for instance, found a positive relationship between family ownership and a higher inclination to “doing good” (Crilly et al., 2016). Future research needs to look at the effects of governance structures and corporate missions on the choice of particular SDGs.

Second, the SDGs as a goal-based institution requires further research. The SDG targets used by this study were deductively defined by examining the SDGs’ official targets and the SDG business themes that are included in the SDG Compass of the GRI, WBCSD, and UN Global Compact. This method aimed to increase the validity of our survey by maximising the degree to which the respondents in our sample could relate to the targets that we included. But it also introduces a potential bias, because we excluded targets of a purely public-sector nature, or because we reworded such targets so as to align them better with the practices of the private sector. Although we aimed to use a shortlist of SDG targets that is representative of the formal list, the results presented in this study could overstate the role of companies in the SDGs. This also raises a broader question about the (potential) limitations of the SDG framework for agents other than governments. The SDG targets appear to have been operationalised with a heavy emphasis on governmental action. Efforts are needed to further conceptualise the SDG framework as an institution in IB.

Adding to that, the SDG targets used in this study were characterised as being internally or externally actionable and as aiming to avoid harm or do good. It could be that different results are obtained when sustainable development themes – and their categorisation along these two traits – are inductively identified by asking companies about their policies, or through assessments of their sustainability/CSR reports. Moreover, our and other research shows that companies adopt a variety of SDGs, which also makes it important to understand better what the nexus of SDGs implies in general terms – for instance, as portrayed in studies on “inclusive green growth” – and in specific terms for the portfolio of SDGs that companies could use for their strategic aims.

Finally, the SDG agenda demands emphasis on a prevailing methodological challenge. Our insights describe companies’ self-reported contributions to the SDGs. This allowed us to gain insights into the number of SDGs with which companies engage. A logical next step would be to measure companies’ sustainable development impacts. Companies that engage with fewer SDGs might well have greater positive impacts on sustainable development than companies that are involved with a wide variety of sustainability goals. The advance of the SDG agenda offers a unique opportunity towards this end, as many organisations are now working on developing metrics for the SDGs’ targets and indicators. Such a discussion would not only contribute to examinations of the actual impact of companies on sustainable development, but also provide insights into the extent to which companies engage in decoupling (e.g. Crilly, Zollo, & Hansen, 2012; Hawn, 2012).

In addition to these research avenues, this article intends to trigger more IB-related research on the following three topics in particular: (1) define the factors and processes that can help MNEs to be more engaged in “doing good” and to contribute to societal goals within and beyond their spheres of influence, either alone or through partnerships; (2) define the policy measures that can help companies make this transition, in particular how governments can apply complementary roles – either alone through partnerships – to produce global public goods and as such contribute to sustainable development (i.e. the SDGs); (3) expand the sample of companies under consideration, either by adding more companies from different regions, different sizes, different governance structures (state-owned and family-owned, for instance), as well as by adding more in-depth company studies that go into the antecedents of integrating the SDGs in the internal planning exercise of the company. It is beyond dispute that MNEs have vast opportunities for helping achieve the SDGs. Research is now needed to understand, accelerate, and materialise these opportunities.

Notes

  1. 1

    A discussion on terminology is beyond the scope of this article. We use the term corporate sustainability liberally and inclusively to refer to any efforts MNEs may initiate to contribute to sustainable development.

     
  2. 2

    A detailed scoring table is available upon request.

     

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Consulting Editor Ans Kolk and three anonymous peer reviewers for their detailed, constructive, and timely feedback. We also thank Peter Nolan at Jesus College, Cambridge, for supportive and stimulating discussions during the initial stages of research leading to this article.

References

  1. Accenture & UN Global Compact. 2016. Agenda 2030: A window of opportunity. The UN Gobal Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Survey 2016. New York: Accenture.Google Scholar
  2. Arya, B., & Bassi, B. 2011. Corporate social responsibility and broad-based black economic empowerment legislation in South Africa: Codes of good practice. Business and Society, 50(4): 674–695.Google Scholar
  3. Attig, N., Boubakri, N., El Ghoul, S., & Guedhami, O. 2016. Firm internationalization and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 134(2): 171–197.Google Scholar
  4. Austin, J. E., & Seitanidi, M. M. 2012. Collaborative value creation: A review of partnering between nonprofits and businesses: Part 1. Value creation spectrum and collaboration stages. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 41(5): 726–758.Google Scholar
  5. Babiak, K., & Thibault, L. 2009. Challenges in multiple cross-sector partnerships. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(1): 117–143.Google Scholar
  6. Bäckstrand, K. 2006. Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: Rethinking legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness. European Environment, 16(5): 290–306.Google Scholar
  7. Banerjee, S. B. 2008. Corporate social responsibility: The good, the bad and the ugly. Critical Sociology, 34(1): 51–79.Google Scholar
  8. Bansal, P. 2005. Evolving sustainably: A longitudinal study of corporate sustainable development. Strategic Management Journal, 26(3): 197–218.Google Scholar
  9. Barkemeyer, R., Preuss, L., & Lee, L. 2015. On the effectiveness of private transnational governance regimes: Evaluating corporate sustainability reporting according to the Global Reporting Initiative. Journal of World Business, 50(2): 312–325.Google Scholar
  10. Baron, J. 1996. Do no harm. In D. M. Messick & A. E. Tenbrunsel (Eds.), Codes of Conduct: Behavioral Research into Business Ethics (pp. 197–213. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Baumann-Pauly, D., Wickert, C., Spence, L. J., & Scherer, A. G. 2013. Organizing corporate social responsibility in small and large firms: Size matters. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4): 693–705.Google Scholar
  12. Bhanji, Z., & Oxley, J. E. 2013. Overcoming the dual liability of foreignness and privateness in international corporate citizenship partnerships. Journal of International Business Studies, 44(4): 290–311.Google Scholar
  13. Biermann, F., Kanie, N., & Kim, R. E. 2017. Global governance by goal-setting: The novel approach of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 26: 26–31.Google Scholar
  14. Blowfield, M. 2012. Business and development: Making sense of business as a development agent. Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society, 12(4): 414–426.Google Scholar
  15. Bondy, K., Moon, J., & Matten, D. 2012. An institution of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in multi-national corporations (MNCs): Form and implications. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(2): 281–299.Google Scholar
  16. Bowen, K. J., Cradock-Henry, N. A., Koch, F., Patterson, J., Häyhä, T., Vogt, J., et al. 2017. Implementing the “Sustainable Development Goals”: towards addressing three key governance challenges – collective action, trade-offs, and accountability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 26–27: 90–96.Google Scholar
  17. Brammer, S. J., Jackson, G., & Matten, D. 2012. Corporate social responsibility and institutional theory: new perspectives on private governance. Socio-Economic Review, 10: 3–28.Google Scholar
  18. Brammer, S. J., & Pavelin, S. 2006. Corporate reputation and social performance: The importance of fit. Journal of Management Studies, 43(3): 435–455.Google Scholar
  19. Brammer, S. J., Pavelin, S., & Porter, L. A. 2006. Corporate social performance and geographical diversification. Journal of Business Research, 59(9): 1025–1034.Google Scholar
  20. Brammer, S. J., Pavelin, S., & Porter, L. A. 2009. Corporate charitable giving, multinational companies and countries of concern. Journal of Management Studies, 46(4): 575–596.Google Scholar
  21. Brinkerhoff, D. W., & Brinkerhoff, J. M. 2011. Public–private partnerships: Perspectives on purposes, publicness, and good governance. Public Administration and Development, 31(1): 2–14.Google Scholar
  22. Bryson, J. M., Crosby, B. C., & Bloomberg, L. 2015. Creating public value in practice: advancing the common good in a multi-sector, shared-power, no-one-wholly-in-charge world. London: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  23. Business & Sustainable Development Commission. 2017. Valuing the SDG prize. London: Business & Sustainable Development Commission.Google Scholar
  24. Cai, Y., Jo, H., & Pan, C. 2012. Doing well while doing bad? CSR in controversial industry sectors. Journal of Business Ethics, 108: 467–480.Google Scholar
  25. Campbell, J. L. 2004. Institutional change and globalization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Campbell, J. L. 2007. Why would corporations behave in socially responsible ways? An institutional theory of corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Review, 32(3): 946–967.Google Scholar
  27. Carroll, A. B., & Shabana, K. M. 2010. The business case for corporate social responsibility: A review of concepts, research and practice. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1): 85–105.Google Scholar
  28. Chang, H-J. 2010. Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: How development has disappeared from today’s “development” discourse. Towards New Developmentalism: Market as Means rather than Master, September 2016: 1–11.Google Scholar
  29. Clemens, B. 2001. Changing environmental strategies over time: An empirical study of the steel industry in the United States. Journal of Environmental Management, 62(2): 221–231.Google Scholar
  30. Copenhagen Consensus. 2016. Nobel Laureates guide to smarter global targets to 2030. http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/post-2015-consensus/nobel-laureates-guide-smarter-global-targets-2030. Accessed 11 November 2017.
  31. Crane, A., & Matten, D. 2016. Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Crilly, D., Ni, N., & Jiang, Y. 2016. Do-no-harm versus do-good social responsibility: Attributional thinking and the liability of foreignness. Strategic Management Journal, 37(7): 1316–1329.Google Scholar
  33. Crilly, D., Zollo, M., & Hansen, M. T. 2012. Faking it or muddling through? Understanding decoupling in response to stakeholder pressures. Academy of Management Journal, 55(6): 1429–1448.Google Scholar
  34. Dahlsrud, A. 2008. How corporate social responsibility is defined: An analysis of 37 definitions. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 15(1): 1–13.Google Scholar
  35. Dauvergne, P., & LeBaron, G. 2014. Protest Inc.: the corporatization of activism. London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  36. Davis, K. 1973. The case for and against business assumption of social responsibilities. Academy of Management Journal, 16(2): 312–322.Google Scholar
  37. Delmas, M. A., & Toffel, M. W. 2008. Organizational responses to environmental demands: opening the black box. Strategic Management Journal, 29(10): 1027–1055.Google Scholar
  38. DeSombre, E. R. 2000. The experience of the Montreal Protocol: Particularly remarkable, and remarkably particular. UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, 19(49): 49–82.Google Scholar
  39. DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. 1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2): 147–160.Google Scholar
  40. Doh, J. P., & Guay, T. R. 2006. Corporate social responsibility, public policy, and NGO activism in Europe and the United States: An institutional–stakeholder perspective. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1): 47–74.Google Scholar
  41. Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. 1999. Ties that bind: A social contracts approach to business ethics. Boston: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Donoher, W. J. 2017. The multinational and the legitimation of sustainable development. Transnational Corporations, 24(3): 49–61.Google Scholar
  43. Dunning, J. H., & Fortanier, F. 2007. Multinational enterprises and the new development paradigm: Consequences for host country development. Multinational Business Review, 15(1): 25–46.Google Scholar
  44. Eccles, R. G., & Karbassi, L. 2018. The right way to support the Sustainable Development Goals. https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/the-right-way-to-support-the-uns-sustainable-development-goals/. Accessed 9 April 2018.
  45. Frederiksen, C. S. 2010. The relation between policies concerning corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philosophical moral theories: An empirical investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 93(3): 357–371.Google Scholar
  46. Freeman, R. E., Wicks, A. C., & Parmar, B. 2004. Stakeholder theory and “the corporate objective revisited”. Organization Science, 15(3): 364–369.Google Scholar
  47. Fukuda-Parr, S. 2016. From the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals: Shifts in purpose, concept, and politics of global goal setting for development. Gender and Development, 24(1): 43–52.Google Scholar
  48. Garriga, E., & Melé, D. 2004. Corporate social responsibility theories: Mapping the territory social responsibility corporate theories: Mapping the territory. Journal of Business Ethics, 53(1/2): 51–71.Google Scholar
  49. Giuliani, E., Macchi, C., & Fiaschi, D. 2014. The social irresponsibility of international business: A novel conceptualization. In R. van Tulder, A. Verbeke, & R. Strange (Eds.), International business and sustainable development (pp. 141–173). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  50. GRI, UN Global Compact, & WBCSD. 2015. SDG Compass: The guide for business action on the SDGs. Amsterdam, Geneva, New York.Google Scholar
  51. Hajer, M., Nilsson, M., Raworth, K., Bakker, P., Berkhout, F., de Boer, Y., Ludwig, K., & Kok, M. 2015. Beyond cockpit-ism: Four insights to enhance the transformative potential of the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability, 7(2): 1651–1660.Google Scholar
  52. Hák, T., Janoušková, S., & Moldan, B. 2016. Sustainable Development Goals: A need for relevant indicators. Ecological Indicators, 60: 565–573.Google Scholar
  53. Hall, P. A., & Soskice, D. 2001. Varieties of capitalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Hall, J., & Vredenburg, H. 2003. The challenge of innovating for sustainable development. MIT Sloan Management Review, 45(1): 61–68.Google Scholar
  55. Hardin, G. 1968. The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859): 1243–1248.Google Scholar
  56. Hawn, O. V. 2012. Do actions speak louder than words? The case of corporate social responsibility (CSRvAcademy of Management Proceedings, 1: 1.Google Scholar
  57. Hemingway, C. A., & Maclagan, P. W. 2004. Managers’ personal values as drivers of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 50(1): 33–44.Google Scholar
  58. Husted, B. W., & Allen, D. B. 2006. Corporate social responsibility in the multinational enterprise: Strategic and institutional approaches. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6): 838–849.Google Scholar
  59. Jamali, D. 2010. The CSR of MNC subsidiaries in developing countries: Global, local, substantive or diluted? Journal of Business Ethics, 93(2): 181–200.Google Scholar
  60. Jamali, D., & Neville, B. 2011. Convergence versus divergence of CSR in developing countries: An embedded multi-layered institutional lens. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(4): 599–621.Google Scholar
  61. Jones, B., Bowd, R., & Tench, R. 2009. Corporate irresponsibility and corporate social responsibility: Competing realities. Social Responsibility Journal, 5(3): 300–310.Google Scholar
  62. Kharas, H., & Zhang, C. 2014. New agenda, new narrative: What happens after 2015? SAIS Review of International Affairs, 34(2): 25–35.Google Scholar
  63. Kolk, A. 2014. Partnerships as panacea for addressing global problems? On rationale, context, actors, impacts and limitations. In M. M. Seitanidi & A. Crane (Eds.), Social partnerships and responsible business a research handbook (pp. 15–43). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Kolk, A. 2016. The social responsibility of international business: From ethics and the environment to CSR and sustainable development. Journal of World Business, 51(1): 1–38.Google Scholar
  65. Kolk, A., & Fortanier, F. 2013. Internationalization and environmental disclosure: The role of home and host institutions. Multinational Business Review, 21(1): 87–114.Google Scholar
  66. Kolk, A., Kourula, A., & Pisani, N. 2017. Multinational enterprises and the Sustainable Development Goals: What do we know and how to proceed? Transnational Corporations, 24(3): 9–33.Google Scholar
  67. Kolk, A., Rivera-Santos, M., & Rufín, C. 2018. Multinationals, international business, and poverty: A cross-disciplinary research overview and conceptual framework. Journal of International Business Policy, 1(1): 92–115.Google Scholar
  68. Kolk, A., & van Tulder, R. 2010. International business, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. International Business Review, 19(2): 119–125.Google Scholar
  69. Kolk, A., van Tulder, R., & Kostwinder, E. 2008. Business and partnerships for development. European Management Journal, 26(4): 262–273.Google Scholar
  70. Kolk, A., van Tulder, R., & Welters, C. 1999. International codes of conduct and corporate social responsibility: Can transnational corporations regulate themselves? Transnational Corporations, 8(1): 143–180.Google Scholar
  71. Kostova, T., & Zaheer, S. 1999. Organizational legitimacy under conditions of complexity: The case of the multinational enterprise. Academy of Management Review, 24(1): 64–81.Google Scholar
  72. Kumi, E., Arhin, A. A., & Yeboah, T. 2014. Can post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals survive neoliberalism? A critical examination of the sustainable development–neoliberalism nexus in developing countries. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 16(3): 539–554.Google Scholar
  73. Le Blanc, D. 2015. Towards integration at last? The Sustainable Development Goals as a network of targets. DESA Working Paper No. 141.Google Scholar
  74. Lichtenberg, J. 2010. Negative duties, positive duties, and the “new harms”. Ethics, 120(3): 557–578.Google Scholar
  75. Lin-Hi, N., & Müller, K. 2013. The CSR bottom line: Preventing corporate social irresponsibility. Journal of Business Research, 66(10): 1928–1936.Google Scholar
  76. London, T., & Hart, S. L. 2004. Reinventing strategies for emerging markets: Beyond the transnational model. Journal of International Business Studies, 35(5): 350–370.Google Scholar
  77. Marano, V., & Kostova, T. 2016. Unpacking the institutional complexity in adoption of CSR practices in multinational enterprises. Journal of Management Studies, 53(1): 28–54.Google Scholar
  78. Matten, D., & Moon, J. 2008. “Implicit” and “explicit” CSR: A conceptual framework for a comparative understanding of corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Review, 33(2): 404–424.Google Scholar
  79. McWilliams, A., & Siegel, D. 2001. Corporate social responsibility: A theory of the firm perspective. Academy of Management Review, 26(1): 117–127.Google Scholar
  80. Moore, H. L. 2015. Global prosperity and Sustainable Development Goals. Journal of International Development, 27(6): 801–815.Google Scholar
  81. Muller, A. 2006. Global versus local CSR strategies. European Management Journal, 24(2–3): 189–198.Google Scholar
  82. Nieuwenkamp, R. 2017. Ever heard of SDG washing? The urgency of SDG due diligence. https://oecd-development-matters.org/2017/09/25/ever-heard-of-sdg-washing-the-urgency-of-sdg-due-diligence/. Accessed 13 January 2018.
  83. Nilsson, M., Griggs, D., & Visbeck, M. 2016. Policy: Map the interactions between Sustainable Development Goals. Nature, 534(7607): 320–322.Google Scholar
  84. North, D. C. 1990. Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  85. Orlitzky, M., Siegel, D. S., & Waldman, D. A. 2011. Strategic corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Business & Society, 50(1): 6–27.Google Scholar
  86. Painter-Morland, M. 2006. Triple bottom-line reporting as social grammar: Integrating corporate social responsibility and corporate codes of conduct. Business Ethics: A European Review, 15(4): 352–364.Google Scholar
  87. Parmar, B. L., Freeman, R. E., Harrison, J. S., Wicks, A. C., Purnell, L., & de Colle, S. 2010. Stakeholder theory: The state of the art. Academy of Management Annals, 4(1): 403–445.Google Scholar
  88. Pattberg, P., & Widerberg, O. 2016. Transnational multistakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: Conditions for success. Ambio, 45(1): 42–51.Google Scholar
  89. Persson, Å., Weitz, N., & Nilsson, M. 2016. Follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals: Alignment vs. internalization. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, 25(1): 59–68.Google Scholar
  90. Philips. 2016b. United, we can make a better world. https://www.philips.com/a-w/about/news/archive/blogs/innovation-matters/united-we-can-make-a-better-world.html. Accessed 13 January 2018.
  91. Philips. 2017. Annual Report 2016. Amsterdam: Philips N.V.Google Scholar
  92. Pogge, T., & Sengupta, M. 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals as drafted: Nice idea, poor execution. Washington International Law Journal Association, 24(3): 1–17.Google Scholar
  93. PrC. 2011. The state of partnerships report 2010. Rotterdam: The Partnerships Resrouce Centre.Google Scholar
  94. PwC. 2015. Make it your business: Engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals. London: PriceWaterhouseCoopers.Google Scholar
  95. Radley, B., & Vogel, C. 2015. Fighting windmills in Eastern Congo? The ambiguous impact of the “conflict minerals” movement. The Extractive Industries and Society, 2(3): 406–410.Google Scholar
  96. Rasche, A., & Kell, G. 2010. The United Nations global compact: Achievements, trends and challenges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Rasche, A., Waddock, S., & McIntosh, M. 2013. The United Nations global compact. Business & Society, 52(1): 6–30.Google Scholar
  98. Rawls, J. 1972. A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  99. Reed, A. M., & Reed, D. 2009. Partnerships for development: Four models of business involvement. Journal of Business Ethics, 90(1): 3–37.Google Scholar
  100. Rivera, J. E. 2010. Business and public policy: Responses to environmental and social protection processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  101. Rivera-Santos, M., Rufín, C., & Kolk, A. 2012. Bridging the institutional divide: Partnerships in subsistence markets. Journal of Business Research, 65(12): 1721–1727.Google Scholar
  102. Ruggie, J. 2007. Business and human rights: The evolving international agenda. The American Journal of International Law, 101(4): 1–37.Google Scholar
  103. Ruggie, J. 2008. Clarifying the concepts of “sphere of influence” and “complicity”. Geneva: UNHCR.Google Scholar
  104. Sachs, J. 2014. Sustainable development goals for a new era. Sustainable humanity, sustainable nature: Our responsibility (Extra Seri). Vatican City: Pontifical Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  105. Sachs, J. 2015. The age of sustainable development. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  106. Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Durand-Delacre, D., & Teksoz, K. 2017. SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2017. New York: Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).Google Scholar
  107. Schaltegger, S., & Hörisch, J. 2017. In Search of the Dominant Rationale in Sustainability management: Legitimacy- or profit-seeking? Journal of Business Ethics, 145(2): 259–276.Google Scholar
  108. Scherer, A. G., & Palazzo, G. 2011. The new political role of business in a globalized world: A review of a new perspective on CSR and its Implications for the firm, governance, and democracy. Journal of Management Studies, 48(4): 899–931.Google Scholar
  109. Scherer, A. G., Palazzo, G., & Matten, D. 2014. The business firm as a political actor: A new theory of the firm for a globalized world politics: Concern for the common good and exercise of power. Business & Society, 53(2): 143–156.Google Scholar
  110. Scherer, A. G., Palazzo, G., & Seidl, D. 2013. Managing legitimacy in complex and heterogeneous environments: Sustainable development in a globalized world. Journal of Management Studies, 50(2): 259–284.Google Scholar
  111. Scheyvens, R., Banks, G., & Hughes, E. 2016. The private sector and the SDGs: The need to move beyond “business as usual”. Sustainable Development, 24(6): 371–382.Google Scholar
  112. Schneider, A., Wickert, C., & Marti, E. 2017. Reducing complexity by creating complexity: a systems theory perspective on how organizations respond to their environments. Journal of Management Studies, 54(2): 182–208.Google Scholar
  113. Schönherr, N., Findler, F., & Martinuzzi, A. 2017. Exploring the interface of CSR and the Sustainable Development Goals. Transnational Corporations, 24(3): 33–49.Google Scholar
  114. Scott, W. R. 1995. Institutions and organizations. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  115. Seitanidi, M. M., & Crane, A. 2009. Implementing CSR through partnerships: Understanding the selection, design and institutionalisation of nonprofit-business partnerships. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(2): 413–429.Google Scholar
  116. Seitanidi, M. M., & Crane, A. 2014. Social partnerships and responsible business: A research handbook. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  117. Selsky, J. W., & Parker, B. 2005. Cross-sector partnerships to address social issues: Challenges to theory and practice. Journal of Management, 31(6): 849–873.Google Scholar
  118. Sharfman, M. P., Shaft, T. M., & Tihanyi, L. 2004. A model of the global and institutional antecedents of high-level corporate environmental performance. Business & Society, 43(1): 6–36.Google Scholar
  119. Spar, D. L., & La Mure, L. T. 2003. The power of activism: Assessing the impact of NGOs on global business. California Management Review, 45(3): 78–101.Google Scholar
  120. Stevens, C., & Kanie, N. 2016. The transformative potential of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 16(3): 393–396.Google Scholar
  121. Strike, V. M., Gao, J., & Bansal, P. 2006. Being good while being bad: Social responsibility and the international diversification of US firms. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6): 850–862.Google Scholar
  122. Swanson, D. L. 2018. Society, business values, and the social contract. In CSR Discovery Leadership: 27–68. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  123. Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. 2008. Nudge. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  124. UN. 2015. Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  125. UN Global Compact. 2013. Global corporate sustainability report. New York: United Nations Global Compact.Google Scholar
  126. UN Global Compact. 2017. Making global goals local business: A new era for responsible business. New York: United Nations Global Compact.Google Scholar
  127. UN News Centre. 2015. UN forum highlights “fundamental” role of private sector in advancing new global goals. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51981#.Wf7X6FvWypo. Accessed 15 July 2016.
  128. UNDG. 2013. A million voices: The world we want. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  129. Vachani, S., Doh, J. P., & Teegen, H. 2009. NGOs’ influence on MNEs’ social development strategies in varying institutional contexts: A transaction cost perspective. International Business Review, 18(5): 446–456.Google Scholar
  130. van Marrewijk, M. 2003. Concepts and definitions of CSR and corporate sustainability: between agency and communion. Journal of Business Ethics, 44(2): 95–105.Google Scholar
  131. van Tulder, R. 2008. Partnerships for development. Max Havelaar Lecture, 2.Google Scholar
  132. van Tulder, R., & Keen, N. 2018. Capturing collaborative challenges: Designing complexity-sensitive theories of change for cross-sector partnerships. Journal of Business Ethics, 1–18.Google Scholar
  133. van Tulder, R., & Pfisterer, S. 2014. Creating partnering space: Exploring the right fit for sustainable development partnerships. In M. M. Seitanidi & A. Crane (Eds.), Social partnerships and responsible business: A research handbook (pp. 105–235. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  134. van Tulder, R., & van der Zwart, A. 2006. International business-society management: Linking corporate responsibility and globalization. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  135. van Tulder, R., van Wijk, J., & Kolk, A. 2009. From chain liability to chain responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(2): 399–412.Google Scholar
  136. van Tulder, R., Verbeke, A., & Strange, R. 2014. International business and sustainable development. Emerald: Bingley.Google Scholar
  137. Verbeke, A., Puck, J., & van Tulder, R. 2018. Distance in international business: Concept, cost and value. Emerald: Bingley.Google Scholar
  138. Waddock, S. 2008. Building a new institutional infrastructure for corporate responsibility. Academy of Management Perspectives, 22(3): 87–108.Google Scholar
  139. WBCSD. 2015. Reporting matters: Redefining performance and disclosure. Geneva: WBCSD.Google Scholar
  140. WCED. 1987. Our common future. World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  141. Wettenhall, R. 2003. The rhetoric and reality of public–private partnerships. Public Organization Review: A Global Journal, 3(1): 77–107.Google Scholar
  142. Wijen, F., Zoeteman, K., Pieters, J., & van Seters, P. (Eds.). 2012. A handbook of globalisation and environmental policy (2nd ed.). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  143. Yin, J., & Jamali, D. 2016. Strategic corporate social responsibility of multinational companies subsidiaries in emerging markets: Evidence from China. Long Range Planning, 49(5): 541–558.Google Scholar
  144. Zaheer, S. 1995. Overcoming the liability of foreignness. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2): 341–363.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rotterdam School of ManagementErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations