Going home and helping out? Returnees as propagators of CSR in an emerging economy

Abstract

This paper extends nascent work on returnees as agents of socio-economic change by examining whether education/training abroad affects the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of privately held firms during the early stages of an emerging economy’s transition. Integrating theory and research from the international business and CSR literatures, we argue that returnee-led firms are likely to exhibit higher levels of CSR than local-led firms, due to both the direct and indirect effects of an owner-manager’s international experience. We examine our hypotheses using nationally representative data collected in 2002 and 2004 through separate surveys of private enterprises in China. Our findings document the positive impact of education/training abroad on two CSR measures: sustainability initiative scope and charitable donation intensity. We also contribute evidence of the direct and indirect effects associated with an owner-manager’s returnee status, with the indirect effects stemming primarily from the greater size and profitability of returnee-led firms.

Résumé

Cet article prolonge les travaux naissants sur les rapatriés en tant qu’agents de changement socio-économique en étudiant si l’éducation/la formation à l’étranger affecte la responsabilité sociale des entreprises (RSE) des entreprises privées au cours des premières étapes de transition d’une économie émergente. En intégrant la théorie et la recherche tirées de la littérature sur l’international business (IB) et la RSE, nous avançons que les entreprises dirigées par des rapatriés sont susceptibles de présenter des niveaux plus élevés de RSE que les entreprises dirigées localement, en raison des effets directs et indirects de l’expérience internationale d’un dirigeant propriétaire. Nous vérifions nos hypothèses à l’aide de données représentatives à l’échelle nationale recueillies en 2002 et 2004 dans le cadre d’enquêtes distinctes auprès d’entreprises privées en Chine. Nos résultats illustrent l’impact positif de l’éducation/formation à l’étranger sur deux mesures de la RSE : la portée de l’initiative de durabilité et l’intensité des dons de bienfaisance. Nous apportons également la preuve des effets directs et indirects associés au statut de rapatrié d’un propriétaire-exploitant ; les effets indirects découlant principalement de la taille et de la rentabilité accrues des entreprises dirigées par des rapatriés.

Resumen

Este artículo amplía el trabajo incipiente sobre los retornados como agentes de cambio socioeconómico al examinar si la educación/entrenamiento en el extranjero afecta la responsabilidad social empresarial (RSE) de las empresas privadas durante las primeras etapas de transición de una economía emergente. Integrando la teoría y la investigación de negocios internacionales y responsabilidad social empresarial (RSE), discutimos que las empresas lideradas por retornados sobre más propensas a exhibir mayores niveles de RSE que las empresas locales, debido a los efectos directos e indirectos de la experiencia internacional de un dueño-gerente. Examinamos nuestras hipótesis usando datos representativos a nivel nacional recolectados en el 2002 y en el 2004 mediante encuestas separadas a empresas privadas en China. Nuestros hallazgos documentan el impacto positivo de la educación/entrenamiento en el extranjero en dos medidas de RSE: el alcance de la iniciativa de sostenibilidad y la intensidad de donaciones caritativas. También contribuimos con evidencia de los efectos directos e indirectos asociados con el estatus de retornado del dueño-gerente, con los efectos indirectos provenientes primariamente del mayor tamaño y la rentabilidad de las empresas lideradas por retornados.

Resumo

Este artigo estende o trabalho nascente sobre retornados como agentes de mudança socioeconômica ao examinar se a educação/treinamento no exterior afeta a responsabilidade social corporativa (CSR) de empresas privadas durante estágios iniciais da transição de uma economia emergente. Integrando teoria e pesquisa da literatura de negócios internacionais (IB) e CSR, argumentamos que as empresas lideradas por retornados são mais propensas a apresentar níveis mais altos de CSR do que empresas lideradas por locais, devido aos efeitos diretos e indiretos de uma experiência internacional do proprietário-gerente. Examinamos nossas hipóteses usando dados nacionalmente representativos coletados em 2002 e 2004 por meio de pesquisas distintas de empresas privadas na China. Nossas descobertas documentam o impacto positivo da educação / treinamento no exterior em duas medidas de CSR: escopo da iniciativa de sustentabilidade e intensidade da doação para caridade. Também contribuímos com evidências dos efeitos diretos e indiretos associados ao status de retornados de um proprietário-gerente, com os efeitos indiretos decorrentes principalmente do maior tamanho e lucratividade de empresas lideradas por retornados.

摘要

本文通过研究国外教育/培训是否影响新兴经济转型初期阶段私营企业的企业社会责任(CSR),拓展了有关海归者作为社会经济变革代理人的新兴研究。整合国际商务(IB)和CSR文献的理论和研究,我们认为,由于所有者-经理国际经验直接和间接地影响,海归者领导的企业可能比当地人领导的企业表现出更高的CSR水平。我们使用2002年和2004年分别对中国私营企业调查收集的具有全国代表性的数据来​​检验我们的假设。我们的研究结果记录了国外教育/培训对两项CSR措施的积极影响:可持续性倡议范围和慈善捐赠强度。我们还提供了与所有者-经理的海归者身份相关的直接和间接影响的证据,间接影响主要源于海归者所领导的公司的更大规模和盈利能力。

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This manuscript benefited greatly from the feedback provided by Associate Editor Becky Reuber and the JIBS reviewers, the comments on the first author’s dissertation provided by Barry Scholnick, and the remarks shared on an earlier draft discussed at a PDW in the 2013 Sustainability, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship (SEE) Conference. We are also grateful for the funding provided by the Canadian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, the University of Alberta China Institute, and a University of Alberta Winspear Senior Faculty Fellowship awarded to the second author. Finally, we thank Jessica Ng for her excellent research assistance.

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Correspondence to Qin Han.

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Accepted by Becky Reuber, Area Editor, 21 November 2018. This article has been with the authors for two revisions.

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Han, Q., Jennings, J.E., Liu, R. et al. Going home and helping out? Returnees as propagators of CSR in an emerging economy. J Int Bus Stud 50, 857–872 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-018-00210-8

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Keywords

  • corporate social responsibility
  • survey method
  • returnees
  • China
  • structural equation modeling