Stakeholder engagement for sustainability : a mixed method study of corporate strategies and engagement outcomes
Author(s)Isaacs, Katherine W
Sloan School of Management.
Deborah G. Ancona.
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This dissertation contributes to our understanding of the strategies the companies use to engage external stakeholders, as well as the processes and outcomes of engagement. The first essay proposes a framework for evaluating a firm's stakeholder engagement strategy, comprised of eight dimensions that vary on a spectrum from least to most advanced. This essay also proposes six kinds of engagement outcomes: three involving learning and relationship building, and three involving tangible changes. The essay concludes with preliminary findings about engagement outcomes at the two case companies. The second essay uses the first essay's strategy framework to develop and validate scales for measuring each strategy dimension, and test which of these vary together to comprise a higher-order strategy. This type of analysis has not yet been done in the research on stakeholder engagement, which instead relies on descriptive typologies comprised of elements that are assumed, but not proven, to cluster together. The analysis in this paper generated six first-order factors, five of which combined to form a Strategy factor. This was used to score companies in the oil and gas, electric power, and automotive industries. Together, the first and second essays represent a first step towards more precisely defining and measuring the level of sophistication of a firm's stakeholder engagement strategy. The third essay is a fine-grained social psychological analysis of how negotiation frames, interpersonal trust, and issue characteristics interacted in one long-term engagement between a power company and environmental non-governmental stakeholders. The question motivating the analysis is: What prevented the participants from realizing the possibility they envisioned for engagement? I argue that a combination of issue characteristics and relational ambivalence -- the simultaneous presence of interpersonal trust and distrust -- motivated the company to engage in "quasi-cooperation" with stakeholders. Quasi-cooperation is the simultaneous deployment of cooperative and competitive tactics. The discovery by stakeholders of the company's quasi-cooperation triggered a conflict spiral that led to the destruction of the parties' working relationships, ending their engagement. Theoretical implications and practical lessons drawn from this case expand our knowledge of how practitioners might approach long-term engagements differently in the future.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2013.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentSloan School of Management.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.