Our research framework

The Leonardo Centre has developed a research framework that uses a unique digital dataset to find the most impactful ways to expand business knowledge and change policy and practice through a cycle of exploration, expansion, experience and experimentation.

The research framework involves five areas of activity, which enable researchers and companies to understand and make the transition towards sustainable business. The areas of activity are: digital dataset, research programmes, Co-Laboratories, transformative journey and pilot projects.

We begin with ideas based on cross-disciplinary scientific expertise combined with empirical evidence on corporate behaviour related to two of the big challenges we face today: environmental and social regeneration.

During this phase, large scale or company-focused research projects can be produced and form the basis for the development of expansion initiatives. These take the form of Co-Laboratories designed in cooperation with a group of companies who are committed to tackling specific challenges through the development of initiatives for strategic innovation and change.

Co-Laboratories also provide companies with the opportunity to experience initiatives for strategic innovation and change in individual and organisational learning projects. Finally, “deep dives” from leadership or organisational development programmes (or directly from Co-Laboratories) provide the opportunity to co-design rigorous field experiments through which managers and scientists jointly learn about environmental, social and economic impacts of innovative solutions to strategic challenges.

Using our research, companies will be able to balance transformative social and environmental goals with economic success.


Stakeholder orientation and acquisition performance

Authors: Emanuele Bettinazzi, Maurizio Zollo

Journal: Strategic Management Journal 

In this article, we study how a firm's stakeholder orientation affects the performance of its corporate acquisitions. We depart from prior literature and suggest that orientations toward employees, customers, suppliers, and local communities will affect longterm acquisition performance both directly and through its interactions with process characteristics, such as pre-acquisition relatedness and post-acquisition integration. Analyses of data on a sample of 1884 acquisitions show overall a positive association between acquirers' stakeholder orientation and acquisition performance. In addition, we find support for a positive moderation of business relatedness on the performance impacts of stakeholder orientation. Structural integration has a similarly positive moderation effect only for some of the stakeholder categories.

Toward an integrated theory of strategy

Authors: Maurizio Zollo, Mario Minoja, Vittorio Coda

Journal: Strategic Management Journal 

We develop an integrative approach to the study of strategic management in a fourstep logical sequence. First, we discuss one of the rare conceptual frameworks of integrated firm strategy introduced by Coda (1984). Second, we focus on competitive, growth, and stakeholder strategies and identify four integrative mechanisms underlying the creation of joint outcomes from the combination of different strategic choices. Third, we study how these mechanisms might allow specific binary combinations of strategic choices to create higher levels of value for stakeholders. Lastly, we study the likelihood of alternative threeway bundles of strategies to generate the highest expected value. This analysis identifies two bundles of strategic decisions that can potentially maximize performance outcomes.

A Big Picture Approach to (C)SR: Where Are We Now?

Author: Christine A. Hemingway

Book Series: Research in Ethical Issues in Organisations, Volume 21

The approach comprises two main points. First, it is argued that corporate social responsibility (CSR) develops within organisations, over time, in four general phases. Also, that practitioner attitudes are moving away from the dominant phase of social responsibility as public relations activity (Hemingway, 2013). The financial crash of 2008 was the catalyst for this marked gear shift in the awareness of organisational ‘ethics’ and ‘morality’ (SR) that was previously confined to the concerns of the business ethics scholars. Second, that, in general, the legitimacy and credibility of SR in business schools has been lagging behind that shift; due to misunderstandings about its relevance, the obsession with performance metrics and a lack of political will in some cases. Ways forward are suggested for research, teaching and practice.

A Falling of the Veils: Turning Points and Momentous Turning Points in Leadership and the Creation of CSR

Author: Hemingway, C.A. and Starkey, K.

Journal: The Journal of Business Ethics

This article uses the life stories approach to leadership and leadership development. Using exploratory, qualitative data from a Forbes Global 2000 and FTSE 100 company, we discuss the role of the turning point (TP) as an important antecedent of leadership in corporate social responsibility. We argue that TPs are causally efficacious, linking them to the development of life narratives concerned with an evolving sense of personal identity. Using both a multi-disciplinary perspective and a multi-level focus on CSR leadership, we identify four narrative cases.

We propose that they helped to re-define individuals’ sense of self and in some extreme cases completely transformed their self-identity as leaders of CSR. Hence, we also distinguish the momentous turning point (MTP) that created a seismic shift in personality, through re-evaluation of the individuals’ personal values. We argue that whilst TPs are developmental experiences that can produce responsible leadership, the MTP changes the individuals’ personal priorities in life to produce responsible leadership that perhaps did not exist previously. Thus, we appropriate Maslow’s metaphorical phrase ‘A falling of the veils’ from his discussion of peak and desolation experiences that produce personal growth. Using a multi-disciplinary literature from social theory, moral psychology and social psychology, we present a theoretical model that illustrates the psychological process of the (M)TP, thus contributing to the growing literature on the micro-foundations of CSR.

On managing hypocrisy: The transparency of sustainability reports

Authors: Higgins, C., Tang, S., & Stubbs, W. Article in press. 

Journal: Journal of Business Research

Hypocrisy creates significant challenges for managers and stakeholders. Knowledge of its nature and causes is extensive; however, understandings of its implications for management practice are limited. This study draws on the transparency literature, notably Schnackenberg and Tomlinson's (2016) disclosure, clarity and accuracy framework, to show that the way in which information is presented affects the way hypocrisy manifests and how it can be addressed. We analysed the sustainability reports of three financial services companies in Australia over a five-year period and found that in addition to minimising duplicity, transparency can increase engagement with the competing expectations facing companies. Despite its limitations, sustainability reporting offers insights in to the nature, causes and implications of organisational hypocrisy.

Spatial Analysis and Decision Making at Local level

Authors: Uzoma Ojike and William R. Sheate

Journal: Journal of Environmental Management

This research explored the use of spatial analysis and ecosystem services to aid the decision-making process at local level.  The aim was to outline a more holistic approach to sustainability that ensures the interactions and interdependencies of relevant factors are considered in the decision-making process and to develop more appropriate policies. Using a regeneration case study, this research employed the use of spatial analysis tool, Geographic Information System, to map and quantify the impacts of the regeneration scheme on ecosystem services and associated sustainability issues, and, subsequently, impacts of the local community. Furthermore, this was used to develop policies to mitigate these impacts. The results of this research developed a framework for integrating ecosystem services at project level, a checklist for practical application and simple quantification for ecosystem services to aid in decision making.

How meditation impacts the sustainability of business decisions and neuro-psychological dispositions

Authors: Maurizio Zollo, Alessandra Dodich, Vincenzo Vastola, Nicola Canessa, Chiara Crespi, Daniella Laureiro Martinez, Stefano N Cappa

Journal: WP

Addressing sustainable development challenges requires fundamental shifts in the individual capacity to anticipate and embed the long-term and collective consequences of decisions and actions. This paper contributes to the identification of effective learning processes aimed at influencing the development of sustainability-related dispositions. To do so, we test the relative effectiveness of meditative training, compared to passive and active controls, on the development of sustainability-related decision outcomes and associated neuro-psychological dispositions. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 80 graduate business students finds evidence of the efficacy of a 4-week, 16-hour, (sahaja yoga) meditation training in enhancing sustainable decision-making and related psychological dispositions (self-transcendence, cooperativeness) and reducing Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate others against their self-interest). The data also show neuro-plastic adaptation of grey matter density in the right inferior frontal gyrus, connected to attentional and emotional self-regulation, as well as conflict resolution in decision-making, including inter-temporal trade-offs.

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