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Responsible global business: norms, ideas and evolving leadership practices

In the past years, the quest for responsible and sustainable business has emerged as a major theme in academic and practical management discourse. The business climate is rapidly changing due to increased transparency, political demands for sustainable developments, and a growing discontent with top managements´ commitment and willingness to embrace higher demands.

Background and research questions:

This project aims at a better understanding of how responsible leadership and innovation develops in global organizations where ethical and cultural differences challenge everyday work. We explore how ideas and norms about responsible leadership are framed, expressed and translated into organizational practices - particularly in relation to leadership practices.

We also explore what kind of events that trigger the framing of responsibility in a particular setting: For instance, what is the role of internal and external pressure?

Research approach:

A longitudinal study was conducted consisting of a series of round-table seminars and recurrent interviews with top management in three global corporations with headquartes in Sweden. The main data collection took place between 2015-2018.

Key findings:

  • Responsible leadership practises that drive innovation are highly context bound.
  • Responsible leadership practices call for long-term and short-term commitments where systematic processes are combined with agile and flexible problem solving.
  • Responsible leadership rests on continuous learning on all levels in the organization, including vital stakeholders.
  • Responsible leadership practices come with a lot of friction, norm conflicts and dilemmas that require top managements' full attention.

These findings are presented in Holmberg & Petrelius Karlberg (2020). Also see Holmberg & Romberg (2018), Holmberg & Petrelius Karlberg (2018a), Holmberg & Petrelius Karlberg (2018b), and Holmberg & Petrelius Karlberg (2018c).

Further information:

The project is funded by Vinnova and associated partner organizations.

Referenced publications:

Holmberg, I., & Petrelius Karlberg, P. (2020). Ansvarsfullt ledarskap – vägen till hållbara affärer. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

Holmberg, I., & Romberg, A. (2018). Telia Case Study: Addressing (ir)responsible business behavior. Stockholm School of Economics.

Holmberg, I., & Petrelius Karlberg, P. (2018a). EQT Case Study: An ownership approach to responsible business practices. Stockholm School of Economics.

Holmberg, I., & Petrelius Karlberg, P. (2018b). Stora Enso Case Study: A centralized approach to sustainable business practices. Stockholm School of Economics.

Holmberg, I., & Petrelius Karlberg, P. (2018c). Responsible ownership – systematic agilty for future-proofing companies and societies. SSE Working Paper Series in Business Administration, No 2018:2, Stockholm School of Economics.

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