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Cross-sector Solutions to Complex Environmental Issues

group photo with Dr. Lin

Generously funded by:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: SSHRC-INSIGHT GRANT

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Meet the research team:

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Principal investigator: Professor Haiying Lin

Co-Principal Investigator: Oana Branzei: University of Western Ontario

Collaborators

Jonathan Doh: University of Villanova

Miguel Rivera-SantosBabson College and EMLYON Business School

David Graham Hyatt: University of Arkansas

Amelia Clarke: University of Waterloo

Lea Katrin StadtlerUniversity of Geneva

Bob Oliver (Practitioner): Pollution Probe 

Current graduate students: Zahra Abedi (PhD), Sep Pashang (PhD), John Nolan (PhD), Alice Bao (MES), Qian Cai (LED), Indi Madar ‎(MES), Mutsumi Sato (MES), Yujun Cui (MES)

Current research associates: Xiaoling Wang, Xiaobo Wei

Previous students: Dr. Lia Buarque de Macedo Guimarães (Post-Doctoral Fellow), Dr. Nino Antadze (Post-Doctoral Fellow), Azin Rastan (MAES), Mel Gabriel (Master), Xiaoling Wang (MES), Xinya Yan (LED)

Abstract

Since the 1990s, firms have increasingly collaborated with governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), and universities to tackle a myriad of complex social, economic and environmental issues. Notable examples include climate change, energy and natural resource conservation, supply chain management, and cross-boundary pollution. Such partnerships work at the intersection of markets and regulations and bring about social and environmental changes not achievable by either partner working alone. Recognizing the importance of such partnerships for the business community, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) has provided a generous Insight Grant to implement a five-year (2012-2017), three-stage project.

This SSHRC grant will allow us to enhance the theoretical understanding of, and generate practical solutions for, pressing environmental issues by investigating:

1. The configurational, temporal and geographical characteristics of cross-sector partnerships used to address complex environmental issues;

2. The emergence and evolution of cross-sector partnerships in response to such issues (including determinants and dynamics, both in Canada and the US);

3. The processes by which cross-sector partnerships adapt and partners morph as the issues they came together to address change over time.

To address these questions, we have adopted a team-based approach that brings together seven of the leading academic thinkers actively working on cross-sector solutions to environmental problems. Supplementing the team is a practitioner with direct experience in designing and implementing cross-sector partnerships formed to address environmental problems. SSHRC funding will enable us to extend this line of inquiry to understand when and how cross-sector alliances can effectively address complex environmental issues.

Research activities

Stage 1 of this research began with a retrospective longitudinal research design that combined twenty years of data on environmental issues management by large firms with archival sources on cross-sector alliances formed during this time frame. During Stage 1, Dr. Lin trained six research assistants in the summer of 2012 to specifically collect archival data from five key databases: Thomson SDC Platinum, The National Bureau of Economic Research database, Compustat, KLD, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database. The research team has completed first-stage archival data collection and has derived a sample of 900 U.S. firms’ participation in 1300 environmental alliances. Based on this new data compilation we have several manuscripts in different stages of development. These papers specifically focus on:

  1. Temporal mapping of alliance formation
  2. Alliance partnership network mapping
  3. Cross-sector partnerships and eco-cities implementation 
  4. Practice-base review of cross-sector partnerships
  5. Understanding problem complexity in the context of cross-sector partnerships
  6. Alliance formation and environmental innovation

Phase 2 of this project was started in the Fall of 2013 and focuses on exploring how cross-sector alliances emerge and evolve (i.e., determinants and dynamics). In order to understand the determinants and dynamics of cross-sector alliances, the team plans to complete six in-depth case studies (three in Canada and three in the US).

While Phase 2 proceeds we have extended our influence and combined our efforts with other research teams that share similar research interests. For example, we have integrated our research effort with the Eco-city research team at University of Waterloo, led by Dr. Amelia Clarke. Dr. Lin sits in the Corporation-NGO partnership task force and aims to disseminate the critical research findings to practitioners and policy-makers throughout Canada and the United States.  

Research output to date

Awards

2016 The Honorable Mention Award for the Social Responsibility Division of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada (ASAC) 2016 conference. "Does Management System Certification Deliver Efficiency in Pursuing Sustainability? An Empirical Investigation of Chinese Manufacturing Firms", co-authored with Xiaoling Wang and Olaf Weber.

2016 The Routledge Best Paper Award in Social Partnership (short-listed). "Configuring Partnerships for Environmental Change: The Interplay of Change Level, Carrier, and Change Partner", co-authored with Lea Stadtler.

2015 Winner of the 2014 EFMD Case Writing Competition, under “Corporate Social Responsibility” category: “WWF's Living Planet @ Work: Championed by HP”, written by Oana Branzei and Haiying Lin, 1000 Euro

2014 The Routledge Best Paper Award in Social Partnership. Antadze, N., Lin, H. & Branzei, O. (2014). "A process model of convening for social change: how ENGOs (re)build civic capital"

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Stadtler, L. & Lin, H.  (2016). Moving to the Next Stage: Examining Firms’ Awareness, Motivation, and Capability Drivers in Environmental Alliances. Business Strategy and the Environment, accepted for publication

Lin, H (2016). Government-business Partnerships for Radical Eco-innovation. Business & Society, accepted for publication.

Lin, H. (2014). Resource Dependent View of Public-Private Partnership Formation for Environmental Improvements. Organization and Environment, 27(4): pp.383-398

Lin, H. & Darnall N. (2015). Strategic Alliance Formation and Structural Configuration, Journal of Business Ethics, 127(3): pp.549-564

Lin, H. (2014). Cross-sector Solutions to Complex Environmental Issues. ARSP sustainability partnership, June 2014.

Branzei, O., Lin, H., & Chakravarty, D. (2014). WWF’s Living Planet @ WORK: Championed by HP. IVEY teaching case.

Lin, H. (2014). Resource Dependent View of Public‐Private Partnership Formation for Environmental Improvements. Organization and Environment, forthcoming.

Lin, H., & Darnall, N. (2014). Strategic Alliance Formation and Structural Configuration. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551‐014‐2053‐7.

Lin, H. (2013). Strategic Alliances for Environmental Improvements. Scholars’ Press. Saarbrücken, Germany.

Lin, H. (2012a). Cross‐sector Alliances for Corporate Social Responsibility: Partner Heterogeneity Moderates Environmental Strategy Outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 110, 219‐229. doi: 10.1007/s10551‐012‐1423‐2.

Lin, H. (2012b). Strategic Alliances for Environmental Improvements. Business & Society, 51, 335‐348.

Refereed Case Publications

Lin, H. (2016) “Jiangtai in China: Brokering Cross-Sector Social Innovation for Medical Dispute” (No.15120) accepted by “Shanghai MBA Case Library”.

Branzei, O., Lin, H., and Dwarka (2014). WWF’s Living Planet @ WORK: Championed by HP. Ivey Publishing teaching case. Winner of the 2014 EFMD Case Writing Competition, under the “Corporate Social Responsibility” category

Refereed Published Conference Paper Proceedings

Lin, H., Wang, X. & Weber, O. (2016). Corporate Sustainable Efficiency of Management System Certification: Evidence from the Chinese Manufacturing Industry. ASAC- Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2016. Best Paper Proceedings

Lin, H (2016). Government-business Partnerships for Radical Eco-innovation. IABS International Association of Business & Association Conference Proceeding. Park City, Utah.

Lin, H., Branzei, O. & Stadtler, L. (2015). "Harnessing Relational Complexity for Innovation: Interplay of Past Pattern & Present Choice". Academy of Management 2015 conference

Lin, H., Branzei, O. & Stadtler, L. (2015). The making and breaking of relational complexity in environmental innovations.  2015 EGOS Colloquium, Athens, July 2-5, 2015

Antadze, N., Lin, H. & Branzei, O. (2014). "A process model of convening for social change: how ENGOs (re)build civic capital". The Routledge Best Paper Award in Social Partnership.

Lin, H. & Stadtler, L. (2014). Partnerships as a Vehicle for Change. ASAC- Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2014 Best Paper Proceedings.

Lin, H. (2013). “Strategic coupling of partner diversity and relation for innovation: implications of cross-sector partnerships for complex environmental issues”. 15th IAMB conference, Lisbon, Portugal (April 17-19, 2013). available online at http://iamb.net/CD/CD13-IAMBPT/Proc_IAMB13PT_main.htm

Lin, H. & Rastan, A. (2012). Cross-sector Solutions to Complex Environmental Issues. ASAC- Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2012 Best Paper Proceedings.

Manuscripts Under Revise & Resubmit

Antadze, N., Lin, H., & Branzei, O. (2015). A Process Model of Convening for Sustainability Transitions. Business & Society, revise and resubmit.

Stadtler, L. & Lin, H., (2015).  Configuring Partnership for Environmental Change: The Interplay of Change Level, Carrier, and Change Partner. Journal of Business Ethics, revise and resubmit, second round.

Yan, X., Lin, H. & Clarke, A. (2015). Cross-Sector Social Partnerships for Social Change: The Roles of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Global Economics and Management Review, revise and resubmit, second round.

Events

Organized Symposiums

Branzei, O., Lin, H. Zeyen, A. (2015). Generating and Harnessing Complexity: The Role of Third Parties in Cross-sector Partnerships.  Presented at Academic of Management 2015 Professional Development Workshop "Opening Governance of Natural Resources: A Multilevel and Spatially Embedded Perspective".

In light of a wide range of diverse and far reaching societal issues, such as unsustainable levels of deforestation, disagreement over water rights, and conflict over the extraction of mineral resources, questions related to the governance of natural resources are increasingly prominent in academic and public discourse. In this presenter symposium we approach natural resource governance as an organizational field concern, as opposed to taking a firm or policy approach. We highlight in particular the spatial, temporal, and multi-level characteristics of natural resource governance in various sectors through multi-disciplinary research on forestry market mechanisms; the role of moral emotions in water governance; how cross sectoral environmental governance partnerships generate and harness rifts and conflict; and collaborative governance models and the mechanisms and structures they utilize to address complexity.

Branzei, O. (organizing), Lin, H. (facilitating) Academic of Management 2015 Professional Development Workshop: “Governing Open Commons: Precompetitive Collaborative Solutions to Cross-sector Solutions”.

This PDW builds upon a series of five successful 2009-2014 AOM Cross Sector Partnership PDWs that explored environmental and social sustainability, and a tradition to bear collective witness to a real-time initiative; then use what we have heard to push the limits of theory and practice and teaching, together. The first half of the workshop features guests discussing a live case (this year we confirmed the Lead Advisor of WWF’s Water Stewardship & Standards). In the second part, the five co-organizers, 6 other co-facilitators, and 60-80 participants will set-up real-time debates so we can learn together. The highly interactive format encourages connections between the most senior scholars in the field and newcomers and spearheads the formation of new collaborations across disciplines, methodologies and challenges. This year’s participants will explore how diverse competitors join forces to improve everyone’s ability to manage open resources more sustainably. Inspired by this year’s theme of open governance we focus on the governance of open commons, specifically the pre-competitive collaborative arrangements that allow organizations to come together to work on problems and solutions together. The real-time case will focus on the water commons in the first half of the workshop, but in the second half we will extend this discussion to climate change dilemmas, energy initiatives, fisheries, mining, forestry, health and aboriginal issues and smart cities.

Branzei, O. Lin, H. & Stadtler, L. Facilitating Academic of Management 2015 Professional Development Workshop "Cross-Sectoral Research Project Incubator"

This PDW is a highly interactive knowledge development session that begins with brief structured presentations of four thought leaders. The majority of the session will hold in smaller pitch groups with a format where scholars will share their nascent research ideas utilizing a collegial rapid-fire feedback process. We facilitate and integrative dialog from the various pitch groups and allow for open networking within and across groups.

SEED Event: Partnering for Sustainability: The Secret to Extraordinary Impact. University of Waterloo. October 10, 2014

Businesses and not-for-profit organizations are increasingly pursuing partnerships to address complex challenges – particularly sustainability. But why do some partnerships fail and others succeed? How do you build a partnership that leads to success for both parties?

An example of a successful partnership is the Living Planet @Work program between Hewlett Packard (HP) Canada and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada. This program offers hands-on help to anyone interested in championing sustainable business practices and employees giving to conservation projects. To date, the project has enrolled over 1000 small and medium Canadian enterprises, trained over 765 sustainability change champions throughout Canada, and raised over $1 million through workplace initiatives.

This event help SEED students learn some of the secrets to having such extraordinary impacts from two distinguished speakers Adrienne Lo and Frances Edmonds, representing WWF Canada and HP Canada, respectively. They discussed the history of one of the world’s first, and arguably best, cross-sector partnerships that leverage social responsibility as a platform for sustainable work and living, and is currently being rolled out globally within both organizations. 

Branzei, O., Lin. H., Hyatt, D. G., Le Ber, M. J. 2014. Academic of Management 2014 Professional Development Workshop: WWF¹s Living Planet @ Work: Championed by HP² (IVEY publishing), Philadelphia, Aug 2 2014

  This PDW builds upon four successful 2009-2013 AOM Cross Sector Partnership PDWs that explored environmental and social sustainability, which facilitated the development of multiple special issues and edited volumes, including a 2014 Handbook. The tradition is to bear collective witness to a live case that pushes the frontier of social innovation in real time by hearing from multiple stakeholders; then use what we have heard to push the limits of theory and practice and teaching, together. The discussion in the first half of the workshop is captured as award-winning teaching cases (Walmart, Oxfam), which are quickly and widely adopted across schools and programs. The co-organizers facilitate this discussion by disseminating white papers in advance and by setting-up real-time debates on the implications for research and practice of the live case. The highly interactive format encourages connections between the most senior scholars in the field and newcomers and spearheads the formation of new collaborations across disciplines, methodologies and challenges. This year’s theme is prepared by an international team of collaborators that came together at this PDW in 2010 and are now half-way through a large-scale 5-year grant that explores the processes and practices by which prominent corporations come together with leading ENGOs to jumpstart, convene and co-create solutions to intractable environmental problems. This year’s participants will hear how unlikely allies like WWF and HP come together to create and spread a high-impact innovation: Living Planet @ Work, and preview additional bold experiments and extensions taking place at HP and WWF.

Hyatt, D. G., Branzei, O., Le Ber, M. J, Lin. H., Clarke, A. 2013. Meeting of the Academy of Management. Professional Development Workshop (PDW) “Cross-Sector Partnerships for Sustainable Product Standards”, Florida, August 10 2013

This PDW explored a particular cross-sector effort - The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) - initiated by The University of Arkansas, Arizona State, and Walmart in 2009 to establish a framework for defining sustainable products. In the launch announcement, Walmart CEO Mike Duke laid out the rationale from Walmart´s perspective, "We don´t know the patterns, hidden costs, and impacts of the products we make and sell. Nor do
we have a single source of data or a common standard for evaluating the sustainability of products. We need that big picture view." The Consortium would help with that.

During this workshop, the representatives from three different sectors - The University of Arkansas, Walmart, and Environmental Defense Fund - presented the case of TSC. University of South Carolina professor Hildy Teegen then conducted a facilitated discussion and engaged attendees with the panelists. For the remainder of the PDW,
participants engaged in a variety of activities aimed at generating future research or practice projects.

Lin, H. & Branzei, O. 2012. Academy of Management symposium “cross-sector solutions to complex environmental issues”, Boston, August 6, 2012

In August 2012 we organized an Academy of Management symposium “cross-sector solutions to complex environmental issues” to disseminate our research progress. These presentations include:

  •  Between Informal and Formal? Cross-Sector Interactions in Developing and Conflict Countries, by Ans Kolk, University of Amsterdam
  • Cross-Sector Governance: From Local Networks to Social and Environmental Partnerships at the BOP, by Carlos Rufin, Suffolk University and Miguel Rivera-Santos, Babson College
  • Building and Scaling a Cross-Sector Partnership: Lesson from the Oxfam America & Swiss Re HARITA Project, by Jonathan Doh, Villanova University; Ted London, University of Michigan; Vasilia Kilibarda, University of Michigan
  • Cross-Sector Attractors: Choosing Partners for Environmental Breakthroughs, by Haiying Lin, University of Waterloo; Oana Branzei, University of Western Ontario
  • Cross-Sector Alliances for Environmental Improvements, by Haiying Lin, University of Waterloo and Azin Rastan, University of Waterloo
  • Cross-Sector Solutions to Supply Chain Management, by David Hyatt, University of Arkansas and Nicholas Berente, University of Georgia
  • The Engagement of Firms in Environmental Collaborations: Existing Contributions and Future Directions, by Ulrich Wassmer, Concordia University

Conference presentations

  • Lin, H., Branzei, O. & Stadtler, L. (2015). "Harnessing Relational Complexity for Innovation: Interplay of Past Pattern & Present Choice",  accepted for presentation in a Divisional Paper session at  the 2015 Academy of Management Meeting taking place August  7-11 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • Lin, H., Branzei, O. & Stadtler, L. (2015). The making and breaking of relational complexity in environmental innovations.  2015 EGOS Colloquium, Athens, July 2-5, 2015
  • Antadze, N., Branzei, O., & Lin., H. (2015). submission #18042 titled "Unpacking the Notion of Civic Interaction in Environmental Planning",  accepted for presentation in a Divisional Paper session at the 2015 Academy of Management Meeting taking place August  7-11 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • Antadze, N., Lin, H., & Branzei, O. A Process Model of Convening for Social Change: How ENGOs (Re)build Civic Capital. Paper presented at the 2014 Cross‐Sector Social Interactions Symposium, Boston. Winner: Routledge Best Paper Award in Social Partnerships.
  • Branzei, O. & Lin, H. Faultlines and folds: Towards mechanisms of value creation in cross-sector partnerships. Paper presented at the 2014 Cross‐Sector Social Interactions Symposium, Boston.
  • Lin, H. & Stadtler, L. (2014). Partnerships as a Vehicle for Systemic Change: Configuring Partner Composition and Change Focus. Academic of Management Conference 2014
  • Lin, H. & Stadtler, L. Partnerships as a vehicle for change: the implication of partner diversity and change foci. Paper presented at the 2014 Cross‐Sector Social Interactions Symposium, Boston.
  • Lin, H. & Stadtler, L. (2014). Partnerships as a Vehicle for Systemic Change. ASAC Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2014 Best Paper Proceedings.

  • Lin, H. (2013). Strategic coupling of partner diversity and relation for innovation: implications of cross-sector partnerships for complex environmental issues. Paper presented at the 15th IAMB conference, Lisbon, Portugal (April 17-19, 2013). 
  • Lin, H. & Rastan, A. (2012). Cross-sector Solutions to Complex Environmental Issues. Paper presented at the ASAC- Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2012, St. John, NF, Canada.