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Michael L. Barnett

When discussing the business case for corporate social responsibility in the classroom, I often start by showing contrasting clips from the movie Other People’s Money , which is about a hostile takeover of a struggling firm called New England Wire and Cable. I first show a speech by the firm’s chairman, ‘Jorgy’ Jorgeson. Played by Gregory Peck, Jorgy is quite adept at making an impassioned plea to stockholders, imploring them to stick with the company rather than sell to ‘Larry the Liquidator’ Garfield who, true to his nickname, seeks to liquidate the firm. Then it’s Larry’s turn, wherein Danny DeVito channels his inner (not so much outer) Gordon Gecko in arguing that shareholders should embrace their good ol’ greed: ‘And lest we forget, that’s the only reason any of you became stockholders in the first place. You want to make money! You don’t care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken, or grow tangerines! You want to make money!’

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Michael L. Barnett

Oh, I hear you: ‘Barnett, what are you trying to pull here? Isn’t this just a collection of reprints?’ Sure, the bulk of the book consists of reprints. But if you’ll allow me to explain, there’s much more to it than that. And besides, there’s merit in reprints. In this book, I put forth a critical view of the business case for corporate social responsibility.

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Michael L. Barnett

This paper presents a dynamic framework that describes how firms allocate limited resources between improving their competitive position relative to rivals and their communal position shared with rivals. This dynamic framework outlines how organizational field-level dynamics influence industry attractiveness and thereby alter a firm’s incentive to engage in communal strategy relative to competitive strategy

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Michael L. Barnett and Andrew A. King

We extend theories of self-regulation of physical commons to analyze self-regulation of intangible commons in modern industry. We posit that when the action of one firm can cause “spillover” harm to others, firms share a type of commons. We theorize that the need to protect this commons can motivate the formation of a self-regulatory institution

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Limits to Stakeholder Influence

Why the Business Case Won't Save the World

Michael L. Barnett

In business, does it pay to be good? Drawing from two decades of published conceptual and empirical scholarship, this book outlines the mechanisms of the business case for corporate social responsibility and demonstrates the conditions that cause good corporate acts to succeed, or fail, in turning a profit. Central to the explanation is the role of stakeholders, who are portrayed as agents who can turn corporate “good into gold” but lack the capacity to do so consistently. This book takes a critical perspective, noting significant limits on the ability of stakeholders to reward good corporate behavior and rein in bad corporate acts. It concludes with several ways that scholars can improve this important and popular research topic.
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Michael L. Barnett

Trade associations operate under the premise of advancing the shared interests of their member firms. How well do they fulfill this role? This article measures the activity of 148 major industry trade associations over time and relates this activity to the performance of the relevant industries and dominant firms within them.

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Charles J. Fombrun, Naomi A. Gardberg and Michael L. Barnett

Why do managers regularly allocate corporate resources to ‘doing good’? Doing good is costly, and the expenditures of public companies come under extensive scrutiny from investors and analysts. What justifies managers in allocating a company’s scarce resources to these elective activities?

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Michael L. Barnett

Should public corporations serve as agents of progressive social change? For example, should Levi Strauss fund a campaign to end racism? Should Ford contribute to finding a cure for AIDS? If so, how much should these corporations contribute to these social causes? Because there are ethical considerations inherent in answering these questions, reasonable people can and do disagree. Some argue that because corporations draw resources from society, they have a moral obligation to give back to society, whereas others counter that corporations are inefficient and inappropriate agents of social change, and any voluntary contributions to social causes are misappropriations of shareholders’ funds (Friedman, 1970).

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Andrew A. King, Michael J. Lenox and Michael L. Barnett

Firms within an industry often find themselves "tarred by the same brush". When accidents occur, stakeholders often punish both the offending firm and the entire industry as well.

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Geoffrey Jones