Grants Spur Sustainability Research in Poole College of Management

Submitted by Anna Rzewnicki on Friday Apr 22, 2016.

Which employees are most likely to sign up for your next employer-sponsored volunteer project? It may not be your company’s overachievers.

Recent research from NC State’s Poole College of Management indicates no clear significant correlation between employees’ job performance level and likelihood to participate in employer-sponsored volunteer programs.

With funding from Poole College’s Business Sustainability Collaborative, Beth Ritter, lecturer; Paul Mulvey, associate professor; and Brad Kirkman, professor, all in Poole College’s Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Alex Gloss, psychology doctoral student, analyzed employee volunteer data from a large global corporation. They hypothesized that employees who perform best in their jobs would also be more likely to participate in the employer’s volunteer programs, but analysis of this particular data set showed no clear relationship between performance level and volunteering.

The analysis measured job performance, level, tenure and engagement against the employee's reported volunteer hours. Employees who reported average levels of engagement with the company were most likely to volunteer—outpacing employees with low levels of engagement as well as those with the highest levels of engagement.

The study will be presented at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting this summer, and researchers hope to complete further analysis with data from additional corporations.

“[Employer-sponsored volunteering] is a widespread phenomenon. It’s going to continue to blossom,” said Mulvey, who added that his students consider these types of corporate social responsibility initiatives as they select an employer.

The Business Sustainability Collaborative offers an annual grant program that provides up to $25,000 in funding to support research projects for faculty with a majority appointment in the Poole College of Management. In 2015-2016, one of these grants also funded a second research project that measured the economic consequences of the formation of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.

“There’s a big push for integrative reporting of nonfinancial information related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. The SASB envisions developing common reporting rules for ESG related activities for various organizations,” said Andrew Schmidt, who co-authored the study with Bradley Lindsey. Both are assistant professors in the college’s Department of Accounting. “We thought it would be interesting to see the market reaction to the formation and initial activities of the SASB. Did the market view the SASB as net benefit, net cost or a neutral happening?”

Schmidt and Lindsey used an event study methodology to analyze daily market returns of a sample of publicly-traded, U.S.-based, domestic and multinational firms worth at least $400 million. They tracked returns on the days of, before and following key events in SASB’s formation; the sample events were gathered from SASB press releases issued by a national wire service.

In general, Schmidt and Lindsey found positive abnormal returns to the SASB issuance of reporting standards for unique sectors, which suggests that there is a need for standardized reporting of material ESG issues.  

However, Schmidt and Lindsey found negative abnormal returns to the creation of the SASB, the announcement of development milestones such as the release of public-use products like the SASB Materiality Map and SASB Standards Navigator, and major appointments to the board of directors (Michael Bloomberg, Mary Shapiro and Robert Herz). “It doesn’t seem like the market is too thrilled [about] another big regulatory agency,” said Schmidt, who plans to expand future analysis to include more recent events in SASB’s formation.

Since Poole College’s Business Sustainability Collaborative launched its grant program in 2013, six research projects have been funded by $143,000 in sustainability research grants involving 14 faculty members studying issues ranging from consumer behavior to green policy.

The Business Sustainability Collaborative continued the conversation about sustainability research on April 12 with a seminar featuring Joel Gehman, assistant professor of strategic management and organization at the University of Alberta’s Alberta School of Business, speaking about “Hidden Badge of Honor: How Contextual Distinctiveness Affects Category Promotion Among Certified B Corporations.”

Read about faculty who received BSC grants to develop sustainability curriculum modules to add existing courses.


 

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