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The Dark Side 2

Critical Cases on the Downside of Business

This second collection of outstanding shortlisted contributions from the Critical Management Studies (CMS) Interest Group of the Academy of Management (AOM) Dark Side" case-writing competition continues to go where other business case studies fear to tread.

There are very many case studies of business best practice when engaging with social, environmental and ethical issues. But when educators look for resources to illustrate to students the more typical examples of bad – let alone scandalous – practices of some firms, the cupboard is almost entirely bare. And yet there is a critical need for business educators to expose students and managers to such issues to understand the different multifaceted phenomena of our late capitalist era; to support critical, reflective moral development; and to reflect and understand the complexities of organizational life. To argue that such cases deal with the bad apples in an otherwise functioning system misses the point. Whether focusing on the phone-hacking scandals at national newspapers, the influence of big pharma companies on clinical trials, the Bhopal tragedy or the use of child labour in the garment industry, the problems discussed are of major importance and in many cases have been demonstrated to be common practice for particular companies. Good news they are not, but all are stimulating and present students with dilemmas and decisions to make in a myriad of ways.

Each of these 14 selected cases from 2009–2012 has been thoroughly documented, peer-reviewed and edited. They cover four continents (Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania) and both business and public organizations. The industries covered range from extractive industries, the energy industry, consumer products, pulp and paper, movies, media, municipal affairs, academia, banking, and the drug industry. The book is split into three sections: 'Community and Environment'; 'Human Rights and Business'; and 'Ethics and Policy'. As with the previous volume, these cases are all supported by teaching guidance and comprehensive teaching notes available free of charge to faculty.

The importance of a rounded look at CSR cannot be over-estimated. If CSR is to be more than a PR programme, then it is necessary to examine how things have gone badly as well as how things have gone well. For academic research and teaching, it is vital. There is no shortage of positive case studies out there, but there is a dearth of critical ones. In 2009 Raufflet and Mills produced the first volume of Dark Side, containing case studies that illustrated how things can go wrong between businesses and society. Now, four years later, here is another volume of critical case studies.

 

The book targets a number of mainstream companies and directly challenges the idea that any problem with business is simply a result of ‘bad apples’: the idea that while a company is inherently good, its reputation can be ruined by the behaviour of a few rogue individuals within it. And that thinking is often extended to companies as a whole: most companies are good, but there will occasionally arise one which is bad all through – perhaps like Enron – this gives business as a whole a bad name, though most are perfectly sound. In reality, of course, the corporate world is neither wholly good nor wholly bad. The need is for a more rounded view, without which the full benefit companies can bring could remain forever unrealized. So given the dominance of wholly positive case studies out there, this book is part of a necessary corrective.

 

Dark Side 2 covers community and environment, human rights and ethics issues. In all there are 14 case studies in this volume covering a wide range of issues. We hear for example about how Shell in Ireland was capable of atrocious community relations – reminding us that poor CSR is as much a feature of the developed world as elsewhere.

In looking at the CSR projects of Vedanta, the importance of community activities being meaningfully connected to the business of the company is highlighted. In the Vedanta case study, they seemed completely unrelated to the core activities of the company or the damage that their projects would cause. Not surprisingly, they were without much positive effect.

We also hear about how Kraft Food’s policies were completely different, and arbitrarily unpleasant, in Argentina compared to that in its US operations. The attitude of the company management to concerns about the H1N1 virus were brutally oppressive in Argentina while being tolerant and concerned in the US.

There is an account of the Bhopal tragedy that sets out in detail how and why the disaster happened and how the companies involved have evaded responsibility. Given the scale and continuing significance of the disaster, this is a useful and important story to have.

And we hear about hacking at the News of the World in which reporters commissioned illegal means to gain access to private information. The evolution of this case illustrates well how what the management were keen initially to present as a few ‘bad apples’ turned out to be systematic and endemic in the newspaper and led to the company eventually being closed down.

One of the more unusual case studies concerns the effects of drug company sponsorship on the ability of clinicians to make decisions in the interests of their patients. It describes the brave efforts of a doctor insisting on the right treatment for patients caught up in a drug trial.

One of the recurring themes of the case studies is the inclusion of unionization issues and anti-union activities by companies. Labour issues are often excluded from ‘CSR’ – perhaps in an effort to confine CSR to issues, such as philanthropy, that can be kept firmly under management control. But of course the way staff are treated is an essential and central element of corporate responsibility. This book puts the issue firmly back on the agenda.

Each case study is presented in a similar way with background material providing the economic or company context, although sometimes this uniform format appears to crowd out a more detailed analysis of the case at issue. At times the demands of providing a similar template to each case study means that some of what is provided has only marginal relevance to a particular case study.

What the book lacks, or perhaps—given it is simply a collection of case studies—points to the need for, is a systematic analysis of why poor impacts and bad CSR happen. That is a large and crucial issue for which this book can be a stimulus and source of evidence. So if the study of business is to work its way out of an often unproductively sycophantic attitude, this book will be a welcome resource.

 

 

Adrian Henriques, Visiting Professor of Accountability and CSR, Middlesex University Business School

Section A: Community and environment

1. Shell in Ireland: A community destroyed
Sheila Killian, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick and Francis O'Donnell

2. Of gods and demons: The sacred hills of Niyamgiri and Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL)
Nimruji Jammulamadaka, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIMC) and Sandeep Bhattacharjee, Usha Martin Academy, India

3. The dark side of light-handed regulation: Mercury Energy and the death of Folole Muliaga
Todd Bridgman, Victoria Management School, University of Wellington, New Zealand

4. San Rafael
Emmanuel Raufflet, Department of Management, HEC Montreal, Canada

Section B: Human rights and business

5. Kraft Foods Argentina: the H1N1 disparity
Susan Myrden, Maine Business School, University of Maine and Kathy Sanderson, Faculty of Business Administration, Lakehead University

6. When clothes for children are made by children
Guillaume Delalieux, Sciences Po Lille, France

7. The Bhopal Gas tragedy: Revisited after twenty-five years
Debapratim Purkayastha, IBS Hyderabad, India and Hadiya Faheem, IBS Hyderabad, India

8. The battle for Middle Earth: New Zealand's bid to save The Hobbit
Todd Bridgman, Victoria University of Wellington School of Management, New Zealand and Colm McLaughlin, University College Dublin School of Business

Section C: Ethics and policy

9. Ethical breaches at News of the World
Debapratim Purkayastha, IBS Hyderabad and AJ Swapna, IBS Hyderabad

10. Monkey business: The Black Eyed Peas in Halifax
Lawrence T. Corrigan and Jean Helms Mills, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada

11. Academia accommodating plagiarism? Surely not!
Belinda Luke, Queensland University of Technology Business School and Kate Kearins, Auckland University of Technology

12. Milk or wine come rain or shine: Culture and politics in a Dutch–Belgian banking group after an international takeover
Alexandra Bristow, Surrey Business School, University of Surrey

13. "Alisha in Obesity-land": Is food marketing the Mad Hatter?
Sonya A. Grier, Kogod School of Business at American University, Washington, D.C., USA and Guillaume D. Johnson, Université Paris-Dauphine, France

14. The Olivieri case: An ethical dilemma of clinical research and corporate sponsorship
Heidi Weigand and Albert J. Mills, Saint Mary's University, Canada

PAULINE FATIEN DIOCHON is Associate Professor of Management, Menlo College. ALBERT J. MILLS is Professor of Management, Saint Mary's University. EMMANUEL RAUFFLET is Associate Professor of Management, HEC Montréal.

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