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SIOP’s Advocacy for
Corporate Social 
Responsibility,
Humanitarian Work Psychology,
and Sustainable Development
Continues:
The SIOP CSR Summit 

FEATURE ARTICLE

SIOP-United Nations Committee

Deborah E. Rupp, Purdue University

Lori Foster, North Carolina State University

John Scott, APTMetrics

Lise Saari, New York University

Mathian Osicki, IBM

Kristin Charles, Amazon

Walter Reichman, OrgVitality

Mary O’Neill Berry, (retired) Sirota Consulting

Drew Mallory, Purdue University

Dan Maday, Capsim Management Simulations, Inc.

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For the last several years, SIOP has put great effort into emphasizing the prosocial side of our field.  This involves both science and practice that seeks to benefit others and/or society as a whole. It has included SIOP’s Veteran Transition Project, the Poverty Research Group, the Volunteer Program Assessment project, and many other individual projects led by SIOP members. SIOP also partners in multiple ways with the Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology in fulfilling their mission to bring together I-O and other areas of psychology with deliberate and organized efforts to enhance human welfare. Our role within the SIOP United Nations Committee is to represent SIOP as a consultative nongovernmental organization (NGO) for the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in promoting I-O knowledge in ways that will assist in the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and, consistent with SIOP’s participation in the UN Global Compact, to support initiatives that promote principles of human rights, labor fairness, environmental sustainability, and anticorruption.

For the first time, SIOP has recently been successful in obtaining federal funding for facilitating its prosocial mission. This has culminated in a National Science Foundation grant (funded by the Science of Organizations program) focused on the psychology of corporate social responsibility (CSR) awarded to Purdue University with SIOP as a subawardee. This grant funded the Corporate Social Responsibility Summit, a SIOP preconference event at the Hilton Anaheim (April 12-13, 2016) aimed at uncovering new directions for psychological research on corporate social responsibility and catalyzing new collaborative multidisciplinary projects among scholars who might otherwise remain isolated from one another.

The summit consisted of networking opportunities, keynotes from top scholars, research updates and summaries, practice highlights, multidisciplinary commentary, group discussion, and time for break-out work focused on identifying gaps and planning for new collaborative projects. More than 50 academics, practitioners, and students came together for this day-and-a-half-long summit. Attendees’ backgrounds spanned the areas of traditional corporate social responsibility, behavioral ethics, humanitarian work psychology, and environmental sustainability. Although these might appear as related fields, for most, the experience involved being exposed to new areas of research, making new connections, and the development of new collaborative project ideas.

The summit kicked off Tuesday afternoon, with dueling presentations by David Jones and Ante Glavas who reviewed what both “micro” (psychological) and “macro” (sociological/economic) research has uncovered about corporate social responsibility. Stuart Carr then provided a review of the humanitarian work psychology literature, focusing on the “compelling connection” between CSR and living wages. These reviews were then book-ended by presentations by Sean Cruse (of the UN Global Compact) on corporate compliance with principles of socially responsible business and Alex Gloss on the private sector’s role in sustainable development.

Following an evening of discussion, networking, and project planning, the summit reconvened the next morning, with presentations and discussion focused on specific (traditional) areas within I-O psychology that could be brought to bear in furthering our knowledge of CSR. David Waldman discussed leadership. Ruth Kanfer and Rustin Meyer discussed performance. Deniz Ones discussed HR and individual differences. It was inspiring to see how the classic topics within I-O are so relevant for understanding the science and practice of CSR. It was truly an eye opener for all of us!

After an energized working lunch, the summit turned toward emerging theory and research. Paula Caligiuri discussed her work on corporate volunteerism. Akwasi Opoku-Dakwa presented a theory of employee engagement in CSR initiatives. Chelsea Willness presented findings showing CSR’s “dark side”—that is, ways in which CSR efforts can backfire if not managed properly. By this point in the program there were no doubts about I-O psychology’s “seat at the CSR table” and the many directions our future research and practice might take us.

These presentations were followed by a “research incubator” period where attendees discussed and received feedback on their work in progress. For example, Tammy Allen and Julie Olson-Buchanan presented ideas around how mentoring can aid small business development in the developing world. Isaac Smith discussed a project aimed at integrating CSR with research on behavioral ethics that considers the moral regard of various stakeholders. Mahima Saxena and John Scott provided an update on their SIOP-funded project focused on work experiences within the informal economy. Other “speed-briefings” were provided by Frances Milliken, Bombie Salvador, Jennifer Robertson, Cynthia Pury, Timur Ozbilir, and Yeon Jeong Kim.

All in all, the opportunity for researchers and practitioners to come together from related but previous unconnected fields was energizing and motivating. This excitement was channeled into the last segment of the summit, which involved the formation of self-organizing groups focused on making postsummit progress. Groups naturally formed around the topics of CSR and positive psychology, living wages, leadership, CSR interventions, internal CSR, green initiatives, indicators of embedded vs. peripheral CSR initiatives, and failed CSR expectations among stakeholders.

The CSR Summit Planning Committee (Deborah Rupp, Ron Landis, Milt Hakel, Drew Mallory) is busy at work planning follow-up activities. A first goal is to expand the summit group to include the many individuals who were not able to attend or be accommodated at the summit (which due to funding constraints was capped at 50 attendees). A networking reception for these individuals will be convened at the 2017 SIOP conference in Orlando, Florida (again sponsored by the National Science Foundation Science of Organizations program), where the summit working groups will present on their progress and where the dialogue and follow-up work can continue to expand.1 Another outcome involves many of the summit presenters publishing their presented work in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility: Psychological and Organizational Perspectives (edited by Abagail McWilliams, Deborah Rupp, Donald Siegel, Gunter Stahl, and David Waldman, available in 2018). Finally, a summit website has been created (http://www.siop.org/csr/) where all of the summit presentations and attendee bios have been made publically available, and where follow-up work and announcements will also be posted.

The SIOP-UN Committee was proud to play a role in the SIOP CSR Summit. All of the work presented was in the spirit of both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Global Compact’s 10 Principles. These types of event are critical for building bridges between communities of research/practice in the areas of CSR, sustainable development, decent work, and social justice/behavioral ethics. We wish all the newly formed collaborative teams all the best with their ongoing work and are always here as a resource for academics and practitioners doing work in these areas.

1 If you have interest in adding your name to the CSR network list, and potentially receiving an invitation to the 2017 reception (as space allows), please write to csr@siop.org.