SWG 02 aims to provide a platform for scholars to discuss the organizational implications that societal actors face in light of emerging and pressing social issues such as inequality, precarious work, big data, or artificial intelligence (Ferraro et al. 2015; George et al., 2016). Organization theorists have only recently picked up these issues as new “organizational” phenomena. As yet, there is rarely a space for understanding in depth, from a pluri-theoretical perspective, these emerging social issues and their relation to organizational responsibilities. The SWG seeks to scrutinize what organization studies has on offer to address these challenges, paying particular attention to non-Western contexts, actors and analytical approaches that have, albeit their potential to significantly enhance our understanding of contested social problems, only received marginal attention by many organizational researchers.
Specifically, the responsibilities of businesses, often subsumed under the umbrella term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), are in a continuous process of contestation (e.g., Gond & Nyberg, 2017; Joutsenvirta & Vaara, 2015; Matten & Moon, 2008; Ramus, Vaccaro, Brusoni, 2017). This includes “classical” social issues like workplace safety, working conditions, philanthropy and related topics that have already received a good deal of attention by researchers. Business responsibilities however are constantly changing and emerging in the global organizational arena, where “old” topics become saturated, and new topics emerge on the radar of researchers and organizational practitioners. Simultaneously, new types of stakeholders, new forms of governing, new spaces of engagement and forms of organization and collaboration create new debates which researchers need to address with the same rigor that is applied to more established scholarly debate. This relates to technological change and digitalization as changing empirical contexts, but it must also include that researchers leave their “theoretical and methodological comfort zone” and bring up not only new problems but also new perspectives to address them.
The aim of this SWG is therefore to explore what as yet under-emphasized theoretical and methodological perspectives in organization studies have to offer to better understand and explain emerging societal phenomena that deal with the social responsibilities of organizations.
Social issues, their inherently contested nature and their relations to different types of organizations are increasingly a concern for organizational researchers. The SWG thus has at its core two guiding research questions:
- In what ways can organizational research that utilizes the diversity of theoretical and methodological perspectives enhance our understanding of how emerging social problems are and should be organized?
- How can examining grand societal problems and associated responsibilities provide insights and reinvigorate organization studies?
To give this broad research interest an analytical structure and “organize” it, the SWG features four distinct topical areas that together cover contemporary challenges for the organization of social responsibilities from a problem-oriented perspective. These four areas will form the consecutive sub-themes that constitute SWG 02.
First, we aim to study new and previously “hidden” social issues that appear on the radar of organizational researchers and, despite their magnitude, have only recently been picked up and investigated from an organizational perspective. The way organizational responsibilities are assigned or adopted is of particular interest in this sub-theme.
New issues include, for instance, modern forms of slavery, big data and artificial intelligence usage by organizations, organizational impacts on income inequality, exciting