Open PhD project in Value Based Organizing: Acting on unprecedented change

Traditionally, management research takes the perspective of business and focuses on how conditions for business can be improved. Research conducted within the Value Based Organizing subprogram starts with the challenges that society and our natural environment face and focuses on how business, in partnership with other actors and organizations, can address these challenges. In other words, we help business to take responsibility for the context in which it operates. This is important because our social and natural environments are changing in unprecedented ways. Business contributes to some of these developments, such as climate change, growing inequality, global displacement and also alienation from the general public by losing track of the interests of broader society. Yet, society also changes in ways that are difficult to foresee for companies and other organizational actors alike.The research conducted by the members of the value based organizing program focuses on a variety of topics—all directly relevant to business acting upon unprecedented change. A common theme underlying all of this research is that it seriously considers the possibility that the way companies do business—including how they relate to the context in which they operate—needs to be changed fundamentally and that small gestures are unlikely to be sufficient to help.


Sustainability, Sustainable Management, Philanthropy, Partnerships, Business Ethics, Behavioral Ethics, Sense-Marking, Social Innovation, Grand Challenges, Wicked Problems, Stakeholders


Topics include alternative definitions of and approaches to business, including issues around climate change, reputation, sense-making processes in the context of sustainability, business ethics, philanthropy, new business-society strategies, novel organization forms such as social enterprises and partnerships, aligning corporate value propositions with societal issues and social innovation in times of grand challenges and wicked problems. Due to the diversity in research topics, the research methods we use vary widely, from qualitative techniques to survey and laboratory research.


Please make clear in your application which specific topic or sub-theme from the research conducted within the program fits best with your interests and expertise. For this, it is useful to explore the website of the department, focusing in particular at the entries of the advising staff. The group consists of ambitious international faculty who publish in top journals. The staff who advise on PhD research are (in alphabetical order): Flore Bridoux (Stakeholder Management, Corporate Social Responsibility), Joep Cornelissen (Corporate Communication, Sense Making), Corinna Frey-Heger (Social Innovation, Grand Challenges, Wicked Problems), Emilio Marti (Sustainable Investing, Shareholder Pressure), Steve Kennedy (Systems and Resilience Thinking, Sustainable Business Models, Circular Economy), Lucas Meijs (Volunteering, Civil Society and Businesses, and Strategic Philanthropy), Marius van Dijke (Behavioural Ethics), Muel Kaptein (Business Ethics and Integrity Management), Rob van Tulder, (International Business-Society Management; Sustainable Development Goals, wicked problems), and Mirjam Werner.

The group publishes in journals such as Academy of Management Annals, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Research Policy. The group teaches from Bachelor to MBA levels. In its teaching the group links state-of-the-art theory and research on sustainability, business-society management, and general management with business practice.

A project always starts with reviewing the extant literature and synthesizing this review to develop a theoretical framework. The second stage of each project targets testing this theory.

The choice of method for theory development and/or theory testing depends on the data, model and aims of the project. The group has broad experience with multiple research methodologies: empirical quantitative research (surveys, existing databases, laboratory experiments) and qualitative research (e.g., case studies, ethnography).

Required Profile

Candidates applying for a Ph.D. position within this research theme should have a background in business studies, management studies, sociology, economics, psychology, or a related discipline. In terms of methodological skills, candidates preferably have proven expertise and interest in statistical, experimental and/or interview skills, and should be eager to learn new methodological tools.

Expected output

The project output consists of papers in top tier management journals in sustainability, management, organization, strategy, or applied psychology. These star journals are listed on the ERIM´s webpage: and includes journals cited above as publishing outlet for the staff.


The unit has strong connections with academics studying value based organizing and related disciplines such as at Cambridge University, Harvard University, Stanford University, London Business School, and the University of Southampton. Members of the group are also well connected with executives in sustainable and innovative organizations.

Societal relevance

It is becoming increasingly clear that business and management scholarship that focuses solely on improving conditions for business is insufficient to address the unprecedented problems that society has to deal with such as climate change, hunger, and poverty. Each project’s objective is to produce valuable guidelines for decision makers to make business useful for society.

Scientific relevance

The project aims at advancing our understanding of highly important aspects of value based organizing, more specifically acting upon the unprecedented changes that our society and business face. Thereby, the project contributes strongly to the academic literature. Targeted contributions of each specific project can be retrieved from the mentioned contact person.

Literature references

Ambrose, M. L., Schminke, M., & Reynolds, S. J. (2014). Behavioral ethics: New frontiers. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 123, 77–78. 

Bansal, P. and Hoffman, A. (Eds.) (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Business and the Natural Environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Galera, G. & Borzaga, C. (2009) Social enterprise: An international overview of its conceptual evolution and legal implementation. Social Enterprise Journal, 5, 210 - 228 

Hollensbe, E.; Wookey, C.; Hickey, L., George, G.; and Nichols, V. (2014), Organizations with Purpose, Academy of Management Journal, 57, (5), 1227-1234. 

Kaptein, M. & Wempe, J. (2002); The Balanced Company: A corporate integrity model. Oxford University Press. 

Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin, F. S. III, Lambin, E. F., et al. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, 472–5. 

Van Tulder, R., Van Tilburg, R., Francken, M. & Da Rosa, A. (2013). Managing the transition to a sustainable enterprise: lessons from frontrunner companies. Earthscan/Routledge. 

Weaver, G. R., Reynolds, S. J., & Brown, M. E. (2014). Moral intuition: Connecting current knowledge to future organizational research and practice. Journal of Management, 40, 100-129.