Recruitment paused Open PhD projects 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, can address these challenges. In other words, we help business to take responsibility for the context in which it operates. Research in our group focuses on alternative definitions of and approaches to business, including issues around climate change, poverty alleviation, health, reputation, business ethics, philanthropy, social enterprise and partnerships. We support the general ambition of RSM to help business be a ‘force for positive change in society’. The research methods we use vary from qualitative techniques to surveys and laboratory research.

“Acting on unprecedented change” describes a series of interrelated projects that address the most current challenges that businesses face. Specifically, our social and natural environments are changing in unprecedented ways. Business contributes to some of these developments, such as climate change, growing inequality, and also alienation from the general public by losing track of the interests of broader society. Business is confronted with very low levels of trust in their ability to responsibly deal with grand societal challenges. Yet, society also changes in ways that are difficult to foresee for companies. Each project describes ways for companies to deal with these challenges and to contribute in such a way that changes work out for the best (or at least, are less damaging). A common theme underlying each project is that each 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 solve the large problems that society faces. 


Sustainability, Sustainable Management, Sustainable Business models, Shared value creation, Philanthropy, Partnerships, Business Ethics, Behavioral Ethics


Examples of topics for a Ph.D. project within this theme are the following:

Building ethical organizations: How organizations shape the (un)ethical behaviors of their members

The past decades have revealed a range of corporate scandals that caused enormous damage and shocked society. In response, the study of moral and immoral behavior in organizational contexts has become very popular (Ambrose, Schminke, & Reynolds, 2014). Scholars agree that to understand (un)ethical behavior in organizational settings, it is important to consider the influence of the organization’s internal and external environment (e.g., leadership styles, the organization’s ethical climate, and market conditions). Unfortunately, very little is known about how the internal and external environment shape relevant psychological processes and influence their expression in (un)ethical behavior over time. The aims of the proposed project are to develop and test a model that explains contextual Influences on the (intuitive and deliberative) psychological processes driving (un)ethical behavior in organizations. The model will be tested using Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM), which involves measuring daily experiences and behaviors in the work context, and testing how stable contextual conditions influence the unfolding of these experiences and behaviors in time. These ESM studies will be accompanied by laboratory experiments.

For further information, contact Marius van Dijke,


Making sense of Sustainability Issues

Past research has demonstrated that managers find it difficult to conceptualize complex issues and wicked societal problems such as climate change and relate these to their organization. Furthermore, research has also pointed to the difficulty that managers face in communicating about such issues and problems in ways that help them gain support and legitimacy for their organizations. This project focuses on the twin challenge that managers face to conceptualize and communicate about complex societal issues of sustainability, in a context of much greater transparency and a quest for such information from their stakeholders. The proposed PhD research develops and elaborates theory on these challenges and the different framing tactics that managers use to compress complex issues into a digestible format for themselves and for the stakeholders of the organization. The PhD project may involve both qualitative case studies or experimental and survey methods, or a combination as part of a mixed-methods approach.

For further information contact Joep Cornelissen,


Future business ethics

The values and norms business organizations adopt have changed rapidly in the last couple of decades. For example many business organizations put not any longer the creation of shareholder value as their goal but stakeholder value.  Business organizations have also adopted new ethical norms regarding for example how they want to deal with their employees (e.g. work-life balance), competitors (e.g. what counts as a bribe), the environment (e.g. reduce ecological footprint), and their suppliers (e.g. expecting them to respect human rights). The question for this PhD project is where do these new values and norms come from: what are their determinants? This is an important question because knowing these determinants help organizations to predict what possible new values and norms are in the future so that they can anticipate. Some results of this PhD research may be a model of these determinants, an overview of future new values and norms, and a description/typology of how organizations can and should deal with these new values and norms.

For further information, contact Muel Kaptein,


Aligning corporate value propositions and societal issues

It is fashionable to talk about ‘shared value creation’, but what does that actually mean? From the corporate perspective it implies that companies fundamentally think about their ‘value proposition’, their corporate vision and mission, and what they actually would like to produce in what manner. From a societal point of view it could imply that companies contribute to solving a number of society’s problems. In particular the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were agreed upon in 2015 on the basis of a mu lti-stakeholder engagement strategy provide an agenda for action until the year 2030, with ambitious aims such as eradicating poverty, delivering water and santitation, improving health and effectively dealing with climate change and/or establishing peace. Under what conditions can companies contribute to effectively addressing these issues: alone or together with others? Partnerships can be used to create conditions to implement effective strategies. But how to form, implement and sustain such partnerships, which are often struck between parties from different sectors (corporate, civil society, government)? Partnerships create new institutions that could facilitate the transition towards higher levels of sustainability and societal value creation. Partnerships also require new forms of leadership. This project operates on the interface between business and society, and considers in particular the international context since most of the problems cross boundaries and are often global in nature.

For further information, visit:; or contact: Rob van Tulder,


Finding organizational forms for unprecedented change : the rise of social enterprise

The challenges of (western) societies are manifold, including unemployment, increasing costs for healthcare, social exclusion and issues such as loneliness and obesity. These challenges cannot be addressed by traditional solutions and actors. In response, a new organizational form is on the raise: The social enterprise. This term creates confusion as a strict definition claims that a true social enterprise must have a double bottom line combining profit and social objectives. Others apply the term to (traditional) nonprofit organizations that combine commercial strategies with their mission, while businesses also claim they have CSR and social objectives. And to make it even more interesting, USA and European ideas are not aligned. Meanwhile, debates are going on about whether there is a need for a new organizational legal entity and if new financial combinations are needed between commercial social impact investing, philanthropic donations, and fees for service from customers. The social enterprise seems to offer unprecedented new organizational solutions. The PhD project will delve into this phenomenon taking a critical approach to question its efficiency and efficacy.

For further information, contact Lucas Meijs

Supervisory Team

Joep Cornelissen
Professor of Corporate Communication and Management
  • Promotor
Marius van Dijke
Endowed Professor in Behavioral Ethics
  • Promotor
Muel Kaptein
Professor of Business Ethics and Integrity Management
  • Promotor
Lucas Meijs
Professor of Volunteering, Civil Society and Businesses and Professor of Strategic Philanthropy
  • Promotor
Rob van Tulder
Professor of International Business-Society Management
  • Promotor
Hannes Leroy
  • External Member Supervisory Team