An Indigenous Perspective on Institutions for Sustainable Business in China



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This dissertation builds endemically Chinese theoretical explanations on how institutions shape business’ ability to simultaneously contribute to economic expansion, environmental protection, and social equity. The first study, based on a new multivariate application of meta-analysis ensuring the comparability of effects and causal identification of the estimates, explicates the applicability of classic Western management theories in China and provides insights into how to fit these theories with Chinese institutional contexts more tightly. Inspired by meta-analytic results for resource dependence theory, the second study theorizes and tests how Chinese NGOs, which have limited room to maneuver and which are under close surveillance by the Chinese state, can still put sufficient pressure on local supply chains to bring them to more sustainable practices. This study shows that creating collaborative ties with foreign MNEs, which present an opportunity structure to these NGOs, is a crucial element predicting their effectiveness. Yet local governments’ own level of commitment to the natural environment substitutes for the main effect. The third study, which is inspired by meta-analytic results for neo-institutional theory, highlights a soft corporate control mechanism at the disposal of the Chinese government: control by means of exposure of the corporate elite to the prevailing state political ideology. This study finds that state political ideology can be used to impose clan-like control on corporations, but its effectiveness depends on the central state’s ability to intervene local governments. Together these findings contribute to an integrated framework for understanding institutional arrangements that drive sustainable business in China.