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Examining corporate impacts beyond the financial

Examining corporate impacts beyond the financial

Prof. Griffin speaks at the Melbourne Business School in 2016, as part of the annual Melbourne Institute held by the Australian Centre for Corporate Public Affairs.

By Monica Sather | Student reporter

A Quinlan professor is cementing her position as a thought leader in business through her award-winning book on how corporations create value for business and society.

Jennifer J. Griffin, DBA, the Raymond C. Baumhart, S.J., Professor of Business Ethics, and Professor of Strategy, proposes a new narrative about business: a narrative emphasizing mutually beneficial relationships. These relationships are inclusive of employees, prospective employees, suppliers, distributors, shareholders, and contractors, as well as the many stakeholders impacted by corporate activity.

This narrative is explained in Griffin’s book, Managing Corporate Impacts: Co-Creating Value, which won the 2017 Best Book Award from the Academy of Management’s Social Issues in Management Division. The Academy of Management, which is the top professional association for management and organization scholars, honors books that have made the greatest contribution to the field.

Here, Griffin talks about her book, her research on corporate impacts, and why her research is important for the business and Quinlan communities.

Tell me about your book.

My book receiving recognition was an incredible honor and very humbling. It validated connecting business theory with what is happening worldwide to improve both theory and making a difference in practice. 

The book starts to systematically examine corporate impacts, which are points where corporate policy creates or destroys value, and how companies can manage these impacts to create enduring value in coordination with its stakeholders for the business and society.

In the management field, we frequently talk about economic or financial impacts of corporations. In the book I also delve into three additional types of non-financial impacts:

  • Employees in the workplace: You start by asking questions such as: who are you hiring? How do you train and develop employees? What is the succession plan? What are the safety, health, and education capabilities in the workplace?
  • Products and the value chain: Product impacts include both the manufacturing of the products and the supply chain and distribution chain. Organizations make many disparate, individualized decisions having a significant impact on products: from procurement and choosing ethical suppliers; to distributors and retailers and how to label and advertise goods/services; through the reuse or recycling of products at the end of its life.
  • Social impacts: This is probably the most difficult but the most important impact that organizations are focusing on now: building trust. Social impact highlights tangible evidence of organizations being part of the solution by making a significant contribution outside of the business boundaries. The impact might be with local neighborhoods or communities, through the local, state, or federal political system, or through partnering with multinational, international, or inter-governmental organizations. Impacts might be specific social issues such as hunger, poverty, homelessness, or based on company-specific capabilities such as location, ability to alleviate HIV-AIDS, disaster recovery, or potable water distribution.

The overarching question for business executives then is, is our organization trusted? Might it be asked to be at the table to talk about, to shape policy, to take action, convene forums, or provide leadership at the neighborhood, community, state, federal, or international level about some of these issues? Is it a trusted player, thinking about and taking action on these financial and non-financial impacts that only organizations can tackle? Is your business part of the solution, and not part of the problem?

How are ethics a part of the Quinlan experience?

I was honored to be named the Raymond C. Baumhart, S.J., Professor of Business Ethics when I joined the Quinlan faculty in fall 2017. One of the things that attracted me to Quinlan is its mission of social justice, which is one important aspect of social impact. I am ecstatic to be in this university to see this mission come alive, because not only is social justice being talked about among faculty, staff, students, and alumni; we are having thoughtful discussions about how businesses can be a force for good, with clear evidence of businesses doing well and doing good in many different ways.

For example, at Quinlan, through our course curriculum and co-curricular activities we are purposefully developing responsible business leaders who simultaneously create net positive impacts for employees, for investors, and within communities. In so doing, responsible leadership can make a positive difference in the world.  

Why is this of interest to the business community?

Businesses are a part of the solution to many social issues and social justice challenges. They play a part in helping to solve or lessen the injustices and create opportunities for a more level playing field. If you look at any number of different social issues that tie in with social justice, such as inequality, homelessness, poverty, as well as access to education, access to opportunities, or access to capital, a lot of these problems can be addressed, in part, through creative partnering with businesses. Or, creating businesses to solve these social ills.

How we think about businesses, how we construct and operate our businesses, and how we educate our future business leaders about the purpose of business, being a force for making a net positive difference, ties into finding solutions to social justice issues.   

For me, Father Baumhart's vision of and inspiration to meaningfully combine ethical thinking and values-based decision-making unleashes the potential for businesses to make a real difference in the world. His leadership in ethics-in-action continues to be a daily inspiration to me.

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