Corporate Sustainability in the context of a cross-border acquisition integration
Abstract: The increasing global challenges, such as natural disasters, poverty and many others, pose new threats to societies and businesses. Therefore, companies increase their engagement in Corporate Sustainability (CS), which connects social, environmental and economic responsibilities. Through this approach, CS aims at overcoming environmental and social constraints in a business context to increase competitiveness in today’s fast-changing world. This fast pace, with which the business environment changes, is related to external influences, such as the above-mentioned climate change, and to fundamental structural developments. One of those is the increasing number of emerging-market companies (EMNCs) that internationalize rapidly through cross-border M&A deals, also into developed markets. Since both trends, the increase in CS engagement and the growing international M&A activity of EMNCs, gain in practical and academic importance, we conducted our study under the following research question. How is CS integrated on a strategic level after a cross-border acquisition by an EMNC? The theoretical angle from which we approached the topic aligns with the resource-based view, including the natural-resource-based view, and a stakeholder perspective. When reviewing the literature regarding CS, it became clear that substantial outcomes are still lacking despite an increasing commitment to CS. This difficulty can be linked to the variety of interpretations regarding the conception of CS and the resulting confusion among implicated parties. The review of M&A literature, with a special focus on EMNCs, revealed that these companies deploy a unique approach, which is characterized by the soft post-M&A integration of the target to allow organizational learning within both businesses. Therefore, our empirical research aimed at exploring how the strategic CS of both companies, the target and the parent, influence each other and thus, develop towards a common CS strategy. The longitudinal single case study we selected, allowed us to investigate this research proposal. Through the collection and analysis of documentary data enriched by semi-structured interviews, our study revealed the following. The exchange of knowledge and CS-related communication represented the basis for the integration of strategic CS as it nurtures organizational learning. Consequently, the CS strategies of both companies increased in maturity, which means that their sophistication evolved. In addition, we also found that the target developed towards a more permissive sustainability to align with its parent company’s CS strategy. Our main study contributions relate to an enhancement of the theoretical knowledge in the related fields. Besides this, we also identified critical practical issues, such as the importance of establishing a common conception of CS to ensure a successful CS integration on a strategic level.
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