Aleksandra (Olenka) Kacperczyk is a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School. Professor Kacperczyk’s research covers entrepreneurship, innovation, social responsibility and mobility, and labor markets. She is an associate editor of Administrative Science Quarterly and an editorial board member of Strategic Management Journal. Away from her research, Aleksandra is associate editor of Management Science and Organization Science, and an editorial board member of Administrative Science Quarterly and Strategic Management Journal.
|The diametric experiences of Disney and UEFA illustrate that firms should refrain from making political statements in support of particular stakeholders. Strongly disagree||“As societal values become increasingly polarized, many firms are starting to adopt a social stance. This is evident in the actions of companies like Disney and UEFA, along with recent examples such as Nike’s endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement, or Chick-fil-A’s campaign against LGBT communities. Despite the potential to alienate some customers, this counter-positioning strategy often yields significant payoffs. Sales for both Nike and Chick-fil-A skyrocketed following their respective political campaigns. By choosing to counter-position, firms can build a stronger customer base and foster loyalty and commitment among core customer groups. But success is not guaranteed. Attempting this strategy half-heartedly can lead to a backlash. Those who succeed are those who are authentic.”|
|BP’s decision to dial back plans for cutting oil and gas production shows that short-term financial performance pressure will make it difficult for many firms to transition their strategies toward more sustainable business models. Agree||“Sustainability is a long-term strategy. Therefore, when firms face short-term pressures, the typical response is to scale back on long-term commitments and focus on the immediate issues at hand. Hence, the trade-off between the short term and the long term is what explains the recent decisions made by BP. At the same time, it remains to be seen what kinds of solutions are most effective in helping firms navigate the well-known temporal trade-offs. A common solution has been to remain private, but we have recently witnessed an array of other creative solutions, including the one at Patagonia — which involved donating the entire company to a fund to fight climate change. Companies that can successfully navigate the temporal pressures will ultimately be the winners in the transition to green energy.”|
|The use of generative AI will restore competition in search. Disagree||“The use of generative AI provides a potential opening for Microsoft, thus increasing competitive threats to Google. It may seem that Microsoft finally has an opening to leapfrog Google, since it is first to market. But as of today, it is relatively difficult to anticipate whether Bing Chat has high-quality features that can satisfy consumers. Indeed, it may be months before any AI chatbot is sufficiently safe or high quality to become the dominant design. Importantly, this could give Google time to catch up and develop a more sophisticated product with better features. In short, it may not be as much of a first-mover advantage for Microsoft as it appears.”|
|New salary transparency laws will cause companies to increase bonus pay and other nonreportable perks as a share of total compensation. Disagree||“Pay equity will likely be the main benefit from the new pay transparency legislation. Because employers will now have to disclose pay at various stages in the screening process, this will help identify the well-known gender and racial pay gaps. But there could be some downsides, too. Pay transparency has been shown to reduce wages overall because firms anticipate stronger negotiation with all employees once wages are disclosed. My own research shows that transparent wages in Sweden increased turnover among those who were subject to negative horizontal or vertical pay comparisons. Hence, pay across the board might decline rather than rise.”|
|Corporate investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion should be expected to generate a monetary return on investment. Agree||“Firms that cater to nonfinancial stakeholders earn positive abnormal returns. For example, a research paper I published in 2009, “With Greater Power Comes Greater Responsibility? Takeover Protection and Corporate Attention to Stakeholders,” finds that corporate attention to diversity leads to long-term shareholder value, even if the market undervalues DEI investments in the short run. Investors have an important role to play in advancing DEI efforts, and there is a strong case to be made for integrating DEI into investment decisions. This is especially critical in the startup space, where venture capitalists are still far from being well equipped to incorporate DEI dimensions into their decisions. They lack the relevant screening and selecting capabilities, and their valuation models are not adjusted to deal with DEI initiatives. Yet VCs are more aware of and ready to integrate DEI objectives than ever before. Thus, change is imminent.”|
|Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Agree||“Howard Schultz is trying to have his Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino and drink it too. He feels the need to save money on wages and benefits, but he also doesn’t want to leave a bad taste in the mouth of his left-leaning clientele (DellaPosta et al. “Why Do Liberals Drink Lattes?‚” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 120, no. 5, 2015). Starbucks seems to be claiming that it’s prohibited from unilaterally increasing wages at stores that have a union, which rings hollow. In truth, they probably feel they have no choice but to float this and simply hope that the blowback is limited, given the increase in input costs (with coffee futures having doubled over the past year) and a potentially weakening economy that might not allow them to pass the extra cost on to their customers.”|
|Sanctions against Russia will cause multinational companies to consider human rights protections in supply chains more broadly. Strongly agree||“The recent public outcry to disengage from Russia is unprecedented in scale, but in fact, the call for organizations to consider human rights in supply chains has been growing over many years. As is often the case in ESG topics, Europe is leading the way, including the German Supply Chain Act of 2021, and the announcement of the EU’s intent to ban products made with forced labor. Awareness and calls for action in the U.S. will follow, naturally, but certainly the pace will now be accelerated, as the widespread shunning of Russia has demonstrated to activists and watchdogs the scale of what is possible.”|
|Blockchain is more likely to be a sustaining innovation than a disruptive innovation in the financial sector. Agree||“The Financial Times recently ran an article stating that Diem, the cryptocurrency promoted by Facebook, was essentially killed off due to lack of support from Janet Yellen. It’s clear that U.S. regulators and Congress want to promote innovation, but they’re more risk-averse than excited about what the results might look like. In a more laissez-faire world, there would be an abundance of both disruptive and sustaining innovations from cryptocurrency and other blockchain applications. In the world we live in, both types of innovation will still arise, but more of the latter than the former. In a more laissez-faire world, there would be an abundance of both disruptive and sustaining innovations from cryptocurrency and other blockchain applications. In the world we live in, both types of innovation will still arise but more of the latter than the former.”|
|Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Agree||
“We all want to see the world change for the better, but in reality change is hard, due to coordination problems such as lack of power to make a difference. ESG-friendly asset managers can be powerful agents of change because of their strong influence on the financial sector. But are they actually providing the changes that ESG investors want to see?
There are many issues. For example, many funds screen firms based on emission intensity: a measure of carbon emissions scaled by their revenues. But decreasing intensity could mean that emissions are still growing, just at a slower rate than revenues. Furthermore, asset managers know that there is substantial evidence that ESG funds underperform. Therefore, they may have an incentive to subtly stray from the ESG paradigm, to improve results.”
|When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Strongly disagree||
“It's wrong to pay off a ransomware artist, because it only encourages future ransomware attacks. (Also, be aware that the attackers don't always fulfill their end of the bargain.) Instead, for a fraction of the cost of a ransomware payout, an organization should protect itself by investing in state-of-the-art security solutions. For example, next-generation email security uses machine learning to detect impersonation attacks (spear phishing), which are the most common attack vector for ransomware criminals. SaaS (software-as-a-service) makes it easy to deploy.
Even if you never remove 100% of the risk, attackers generally target organizations with fewer protections rather than spending a lot of effort on a well-protected firm. You don’t want to be the slowest gazelle in the herd.”
|Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Neither agree nor disagree||“In many cases, it will improve aspects that are easy to measure but harm aspects that are difficult to measure. Removing commuting time and further blurring of the line between working and nonworking will lead to additional hours spent doing work. In addition, employee productivity may rise. But there will often be less-tangible downsides: Communication barriers will increase, collaboration will decline, and employee sense of attachment and loyalty to their employer may be lost. What may emerge is a temporal trade-off: On the one hand, gains in the tangible outcomes will improve firm performance in the short term. On the other hand, losses in intangible outcomes will contribute to lower performance in the long term.”|
|The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Strongly agree||“In times of uncertainty, the ability to adapt is an important source of a firm’s competitive advantage. Therefore, I would expect the pandemic to increase the critical importance of strategic and operational agility. In terms of the former, I anticipate that business strategy will be more frequently used to detect and to navigate unanticipated shifts in the market, such as shocks to the demand of products and services or disruption of established business models. In terms of the latter, operations will have to be reinvented to increase resilience to environmental jolts. Both strategic and operational agility will gain greater ground across many firms and many industries, even those traditionally operating in less volatile conditions.”|