Research aim and objectives
The struggle of the commons is a complex situation in which a large set of individuals, businesses and other organizations have access to commons and degrade the natural resources due to their own self-interest without clear rules of use (Dietz et al., 2003). It is a social dilemma in which the parties would be better of cooperating but fail to do so because of conflicts between organizational interests that discourage joint action (Aligica & Tarko, 2012). As a result, the parties are not able to act collectively to govern these resources for the long-term value of all humanity (Stern, 2011). The proposed research project addresses the struggle of the commons as a challenge in which multiple businesses overuse commons without a clear sense of direct responsibility because commons are not directly connected to their own operations (Stern, 2011). Our project proposes a novel solution to the struggle of the commons by theorizing on collective stakeholder action as a framework to understand how the business sector commits to and participates with societal and public actors in the governance of commons. In doing so, we build on two main theories: stakeholder theory (Freeman, 1984) and the theory of institutions for collective action (Ostrom, 1990, 2010), integrating business-stakeholder value-creation with polycentric governance. Empirically, we focus on one of the most urgent struggles for commons, namely, biodiversity loss (Chapin et al., 2000). To integrate the private sector in biodiversity enhancement, we explore the co-evolution of different levels: 1) business-stakeholder engagement and value-creation related to biodiversity enhancement; and 2) business-stakeholder participation in heterogeneous polycentric units dedicated to policy, decision-making and deliberation for novel solutions to biodiversity governance. Consortium structure The research consortium includes three interlinked work packages (WPs) spanning a four-year timeline. During the first three years, we will generate the dataset and do the fieldwork in WP1 and WP2. In a continuous collaboration between both research teams, we will finally integrate the results on a synthesis done in WP3. Researchers in WP1 review literature on stakeholder engagement and value-creation from the collective stakeholder action and commons governance viewpoints and conduct an explorative survey targeted at industrial companies in Finland. The survey results will offer an overview on managerial: (1) attitudes toward biodiversity; (2) understanding of the current state of biodiversity; and (3) perceptions of the importance of stakeholder engagement in biodiversity enhancement in Finnish industrial companies. Sustainability reports are analysed to examine how biodiversity issues are addressed and disclosed. Yearly in-depth interviews of companies and their stakeholders operating in the mining sector are conducted. The observation of relevant stakeholder events and meetings will provide deep information on how stakeholder relationships emerge and evolve. Researchers in WP2 review literature on polycentric governance and policy deliberation from the collective stakeholder action viewpoint and new direction for commons and Earth systems governance. They use topic modelling analysis of biodiversity topics in private, public and scientific sectors targeted at global data to gain an overview of the main topics on the biodiversity discourse over time and regions and to then, further analyse polycentric governance system structure for biodiversity and the mining sector in Finland. Yearly in-depth interviews of company representatives and other societal and public actors participating in these units help us understand the deliberative dynamic within polycentric governance units. In WP3, the findings from WP1 and WP2 are integrated to build a chain of events, timelines, main actors, deliberative processes and main changes to establish an integrated process model. The researchers will theorize on collective stakeholder action by developing a co-evolutionary and recursive process model with feedback loops between joint value-creation and polycentric governance. Aligica, P. D. & Tarko, V. (2012). Polycentricity: From Polanyi to Ostrom, and beyond. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 25(2), 237–262. Chapin III, F.S., Zavaleta, E. S., Eviner, V. T., Naylor, R. L., Votousek, P. M., Reynolds, H. L., Hooper, D. U., Lavorel, S., Sala, O. E., Hobbie, S. E., Mack, M. C., & Diaz, S. (2000). Consequences of changing biodiversity, Nature, 405, 234–242. Dietz, T., Ostrom, E. & Stern, P. (2003). The struggle to govern the commons. Science, 302, 1907–1912. Freeman, R. (1984). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Boston: Pitman. Ostrom E. (1990). Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. New York: Cambridge University Press. Ostrom, E. (2010). Beyond markets and states: Polycentric governance of complex economic systems. American Economic Review, 100(3), 1–33. Stern P.C. (2011). Design principles for global commons: natural resources and emerging technologies. International Journal of the Commons, 5(2), 213–232.
Collective stakeholder action as a co-evolutionary and recursive process between joint value-creation and polycentric governance
Biodiversity as a common
Biodiversity is associated with commons at many different scales, from local to regional and planetary (Berkes, 2002). The starting point for biodiversity conservation and traditional commons research is the use and ownership of land, in which most natural resources can be classified as common-pool resources and governed as local common-property systems (Ostrom, 1990). However, biodiversity is not confined to a specific resource or area; rather, it extends to value systems and large scales of genetic, species and ecosystem diversity (Chapin et al., 2000). Locally, biodiversity as commons appears in many collaborative stakeholder activities, such as urban gardening (Pikner et al., 2020) and boundary-crossing nature conservation (Nygren et al., 2017). Berkes, F. (2002). Cross-Scale Institutional Linkages: Perspectives from the Bottom Up. In E. Ostrom, T. Dietz, N. Dolsak, P. C. Stern, S. Stonisch, & E. U. Weber, E.U. (eds) The Drama of the Commons (293–321). Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Chapin III, F.S., Zavaleta, E. S., Eviner, V. T., Naylor, R. L., Votousek, P. M., Reynolds, H. L., Hooper, D. U., Lavorel, S., Sala, O. E., Hobbie, S. E., Mack, M. C., & Diaz, S. (2000). Consequences of changing biodiversity, Nature, 405, 234–242. Nygren, N. V., Jokinen, A. & Nikula, A. (2017). Unlearning in managing wicked biodiversity problems. Landscape and Urban Planning, 167, 473–482. Ostrom E. (1990). Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. New York: Cambridge University Press. Pikner, T., Willman, K., & Jokinen, A. (2020) Urban commoning as a vehicle between government institutions and informality: collective gardening practices in Tampere and Narva. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 44(4), 711–729.
In this research, stakeholder engagement is looked at as a relational phenomenon (Kujala et al. 2022). A stakeholder is a ”group or individual who can affect or is effected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives” (Freeman 1984, p. 46) and stakeholder engagement consists of the aims, activities and impacts of stakeholder relationships (Kujala & Sachs 2019). Taking a relational view of stakeholder engagement means moving away from a business-centric view to a relational view, where both economic and non-economic value is created in stakeholder relationships (Tapaninaho & Kujala 2019). Stakeholder engagement is understood as an activity that enhances collective stakeholder action and enables joint-value creation. Tapaninaho, R. & Kujala, J. (2019). Reviewing the stakeholder value creation literature: Towards a sustainability approach. In Leal Filho, Walter (ed.) Social Responsibility and Sustainability: How Businesses and Organizations Can Operate in a Sustainable and Socially Responsible Way? 3–36. Berlin: Springer. Kujala, J. & Sachs S. (2019). The practice of stakeholder engagement. In J. Harrison, J. Barney, & R. E. Freeman (eds.) The Cambridge handbook of stakeholder theory (121–140). Cambridge University Press. Freeman, R. (1984). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Boston: Pitman. Kujala, J., Sachs, S., Leinonen, H., Heikkinen, A., & Laude, D. (2022). Stakeholder Engagement: Past, Present, and Future. Business & Society, 000765032110665. https://doi.org/10.1177/00076503211066595
Collective stakeholder action
We conceptualize collective stakeholder action as a process based on the co-evolutionary and recursive interaction between business-stakeholder joint value-creation (Freeman et al., 2010), and participating and convening in polycentric governance with societal and public actors (Patala, Albareda & Halme, 2018). The interconnection is enabled through a deliberative dynamic for collective action by which conflicts and dissensus eventually generate learning and deliberation. In turn, this produces outcomes, such as a mutual understanding of the struggle of the commons and propositions for innovative solutions (Dietz et al., 2003; Dryzek, 2010; Heikkila et al., 2018). The ongoing cycle of adaptation changes private behavioral patterns over time and generates a commitment to novel cooperative policy and industry norms, eventually leading to institutional change (Ostrom, 2010). Dietz, T., Ostrom, E. & Stern, P. (2003). The struggle to govern the commons. Science, 302, 1907–1912. Dryzek, J. S. (2010). Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Freeman, R., Harrison, J., Wicks, A., Parmar, B. & de Colle, S. (2010). Stakeholder Theory. The State of the Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Heikkila, T., Villamayor, Tomas, S. & Garrick, D. (2018). Bringing polycentric systems into focus for environmental governance. Environmental Policy and Governance, 28 (4), 207–211. Ostrom, E. (2010). Polycentric systems for coping with collective action and global environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 20, 550–557. Patala, S., Albareda, L. & Halme, M. (2018). Polycentric governance of privately owned resources in circular economy systems. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2018 (1), 16634.
Compared to centralized governance, polycentric governance includes multiple autonomous decision and policy-making units that act in overlapping jurisdictions (Aligika & Tarko, 2012). Furthermore, public, private and societal actors, with conflicting logics, participate in these units and interact in processes of deliberation and conflict (Heikkila et al., 2018). A polycentric governance system facilitates mutual adjustments between actors, while also promoting cross-scale linkages between units (Carlisle & Gruby, 2017). Over time, these linkages generate an overarching order of collective action across the system (Galaz et al., 2012). Although polycentric governance has attracted the attention of scholars in the environmental governance, policy and economics fields, most of the literature has paid little attention to the role of businesses (Albareda & Sison, 2020). Aligica, P. D. & Tarko, V. (2012). Polycentricity: From Polanyi to Ostrom, and beyond. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 25(2), 237–262. Carlisle, K. & Gruby, R. B. (2017). Polycentric systems of governance: A theoretical model for the commons. Policy Studies Journal, 47(4), 927–952. Galaz, V., Crona, B., Österblom, H. & Folke, C. (2012). Polycentric systems and interacting planetary boundaries: Emerging governance of climate change-ocean acidification-marine biodiversity. Ecological Economics, 81, 21–32. Heikkila, T., Villamayor, Tomas, S. & Garrick, D. (2018). Bringing polycentric systems into focus for environmental governance. Environmental Policy and Governance, 28(4), 207–211.
Joint value creation
This research project builds on stakeholder theory to understand business-stakeholder relationships and joint value creation (Freeman et al., 2010). Stakeholder theory explicitly acknowledges that joint value creation necessitates stakeholder engagement in the face of collective action and governance systems adopting learning and deliberation processes (Bridoux & Stoelhorst, 2020). We understand joint value creation as a relational phenomenon emphasizing stakeholder relationships as a unit of analysis (Kujala et al., 2019; Tapaninaho, 2022). We examine stakeholder engagement (Kujala et al., 2022) through which multidimensional value can be created for businesses and stakeholders while promoting sustainability (Tapaninaho & Heikkinen, 2022). The focus of our analysis is on relationships between businesses, stakeholders, and public actors that aim to cope with biodiversity enhancement as a commons problem. Freeman, R. E., Harrison, J. S., Wicks, A. C., Parmar, B. L., & De Colle, S. (2010). Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art. Cambridge University Press. Kujala, J., Lehtimäki, H., & Freeman, R. E. (2019). A stakeholder approach to value creation and leadership. In Kangas, A., Kujala, J., Heikkinen, A., Lönnqvist, A., Laihonen, H. & Bethwaite, J. (eds.) Leading Change in a Complex World: Transdisciplinary Perspectives. Tampere University Press, 123–143. Kujala, J., Sachs, S., Leinonen, H., Heikkinen, A., & Laude, D. (2022). Stakeholder Engagement: Past, Present, and Future. Business & Society, 61(5), 1136–1196. Tapaninaho, R. (2022). Stakeholder Value Creation at the Intersection of Business and Sustainability. Doctoral Dissertation. Tampere University. Tapaninaho, R. & Heikkinen, A. (2022). Value creation in circular economy business for sustainability: A stakeholder relationship perspective. Business Strategy and the Environment, 31(6), 2728–2740.