“Health is Everyone’s Business: Embodying Business-Health Rese
Business and Health Grand Challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world aware that improving public health is one of the grand challenges to be tackled urgently in order to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the planet and the well-being of millions of people around the world (Montiel et al., 2022). COVID-19 has revealed that health crises at local and global levels remain a critical grand challenge. In fact, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for immediate action not only for SDG 3 on Good Health and Well-being, but also for other SDGs, including SDG 2 on Zero Hunger (United Nations, 2015).
Business and health are intrinsically connected. From occupational health with its emphasis on the wellbeing and productivity of the workforce, to community health issues that address the health of consumers and surrounding populations, business can only thrive if their stakeholders enjoy good health and well-being. Yet business scholars have mainly paid attention to the health of internal stakeholders such as employees (Christian et al., 2009; Danna & Griffin, 1999; Ganster & Rosen, 2013; Macik-Frey et al., 2007; Stone, 1994) and executives (DeFrank et al., 2000; Neck & Cooper, 2000) and the management of healthcare organizations (Blair & Boal, 1991; Brown et al., 2015; Fottler, 1987; Mayo et al., 2021), through public health policy and regulations (Jacobson, 1994; Nill et al., 2019; Oliver, 2005). While notable, these topics directly affect business, while overlooking the impact of business on the health of external stakeholders such as local communities and, to a lesser extent, consumers (Park et al., 2022). Public health scholars have defined the concept of “corporate” or “commercial determinants of health” (CDoH) (de LacyVawdon & Livingstone, 2020) and describe business practices as being antithetical to the interests of public health.
Business has the opportunity to be a major player in the race to tackle the grand challenge of public health, along with its joint efforts with governments, civil society organizations, and other local and global stakeholders (Sachs et al., 2019). Given its substantial influence in shaping population health (Freudenberg, 2014), business needs to play a key role in addressing pressing health challenges by taking into account both the direct and indirect impacts of its practices on the health of its stakeholders (Baum et al., 2016; Schrempf, 2014).
To encompass the health externalities generated by business activities, the goal of this proposed Special Issue is three-fold. First, the Special Issue intends to open a place for advancing the discussion of the role of business in tackling health challenges and the impact of business on the health of all relevant stakeholders including employees, consumers, and communities. Second, this Special Issue will be a springboard to propose ideas for business and management scholars and practitioners interested in health and the advancement in the SDGs for not only SDG 3 but all of the SDGs that have health impacts on Good Health and Well-being such as SDG 2 on Zero Hunger and SDG 13 on Climate Action (Montiel et al., 2021). Third, the Special Issue will offer research opportunities and interdisciplinary insights in the business-health literature along with some recommendations for an interdisciplinary approach to the literature.
We invite papers to be considered for a Business & Society Special Issue on “Health is
Everyone’s Business: Embodying Business-Health Research.” This Special Issue welcomes a wide array of studies taking different research approaches, including theoretical and conceptual studies, quantitative and qualitative studies, and case studies. Building on the potential research questions offered by a set of recent studies at the interface of business and health (Montiel et al., 2022; Park et al., 2022), we identify key themes and questions for the business-health literature:
• How business can help prevent the emergence of communicable-disease epidemics from outbreaks by filling voids in health regulation when present (transferring epidemic prevention technology and knowledge to host countries, engaging in corporate political activity to improve health regulatory systems, etc.)
• How business can help prevent the shift of a localized epidemic into a global pandemic by re-assessing their global supply chain management and international travel practices
Non-communicable diseases and commercial determinants of health
• How trade, pressure for economic growth, and increasing market penetration in low and middle-income countries contribute to or prevent non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cancer
• How business contributes to promoting social benefits in facing health challenges by examining the causal links between specific corporate practices and their health impacts
Articulation of and participation in health challenges
• Identification of health challenges o How actors identify health challenges and decide to participate based on ethical decision making by individuals in organizations, issues management, social movements, and stakeholders
• Microfoundations approach to health challenges o How and why CEOs or top management teams recognize health challenges as business issues and make decisions to tackle health challenges (e.g., perceived social class origins, personal experience of poverty, caste/religion)
• Social connection approach to health challenges o How social connections shape a firm’s health agenda
• Societal barriers and health challenges o Individual barriers: How individual attitudes and beliefs may negatively affect a firm’s attempts to improve health
o Technological barriers: How lack of healthcare infrastructure prevents business from promoting health
o Socio-cultural barriers: How culture, religion, and tradition affect business efforts at participating in health challenges depending on the region of intervention
o Structural barriers: How income inequality and educational access shape a firm’s health initiatives
• Determinants of health interventions o Why firms adopt certain health initiatives and not others
o When firms become reactive, defensive, accommodative, or proactive in responding to health challenges
o Why preparedness for low-probability events with devastating consequences, like pandemics, tends to place so low in terms of multilevel actions
• Internal decision making for health interventions
o How corporate governance and different notions of proximity of the firm to sick people, whether geographic, cultural, or social, among others, influence corporate decisions in developing business-health interventions
• Organizational constraints on health interventions o How conflicts of interest among actors and distribution of costs and benefits of health interventions affect their adoption or implementation
o How the distribution of costs and benefits perceived as unfair can impede the adoption or implementation of health interventions
• Institutional context for health interventions o How the influence of elites on institutions and/or corruption can undermine government regulation of marketing and advertising for junk foods
o How institutional contexts influence corporate initiatives to tackle health challenges
Health outcomes and impact
• Firm-level health performance o What firm-level health performance indicators can be developed (e.g., corporate health impact assessments or impact of business activities on external stakeholder health)
o How firms report publicly on health outcomes and impact metrics as well as healthrelated practices
o What a firm’s health-washing is: whether business health interventions improve health outcomes and impact metrics or are merely symbolic actions in the overall corporate health assessment
o Why health resources and capabilities explain the effect of corporate health strategies aimed at internal and external stakeholders on firm performance and health impact
• Societal-level health outcomes o What health-related SDG targets and indicators can be used as measures of societallevel health outcomes
o How firm-level health performance contributes to societal-level health outcomes based on systems thinking
• Coordinating architectures for multilevel actions towards health challenges o How business and other stakeholders coordinate a wide array of needs, resources, and capabilities through a multilevel health initiative, building on resource mobilization, stakeholder management, public-private partnerships, and crosssector partnerships
o How multiple actors make the best use of polycentric global health governance, organizational structure, and norms to maintain resource commitments to health initiatives
• Reinforcing mechanisms for multilevel actions towards health challenges o When CEOs and top management teams support corporate health initiatives in the face of competing demands within the organization
o How business and other actors maintain attention to current health initiatives in the face of other pressing social and environmental grand challenges such as world hunger, refugee and displaced populations, climate change and biodiversity loss About the Journal
Business & Society aims to be the leading, peer-reviewed outlet for scholarly work dealing specifically with the intersection of business and society. The journal publishes research that develops, tests and refines theory, which enhances our understanding of important societal issues and their relation to business. The journal’s two-year impact factor is 7.389, ranked 29 out of 153 journals in the business category of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR).
About the Guest Editors
Bryan W. Husted (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is a Professor of Management of the EGADE Business School of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico. His research is located at the intersection of business and society, including topics such as corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and business ethics. He is also the leader of the Research Group in Social Innovation and Sustainability at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. His work has appeared in such journals as Organization Science, Journal of International Business Studies, and Strategic Management Journal, among others. His book, Salvaging Corporate Sustainability, with Michael Barnett and Irene Henriques was recently published by Edward Elgar Press. Finally, he is a member of the Mexican National System of Researchers – Level 3.
Fred D. Ledley (MD, Georgetown University) is Professor of Natural & Applied Science and Management at Bentley University and the Founding Director of the Center for Integration of Science and Industry at Bentley University. An accomplished physician scientist, entrepreneur, and educator he is the author of >200 research papers in fields ranging from genetic medicine and biotechnology to strategic drug development and the financing of pharmaceutical innovation. He served previously on the faculties of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Baylor College of Medicine and was the founder of several biotechnology companies, serving variously as VP R&D, President and CEO. His current research focuses on advancing the translation of scientific discoveries for public value by promoting synergies between science, business, and public policy. Recent studies focus on the characterizing public and private sector investments in pharmaceutical innovation and the multifarious returns on these investments including impacts on public health, job creation, and economic growth.
Ivan Montiel (PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara) is an Associate Professor of Corporate Sustainability at the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, the City University of New York. He investigates how businesses can contribute to solving social and environmental grand challenges such as human health and climate change. He is particularly interested in the role of businesses in addressing such challenges in Latin America. His research has appeared in the Journal of International Business Studies, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Journal of Policy Analysis & Management, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Journal of Business Ethics, Organization & Environment, and Business & Society, among others. He acts as Associate Editor for Business & Society and serves on the Editorial Review Boards of Journal of Business Ethics and Journal of World Business.
Jill A. Brown (PhD, University of Georgia) is the Hieken Professor of Business Ethics and Professor of Management at Bentley University. Her scholarly interests include ethics, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, corporate governance and strategic leadership.
Brown’s work has been published in Organization Science, Journal of Business Ethics, Business Ethics Quarterly, Business & Society, and California Management Review, to name a few. She is a Co-Editor of the Business & Society journal, a former Associate Editor for Journal of Business Ethics and current Associate Editor for Corporate Governance: An International Review. She is Past Division Chair of the Social Issues in Management Division (SIM) of the Academy of Management. She is also co-author of the 11th edition of the textbook Business & Society: Ethics, Sustainability and Stakeholder Management with Archie Carroll (2022; Cengage Publishing).
Junghoon Park is a PhD candidate in Management at the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, the City University of New York. He investigates mechanisms through which firms respond differently to grand challenges society faces—such as climate change and health—and how they can better manage their social and environmental impacts. He also examines how corporate sustainability strategies can advance progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. His research has been published in Journal of International Business Studies, Business & Society, and AIB Insights.
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