Call for Manuscripts – Special Issue of Business Ethics Quarterly Due June 1, 2009 (see instructions below)

SI Guest Editors:
Bradley R. Agle, University of Pittsburgh
James J. Chrisman, Mississippi State University
Ronald K. Mitchell, Texas Tech University
Laura J. Spence, Brunel University

Family enterprises i.e., firms in which members of a family exert significant influence through controlling ownership and/or management, are the most common and pervasive form of business organization throughout the world (La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, Shleifer, 1999, Journal of Finance). While most of the small and medium firms are family controlled, founding family members are active in some of the largest firms in the world such as Cargill, Ford, IKEA, and Wal-Mart. In the S&P 500 firms, family enterprises have been found to out-perform their non-family counterparts (Andersen & Reeb, 2003, Journal of Finance). Research indicates the long term orientation of family enterprises as these firms endure through multiple generations of leaders and industry life cycles (Miller & Le-Breton Miller, 2005, Long Range Planning).

Two distinct sub-systems of family and business co-exist in family enterprises, sometimes peacefully, and sometimes not so peacefully (e.g., Mitchell, Morse, & Sharma, 2003; Journal of Business Venturing). The differences between the family and business systems are fundamental in nature, and as such cause problems in the ongoing social interface within these organizations and among their stakeholders. The incidence of misunderstandings, miscommunications, working at cross-purposes, increased politicization of the work roles, misuse of the natural environment, and other social misalignments (Mitchell & O’Neil, 1998, Small Business and Enterprise Development) increase the incidence of social friction (Williamson, 1981, American Journal of Sociology) providing a fertile field for ethical dilemmas, theory-of-the-firm-based problems, and environmental impact.

Does family involvement in the firm influence how a firm responds to its stakeholder, ethical, and environmental demands? Although important advances have been made in each of these research arenas generally, limited attention has been devoted to exploring stakeholder/ ethics/ environment issues within family-enterprise research.

For this conference, and special edition of BEQ (Business Ethics Quarterly), we therefore seek to encourage research that explores one or more points of intersection, that is, how family businesses, and their business families, deal with stakeholder and ethics challenges, some of which may also include implications for the natural environment. Although not exhaustive, questions of special interest center on the following:

  • What can stakeholder theory contribute to explaining the impact of family involvement in the firm?
  • How might stakeholder theory develop to clarify the diverse and often unpredictable demands of family involvement?
  • To what extent can stakeholder research illuminate the role of gender, family mix, differences among generations, in-law relationships, and different forms of family in family firms? For example, where all groups may consider themselves to be legitimate stakeholders – with high
    power and urgent needs, how does such added complexity among a so-called “definitive” stakeholder mix invoke new stakeholder theory development?
  • To what extent are there similar or different family- and non-family-enterprise- theories of duty to stakeholders?
  • What are the unique moral challenges that families in business face and what does extant research have to say about how these challenges are met?
  • How do existing theories and frameworks of business ethics or corporate social responsibility apply to firms where family members are involved?
  • What is the role of virtue in the public and private morality found in family enterprise?
  • How is the ethical blue-print of the founder replicated and evolved through succession in family firms? To what extent is leaving an ethical legacy a motivator for founding members of family firms?
  • Do the ethical issues in family firms in developing country contexts differ from those in developed countries? What are the reasons for the difference or lack thereof?
  • Are family firms more or less ethical than non-family firms and if so in what ways? What are the reasons for the difference or lack thereof?
  • How do stakeholder, ethical theories and CSR frameworks relate to the environment and sustainable development in firms where family members are involved?
  • To what extent does being a family-intensive entity influence how environmental sustainability is addressed?
  • To address these questions, we seek a broad range of submissions, and encourage conceptual and empirical (quantitative or qualitative) contributions that make use of the various perspectives emerging within the stakeholder, business ethics, corporate social responsibility, environmental, and other literatures in relevant fields of inquiry. We welcome normative/ philosophical/ critical and conventional social scientific manuscripts. Both quantitative and qualitative empirical research is encouraged. Manuscripts should ideally make a contribution that justifies their length, but in any event should not exceed 12,000 words including references, tables, figures, and appendices.

    All manuscripts (including submissions via the Family Enterprise Research Conference) should be prepared according to the BEQ guidelines for contributions, because it is expected that submission to the Conference is a valuable opportunity to fine-tune papers before submission to the journal.

    More information: