Thus far, responsible management and related areas, such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability and business ethics, have largely ignored that past beliefs about what is considered (ir)responsible are reconstructed over time. In this chapter, we address this oversight and develop a collective memory perspective that acknowledges the reconstruction of responsibility, sustainability and ethics over time, as a result of ongoing mnemonic struggles between a variety of actors including business firms and their managers, as well as other stakeholders, like civil society groups and the media. We show how the contemporary understanding of (ir)responsibility is contingent upon mnemonic struggles over what the past should encompass, as well as mnemonic work, different remembering and forgetting practices, the (re-)interpretation of mnemonic traces and the cultural context in which these processes take place. We outline key issues and concepts that should be taken into consideration in the practice of responsible management, where issues related to the past are concerned. We contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of responsible management that attends to a responsible management of the past, as well.
Lauren McCarthy and Sébastien Mena
This chapter examines the institutional work individuals perform towards responsible management practices, which we term ‘responsibilization work’. Reviewing existing research, we show how responsibilization work includes changing norms, creating new standards and creating new markets for responsible management. We demonstrate how different actors – not just managers or firms – are involved in responsibilization work, and how we need to examine its consequences, both intended and unintended. Notably, we stress that individuals may also work to maintain the status quo, i.e. to protect institutions and their practices considered irresponsible, unsustainable and unethical. We suggest that future research on institutional work and responsible management should: (1) address substantive social change (not just symbolic adoption); (2) not only focus on prominent institutional workers such as managers, but take a more encompassing interactionist perspective, and (3) take an explicit normative stance on whether institutional work is beneficial or detrimental, by surfacing power relations.