Management Research Award to UCLan Cyprus Academic
Interview with Dr Christos Anagnostopoulos
UCLan Cyprus Αcademic, Dr Christos Anagnostopoulos, won the prestigious Best Paper Award in this year’s ‘Managing Sport’ track at the European Academy of Management conference in Warsaw. His paper (co-authored with Tom Bason from Coventry Business School, UK), entitled ‘Corporate Social Responsibility through Sport: A Longitudinal Study of the FTSE100 Companies’, was deemed best in a competition that attracted papers from all across Europe. Christos and his colleague will have their paper published in ‘Sport Business and Management: An International Journal’ later this summer. This is a big award for Christos that reflects UCLan Cyprus’s international appeal in the sport management scholarly community and beyond.
Interviewer: Christos, congratulations! Tell us few things about this piece of research?
C.A.: Thank you. Well, as we all know, with the world now facing unprecedented economic, social and environmental challenges, multinational enterprises (MNEs) are becoming increasingly active in promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Such engagement in CSR appears to be a response from MNEs to their ever increased exposure to public scrutiny, which in turn sees these corporations investing resources in an endeavour to act in a more socially acceptable manner. Interestingly, sport seems to have been recognised as one means towards achieving such legitimacy.
Interviewer: So what did you find that is ‘happening’ when these MNEs employ sport for their CSR agendas?
C.A.: First of all, it is worth mentioning that we wanted to address a methodological limitation that previous studies had shown and that was associated with the lack of an explicit focus on longitudinality, meaning that no conclusions could be made regarding the trend. So we examined three types of document from each of the 100 firms that are listed in London’s Stock Exchange (FTSE100), namely, annual reports, annual reviews and CSR reports over the ten-year period from 2003 to 2012. So we thoroughly examined 1,473 documents that offered a sound representation of CSR disclosure of the FTSE100. From the analysis three main streams emerged: ‘Philanthropy’, ‘Sponsorships’, and ‘Personnel Engagement’ with the first showing the smallest growth compared with the other main streams. Interestingly, the last of these streams was the most common, with 82 of the firms in the study engaging their employees with sport-related activities at some point during the examined period. The philanthropy stream grew the least over the 10-year period, while MNEs continue to sponsor sporting events (mainly major ones, such as the Olympic Games) in an effort to fulfil their CSR agendas.
What’s more, young people appear to be the main beneficiaries of these CSR initiatives, although increasing emphasis is being given to women, and less to elderly people. Sport participation, health and education appear to be the intended ‘outcomes’ of these programmes, although focus varies amongst the 32 different industries that we examined. Generally, our findings show a continuous rise in CSR through sport, thereby demonstrating that the corporate world has practically acknowledged that the sporting context is a powerful vehicle for the employment of CSR.
Interviewer: So what implications all this may have for Cyprus-based firms, or even for our programmes here at UCLan Cyprus?
C.A.: This is a very good question because, at the end of the day, what matters most when conducting research is to see what may be the impact of such findings in real life; in other words, how research findings can inform the way we do things. Let me, therefore, try to answer both parts of your question. First, I don’t think we should limit our interpretation of the results to the multi-national status of the examined firms. Even ‘smaller’ firms that operate in Cyprus should see these trend and start integrating even more the notion of ‘sport’ into the way they connect with their local communities. For example, there seems to be an over-emphasis on programmes that utilize sport but that are focusing on the youth; elderly people may be another area firms could look at and position some of their CSR-related initiatives around.
As for the second part of your question, here at UCLan Cyprus, we run various business and management-related modules (and for that matter, CSR modules) so there is a clear opportunity for us to start putting more emphasis on the way firms can employ meaningful CSR programmes through sport. Put differently, our management graduates who love engaging themselves with sports can really start thinking of how they can marry business operations and sport; and I think, the idea of ‘CSR through sport’ offers the ideal platform for doing just that. Here at UCLan Cyprus, we plan to further promote this in the near future through the various initiatives like the ‘Business Idea Competition’, ‘Panorama of Innovation’ or the ‘Panorama of Entrepreneurship’. Especially within the Business School we are working towards all this and will soon have more to say to our students and general public alike.