Patricia Bromley, Stanford University

Institutional change and the rise of win-win ideology in annual reports of US firms, 1960-2010
Patricia Bromley


Winter 2020
Lecture Time: 
Friday, January 24, 2020 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business


Despite the historical tension between social and economic goals, contemporary US firms routinely depict such aims as synergistic. Analyzing 300 annual reports from a sample of 80 large US public firms between 1960 and 2010, we examine the rise of “win-win” conceptions of social and economic value, which include both the social benefits of economic activities and economic gains from social responsibility.

Our findings support arguments than win - win ideology is a culturally contingent rhetoric tied to the emergence of a neoliberal socio-economic context. Macro-level indicators of firms’ changing institutional context including finalization of the economy, rationalization of the social sphere, and the rise of voluntary regulation schemes such as ratings and rankings, are associated with the rise of win-win rhetoric. The general socioeconomic influence is mediated by firm-level attention to its environment, which is reflected in mentions of external evaluations in annual reports. The study contributes to institutional theories of the historical development of corporate responsibility and to understanding heterogeneous organizational responses to macro-level institutional change

Recording & Additional Notes

Patricia Bromley is an Assistant Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology at Stanford University. Tricia’s research spans a range of fields including comparative education, organization theory, the sociology of education, and public administration and policy. Her work focuses on the rise and globalization of a culture emphasizing rational, scientific thinking and expansive forms of rights. Empirically, much of her research focuses on two settings – education systems and organizations. Recent publications examine the rise of emphases on human and minority rights, environmentalism, and diversity in textbooks from countries around the world; as well as the global expansion of formal organization worldwide, in numbers and internal complexity.