Special Issue on 'Green Innovation in the Digital Era: Capitalizing on Digital Technology to Expand Green Innovation Research and Practice'
Xuemei Xie1, Can Huang2, Evelyn Micelotta3, Hao Tan4
1 Tongji University, 2 Zhejiang University, 3 University of Ottawa, 4 University of Newcastle
Submission deadline: September 20, 2023
The Paris Agreement calls for a cooperative response to climate change while reaffirming the principles of equity and shared but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities. Both government regulations and market demand require enterprises to provide low-carbon products and services (El-Kassar & Singh, 2019), reflecting the push for responsible action on the part of companies and their stakeholders (Bauer et al., 2020). A key strategy firms can adopt in this respect involves embracing green innovation—specifically product, process, marketing, or organizational innovation—to significantly reduce the environmental burden of their operations (García-Granero et al., 2020; Xie et al., 2019). Such a reduction can occur through actions taken within enterprises or through customers’ use of products or services (Horbach et al., 2012; Xie et al., 2016).
Over the past four decades, digital technologies have disrupted many industries (Rahmati et al., 2021). Recently, many enterprises have experienced the “green revolution” brought about by digital technologies through advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and the growing availability of data (Gregory et al., 2020). Digitalization, connectivity, and big data are considered important tools that enterprises can use to accelerate the growth of their green business practices (Savage, 2018). Recently analyzed phenomena indicate that big data, AI, and other digital technologies create opportunities for enterprises to transform their processes and mechanisms as they adopt green innovation and promote new sustainable business models globally. For example, the big-data approach has been used to identify environmental violators at regional levels (Chang et al., 2020), and information systems can foster large-scale business transformation to sustainability by supporting green technologies (Hanelt et al., 2016).
The United Nations’ Digital Economy Report 2021 indicated that the conventional, connectivity-related digital divide was being compounded by the data-related divide; the United Nations thus called for closing this digital divide and ensuring that no country would be left behind in the fast-evolving, data-driven digital economy. As an emerging economy, China, by exploring a unique path to economic development, has affirmed its commitment to enabling green industrial development through digitalization (Ying et al., 2022). The country has launched national strategies and taken actions to accelerate the green development of its economy and its social transformation through the New Development Philosophy. In 2016, China launched the Green Manufacturing System program, which continues operating today. In 2020, China pledged to reach its carbon emissions peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 (i.e., the ‘double-carbon goal’). At the same time, China’s digital economy grew from CNY 22.6 trillion in 2016 to CNY 39.2 trillion in 2020, accounting for 38.6 percent of China’s GDP in 2020.
Chinese enterprises are facing dual challenges as they strive both to improve financial performance and protect the environment. Faced with increasingly tighter environmental regulations, they need to integrate digitalization into the broader processes that drive green innovation. Some outstanding Chinese enterprises (e.g., Huawei, Tencent, BYD, and CATL) have achieved significant progress by balancing environmental and financial performance through their green and digitalization strategies. This success provides researchers with valuable opportunities to explore emerging management phenomena and ask the following sorts of questions: In what processes and mechanisms do Chinese companies use digital technologies to promote green innovation? What are the most important factors driving this process and are they endogenous or exogenous? How does green innovation drive stakeholders to become involved?
Previous studies, using stakeholder theory (e.g., Pucci et al., 2020; Qi et al., 2013), the resource-based view (e.g., Kraus et al., 2020; Li et al., 2016), institutional theory (e.g., Chu et al., 2018; Sun & Chen, 2019), and the upper echelons perspective (Fu et al., 2020), have already provided evidence that a positive relationship exists between green innovation and corporate performance. Although these studies have identified some practical lessons regarding green innovation activities in the digital era (Ning & Guo, 2022; Santoalha et al., 2021), they lack a comprehensive theoretical perspective that can effectively explain how enterprises respond to green innovation through digital technologies (Faucheux & Nicolaï, 2011).
First, most existing research on green innovation has focused on external government regulation as its main antecedent (e.g., Berrone et al., 2013; Li et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2020), yet the resulting studies have paid insufficient attention to response mechanisms inside organizations. As global economic and digital integration continues to evolve, some researchers have begun to connect digitalization with green innovation (e.g., Aguilera et al., 2021; Santoalha et al., 2021). Other researchers have called for increased attention to internal processes, such as transforming digital resources (Wang et al., 2020), reconstructing digital capabilities (Santoalha et al., 2021), and strengthening digital governance (Koo & Eesley, 2021), that connect digitalization with green innovation.
Second, research has not yet fully examined diversified green innovation from the perspective of digitalization. Prior studies have indicated that a complex relationship exists between diversified technologies and green innovation (Santoalha et al., 2021) while identifying diversifying technological relatedness as a key driver of green specialization (Ning & Guo, 2022). Therefore, digital technologies may produce varying gradations of green innovation along the product, process, organizational, and marketing dimensions (García-Granero et al., 2020; Hartmann et al., 2021).
Third, current studies have not yet expanded the area of overlap between digitalization and green innovation by shedding light on the mechanisms that might mediate or moderate the hypothesized relationships that would be involved. On the one hand, some scholars have considered the roles that internal stakeholders play in green sustainability governance, focusing variously on boards of directors, CEOs (e.g., chief sustainability officer), top management teams (e.g., green transformational leadership), and employees (e.g., green human resources management, green intellectual capital), while also exploring their roles in green innovation itself (Aguilera et al., 2021; Asiaei et al., 2021; Boiral et al., 2018; Camboim et al., 2018; Frankenberger & Stam, 2020; Fu et al., 2020; Ren et al., 2021). On the other hand, previous studies have focused on external stakeholders’ digital involvement in conventional markets (e.g., Chang & Taylor, 2016; Cui & Wu, 2016) or on how customers can be encouraged to become involved in a firm’s green innovation (e.g., Schwartz & Loewenstein, 2020), but digital platforms have already gone beyond conventional market mechanisms by utilizing digital means to coordinate activities within organizational boundaries (Chen et al., 2022). In these contexts, the conditions under which digital platforms can deliver their stakeholders’ green value propositions also merit investigation (Carrasco-Farré et al., 2022; Kopalle et al., 2020).
In summary, current studies have yet to fully examine green innovation in the digital era, particularly in the Chinese context, leaving many important questions unanswered. Therefore, in this special issue, we seek submissions that analyze the green challenges faced by Chinese enterprises in the digital era.
For this special issue, we welcome submissions that draw on various conceptual and theoretical perspectives and adopt diverse approaches (e.g., grounded theory, interviews, case studies, questionnaire surveys) and multiple levels of analysis. Both quantitative and qualitative works are welcome. We particularly welcome conceptual, theoretical, and qualitative papers based on studies that explore the internal mechanisms that drive Chinese enterprises’ green innovation in the digital era, including but not limited to the following topics:
- How do the green opportunities and/or risks that Chinese enterprises face in the digital era differ from those they have faced in the past? How do digital technologies empower traditional firms operating in typical industrial sectors to ‘go green’ in keeping with the national goals of carbon peak and carbon neutrality?
- What are the processes and mechanisms through which digitalization can induce enterprises to establish green oriented business models?
- How do Chinese enterprises use AI and big data to achieve green process innovation, especially in connection with clean and end-of-pipe technologies? For this process, what digital capabilities are enterprises developing and how are they developing them (e.g., replacing existing capabilities or creating new capabilities)?
- How is green value created in typical digital application scenarios? How should customers be involved in green production innovation? How does digitalization enable multiple stakeholders (e.g., users, employees, suppliers, and governments involved in green innovation) to create green value?
- How can enterprises generate and maintain a green competitive advantage through digitalization? In the digitalization process, green innovation can be seen as exerting external pressure while digitalization serves as an internal tool. Following the resource-based view, how can we reframe the two resources to expand theoretical boundaries?
- What new changes in green management innovation have occurred in the digital era? How does digitalization affect green management innovation (e.g., green human resource management and organizational citizenship behavior)? How has the relationship between green intellectual capital and internal management changed?
- How has the relationship between entrepreneurs and green innovation changed in the digital era? What is the role of green-oriented responsible entrepreneurship and co-entrepreneurship?
- How does green transformational leadership differ from traditional transformational leadership in the digital era? How does green transformational leadership affect green innovation behavior on the part of employees? What is the relationship between top management teams’ attention to green issues and green innovation?
SPECIAL ISSUE TIMELINE
- Proposal and Full Paper Submission (deadline September 30, 2023): Please submit proposals or full papers to Senior Editor Professor Xuemei Xie (email@example.com) under the following subject line: ‘Green Innovation in Chinese Enterprises in the Digital Era Proposal’. The proposal should specify the targeted data source(s), format, develop intended research questions, and justify the motivation. The authors of accepted proposals will be invited to submit full papers via the MOR submission website: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mor by September 30, 2023.
- Publication of the Special Issue (TBD)
Xuemei Xie is Professor in the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, China. Her research interests cover green innovation, collaborative innovation, the innovation ecosystem, and female entrepreneurship. She serves as a Senior Editor of Management and Organization Review. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Industry and Innovation, the Journal of Innovation & Knowledge, and the Sustainable Technology and Entrepreneurship Journal, and she reviews studies for more than 20 international peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Business Venturing, the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, and the British Journal of Management. She has published more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed, high-impact academic journals globally in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategy. She has been awarded four research grants by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and one major grant for a major project by the National Social Science Fund of China (chief expert).
Can Huang is Professor, Associate Dean, Executive Deputy Director of the National Institute for Innovation Management, and Co-Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property Management at the School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. His research interests include innovation management, intellectual property rights, and science and technology policy. He serves as Deputy Editor of Management and Organization Review. He is also an Associate Editor of Technovation and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of International Business Studies, the Journal of International Business Policy, Industry and Innovation, Science and Public Policy, the International Journal of Innovation Studies, and three other academic journals.
Evelyn Micelotta is Associate Professor of Management at the Telfer School of Management, the University of Ottawa, and the Desmarais Associate Professor in Family Business. She is a Member of the Family Enterprise Legacy Institute (FELI) at the Telfer School of Management. Her research interests include institutional maintenance and change, sociocultural dynamics in family businesses, and the role of institutional factors in shaping global entrepreneurship. She is a qualitative researcher who has applied several qualitative methods, ranging from case studies to historical archival research, to examine firms in international contexts. She serves as Senior Editor of the FT journal Organization Studies and as Associate Editor of Family Business Review, the primary outlet for family-business research, for which she is a guest editor of a forthcoming Special Issue on ‘History and Family Business’. She serves on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Management, the Journal of Management Studies, and Management and Organization Review and she is a reviewer for several other premier management journals. Her research has been published in international peer-reviewed publications such as the Academy of Management Annals, the Journal of Management, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Organization Studies, and the Global Strategy Journal. She is also the author of a forthcoming book in the Cambridge Elements in Organization Theory series.
Hao Tan is Associate Professor and International Engagement Director at Newcastle Business School at the University of Newcastle Australia. He previously served in a number of leadership roles at the university, including Program Convenor, Acting Head of Discipline, and Assistant Dean International. Prof Tan’s current research focuses predominantly on energy and resource transitions from a management research perspective. Since 2009 he has published, solely or jointly, two research books, five book chapters, and over 30 scholarly journal articles, including over 20 articles in A/A* journals. Those include leading journals such as Nature (in 2014 and 2016), the Journal of World Business, California Management Review, and Management and Organization Review. He has served as a reviewer for more than 30 international journals, including some of the top journals in management and energy research. He is Associate Editor of Technological Forecasting and Social Change and serves on the editorial board of Springer’s Circular Economy and Sustainability journal.
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