International Business at TSE

Because the world is not flat.

Making international business fly amidst the rising threat of trade war

The current global events from environmental crisis, challenges of free trade, and digitalization to the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, and USA’s announced government support for green transition for domestic businesses have brought trade policy as one of the core themes in news and public discussion. Particularly the firstly mentioned longer-term developments have generated an emerging theme in international business studies, encouraging scholars to further explore the interconnections of international business and policymaking. This trend has been strengthened by the more disruptive and sudden events. For example, the leading journal in international business research, Journal of International Business Studies, has established a sister journal in 2018, Journal of International Business Policy, which aims to advance the contributions that international business research could make for policy development. Thus, extending this line of work, we have published an edited book titled Global Trade and Trade Governance During De-Globalization: Transforming Trade Policy for Not-So-United World. The book was written in international collaboration and edited as a part of a three-year KAPPAS project funded by TT-säätiö ( Besides this contribution, the project (2020–2022) has advanced trade policy expertise in Finland particularly though public business-oriented seminars and the establishment of new trade policy education in Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku.

Based on this emerging call for understanding international business phenomena in relation to international and global geoeconomic and (trade) policy developments, our book takes a fresh and much needed perspective on the challenges of trade policy by exploring the past, present and possible futures for trade policy development. First, looking back in time, the book discusses how we got amidst the current challenges. Second, the book discusses the current global scale challenges on trade policy, and third, exploring the possible future developments of trade policy. Thus, this book goes beyond merely describing disruptions, but also builds images of the futures of trade policy. Furthermore, by taking the perspective of international business studies, the book does not only focus on the economic, policy or legislative perspectives, but views trade policy as a part of society and international business environment. Therefore, it constitutes an interesting read for international business researchers as well as businesses and policy makers.

The first part of the book provides the basis for understanding the prerequisites of open trade and multilateral agreements, allowing us to understand how those objectives were originally pursued and how the conditions gradually changed to support the emergence of protectionism. The widening scope of research in the intersection of trade policy and international business has been developing hand in hand with the values driving trade policy in our societies from enhancing free trade to defending human rights, sustainability change, and democracy. It is evident that the protectionist policies and free trade supporting policies emerge in different circumstances. The role of clear hegemonic power in global economic development is crucial, and changes in these power games challenge our prevailing global trade policy structures. Thus, the first part highlights the complexity of change in global governance structures and their interconnection to the developments of ways of doing business.

The second part of the book focuses on current challenges. These challenges include global level structural challenges of the WTO at the heart of the developments of global trade and international relations, the increase of multidimensional RTAs and their role in decreasing current lock-in situations as everything would not have to be widely and unanimously agreed, and the changes driven by GVCs requiring systemic redesign to meet the new global trade reality. Challenges at the regional and national levels include the increased tensions and economic power competition between the USA and China, the negotiations of Great Britain’s divorce from the EU bringing similar tensions within Europe, as well as the perspective from smaller economies that are increasingly forced to take sides and find their ways through crises in different ways.

The third part of our book explores the emerging new future of trade policy. While values and trade policy objectives may be increasingly diverging, one of the converting topics at global scale as well as regionally, is environmental protection, which is among the key issues the EU unitedly wants to push forward also at the global scale. The globally acknowledged climate crisis has provided some common ground for policy making and has created space for common goals, yet the ability to influence third party commitment to change via trade policy tools includes risks and uncertainties that vary by country and industry. Thus, from the perspective of international business and individual companies, these future policy uncertainties increase political risks of international operations. Policy makers are challenged with finding ways to promote economic growth together with other values, and this complexity and uncertainty call businesses to seek new measures for having an impact on trade policies in the future. This multipolarity and multivoicedness makes global trade policy development, let alone anticipation, highly challenging.

Although the world today is not so united in terms of values, agreements and governance frameworks, it will inevitably continue to be united in some ways and in some constellations. New kinds of institutions and emerging agreements will pave the way for hopefully brighter and more sustainable future. This opens an opportunity for international business research to increasingly internalize insight from international politics in order to develop theories as well as managerial and policy recommendations that correspond with the increasingly complex reality of international trade and business. By embracing this challenge, we as international business scholars will have increasingly solid grounds and wider insight for contributing to the emerging next chapter of our societies, economic structures and global business dynamics.

Book available for purchase through Springer:

Anna Karhu & Eini Haaja

Pan-European Institute

Contact-facilitating group export assistance in supporting SMEs to overcome export barriers in the international markets

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) play a crucial role in national economies. However, due to more limited resources, SMEs often face greater challenges in the international markets compared to larger organizations. Export markets create great growth opportunities for SMEs from which also the home country can gain through increased employment, technological development and higher standards of living. So, it comes as no surprise that the interest towards SME exports, the export barriers they face, and how SMEs can be supported in their exporting efforts have long been in the interest of scholars and governments. While such topics have been rather thoroughly researched, dynamic global markets and changes in institutional environments create a constant need to research these topics in the various contexts they take place in.

In my master’s thesis, I looked at how export assistance can help SMEs overcome barriers in exporting. My research focused on examining a case of a group of Finnish SMEs in the design and lifestyle businesses who took part in a contact-facilitating export assistance project aiming towards the Japanese markets. I approached this topic through examining what export barriers export assistance programs can mitigate, how SMEs experience the effect of export assistance programs, and what export-related resources and capabilities the export assistance programs can especially enhance. The empirical data in this study was mainly collected through interviews with the SMEs’ representatives who had partaken in the export project.

The group export project was organized by an organization that provides export and internationalization support. The main experienced export barriers were directly related to the areas that the export project also targeted. These included language, cultural and business practice differences and lack of knowledge of the target market which in turn make establishing needed connections for successful export operations more difficult. Support was provided through a combination of informational and experiential knowledge measures, with an emphasis on creating opportunities for gaining first-hand experiences to develop export-related resources and capabilities.

The contact-facilitating group export project provided support towards gaining a relevant understanding of the market, cultural and business practice difference, and establishing connections and networks both in the target market and home country. It also functioned as an additional expert opinion and motivation to pursue exporting in the target market. The participants of the export project included SMEs with various export experience levels. However, it was considered that those SMEs whose largest market was domestic but also had experience in systematic exporting were able to gain the most in terms of exporting to Japan. The least experienced benefited more in terms of general knowledge on how to export and an increased motivation to do so.

Based on the empirical data I collected, it can also be stated that while export assistance was not financial by definition there is no denying that the financial support of the project crucially affected the SMEs’ decision and ability to participate as financial resources are scarce and the perceived risk in investing relatively much into one market is rather high.

My research shows that by providing informational and experiential knowledge, export assistance can help SMEs lower and overcome barriers to exporting through increasing export related resources and capabilities. Perhaps the most interesting finding of my research is that the peer group network of the project group was considered to be one of the greatest – though not necessarily intended – benefits of participating in the project. Thus, while receiving or offering export assistance through a group project approach may lead to some compromises, the benefits of an internal network which can act as a source of valuable social capital should also be considered. In order to fully reap the benefits of the phenomenon it would be useful to better understand how peer group as an affiliation can produce social capital especially in the context of exporting and export assistance.

Milja Sorvari

Millainen on suomalaisten elintarvikkeiden maakuva?

Pro gradu –tutkielmassani analysoin sitä, miten Suomi nähdään vierailla markkinoilla ja miten ihmiset maailmanlaajuisesti ymmärtävät Suomen elintarvikkeidensa alkuperämaana ja miten yritykset hyödyntävät maakuvaa markkinoinnissaan. Maakuva on mielenkiintoinen ja laajalti tutkittu ilmiö, mutta Suomen maakuvaa koskeva tutkimusta on vielä niukasti. Tutkimukseni keskittyi suomalaiseen elintarvikealaan, jolla voisi olla paljon saavutettavaa kansainvälisillä markkinoilla. Tällä hetkellä elintarvikealalla on haasteita kannattavuuden suhteen ja kotimarkkinasuuntautumisen sijaan kansainväliset markkinat voisivat tuoda ratkaisuja ongelmiin.

Tutkimusaineisto kerättiin haastattelemalla alan suomalaisia asiantuntijoita sekä valtiollisista organisaatioista, että yksityisistä vientiyrityksistä. Haastateltavat edustivat Suomen Ulkoasiainministeriötä, Food From Finland -ohjelmaa sekä marja-, liha- ja maitotuotteita valmistavia yrityksiä. Keskustelua käytiin Suomen markkinointivahvuuksista, jotka rakentuvat sekä faktojen että mielikuvien varaan.

Aineisto osoitti, miten Suomi nähdään maailmalla ja miten tämä vaikuttaa markkinointipyrkimyksiin kotimarkkinan ulkopuolella. Tulosten perusteella Suomi on vielä kansainvälisesti suhteellisen tuntematon ja yritysten tulisi ottaa tämä huomioon viennin markkinointia suunniteltaessa. Lisäksi haastatteluissa ilmeni haasteena se, että Suomen alkuperämaakuvan kehittäminen ei ole ”kenenkään vastuulla”, vaan sitä tehdään yhteistyössä useiden toimialojen kesken sekä julkisten ja yksityisten toimijoiden kesken.

Alhaisesta tunnettuudesta huolimatta Suomen maakuva on pääosin positiivinen. Siihen liitetään mm. luonto, Lappi, korkea koulutustaso sekä tiettyjä tunnettuja julkisuuden henkilöitä tai hahmoja, kuten joulupukki. Kansainvälisesti potentiaalisten asiakkaiden kokemukset suomalaisista elintarvikkeista ovat hyvin rajalliset, joten Suomen alkuperämaakuva muodostuu aiemmin mainituista Suomeen yleisesti liitettävistä seikoista. Tällaista alkuperämaakuvan muodostumistapaa kutsutaan halo-efektiksi. Suomen alkuperämaakuvan soveltuvuus elintarvikealalle on suotuisa ja sitä tulisi hyödyntää maakohtaisena voimavarana. Suomalaisia elintarvikkeita viedään usein raaka-aineena tai puolivalmisteena, jotka soveltuvat lopputuotteita heikommin alkuperämaakuvan kansainväliseen vahvistamiseen kuluttajien keskuudessa.

Maakuvaan pohjautuvaa markkinointia tulisikin voimakkaammin mukauttaa kohdemarkkinoille ja viestin tulisi olla selvä, sillä kohdeyleisö pystyy vastaanottamaan vain rajatun määrän informaatiota. Tehokkaimmat markkinointiviestit tulisi tunnistaa ja hyödyntää markkinoinnissa, vaikka ne saattaisivat tuntua liian arkisilta tai näyttäviltä. Tämän vuoksi kotimarkkinoiden kokemuksiin perustuva markkinointi ei välttämättä tuota parhaita ratkaisuja kansainvälisille markkinoille.

Pro gradu –tutkielmani osoittaa, että suomalainen elintarvikeala ja maakuva ovat kiinnostavia teemoja, joista kannattaisi tehdä enemmänkin tutkimusta. Olisi myös mielenkiintoista laajentaa Suomen maakuvan tutkimusta muille teollisuuden aloille, sitä kautta voisi saada arvokasta lisätietoa kansainvälisen liiketoiminnan johtamiseen käytännössä.

Juho Siikarla

Working in Virtual Environments

Virtual work has been a choice and part of the modern business culture for three decades until at least March 2020. Along with many other spheres of life, the year 2020 also changed how businesses operate. Virtual work environments are not anymore merely an option to overcome national boundaries and enhance productivity but have become a necessity. There are multiple quick guides available online that highlight important factors that enable smooth functioning in virtual environments. For example, this Forbes article from 2014, “How to Manage A virtual Work Environment”, highlights the importance of role clarity, establishment of workflows and other processes, setting ground rules, regular meetings, and measurable tasks with clear expectations. This and other similar articles highlight such factors as the key ingredients to setup and run virtual environments. However, a rarely highlighted yet most crucial factor is the individuals working in these environments. The importance of how these individuals interact with each other (form and develop relationship) has a huge influence on the outcomes and performance within such environments.

One way to understand virtual work environments is to perceive them as three-layered entities, consisting of organization, groups, and individuals. The organizational layer provides the basic enabling tenants for these environments such as technological resources, staff training, productivity management and collaboration enhancement tools. The second layer consisting of groups deals with the factors highlighted in most of the articles such as the one mentioned in the earlier paragraph. The last layer consists of the group members who get together to achieve whatever goals are decided at the organizational and group level. While there are individuals involved at every level of decision making, in our quest for performance and productivity, we tend to become more mechanistic than human and hence the focus shifts to the virtual environment enabling tools and setting up the rules of the game within which individuals have set roles. 

Integrated within the organization, group, and individual levels is a human layer and understanding this layer can help us tackle the issues recently faced by many during this time while we have had to resort to virtual work environments.  The following figure shows that to have fruitful interactions, every individual has to first realize their own role not based on the job specification only (which is highlighted by the individuals sensemaking of the task), but also how they think and perceive others in their group and how do they see themselves as part of that group. Such realizations and introspections lay the foundation for positive future interactions. At a group level, the collective actions of the individuals would translate into a team climate. A team climate is the individuals’ shared perception of organizational events, practices, and procedures[1] and a positive team climate would lead to psychological safety  where individuals are able to able to show and employ themselves without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status or career[2]. Individuals will not have positive relationships all the time and therefore the role of team leadership is to ensure positive team climate and psychological safety rather than being a manager or coordinator for the tasks.

We, in the Marketing and International Business department of Turku School of Economics, are actively involved in research on multiple facets of Virtual Work Environments and more specifically, Global Virtual Teams. Our team currently is focused on topics such as Relationship development in global virtual teams, Learning in Global Virtual Teams and the Role of Dynamic Capabilities in Global Virtual Teams. Our project details are available here

Majid Aleem

[1] Anderson, N. R., & West, M. A. (1998). Measuring climate for work group innovation: development and validation of the team climate inventory. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior19(3), 235-258.

[2] Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of management journal33(4), 692-724.

Change or be changed – the interplay between multinational enterprises and host country institutional environment

International business scholars have long acknowledged the central role of institutions – ‘the rules of the game in a society’, as Douglas North put it – on firms’ performance, strategies and behaviors. However, IB research has mostly focused on formal institutions, the written rules, laws and regulations, leaving the informal institutions with their usually unwritten but socially shared rules and constraints with much less attention. Yet, informal institutions may have equally strong impact on determining firms’ success on a given market.

Lidl’s entry to Finland 18 years ago in 2002 serves as a good example of this. Maybe you still remember how Lidl’s entry created a big buzz in the media, and astonishment ‒even suspicion‒ among the Finnish public, as the company seemed to be doing it all wrong, or at least in a very strange manner. For instance, it did not accept credit cards as a method of payment, or bottles that were not of its own brands in its reverse vending machines. It filled its shelves with almost only foreign products and brands unknown to most Finns and tried to teach people how to operate at the short checkout counters typical in Germany but completely unfamiliar to Finns, who were not used to scooping their groceries back into their shopping trolleys to pack them elsewhere. The company did not advertise to the public, refused to give interviews to the media and did not even allow reporters to enter its stores. And it soon acquired a negative employer reputation by exercising an authoritarian management style, with excessive use of warnings, a lack of trust and communication, a strict hierarchy and an oppressive working atmosphere. No wonder Lidl Finland operated at a loss for many years.

Hence, while Lidl complied with formal institutional environment in Finland, many stakeholders, like the media, customers, employees, labour unions etc., would not accept its behaviour that so clearly was not according to the shared norms and customs, in other words, the informal institutional environment of the host country and sector.

Indeed, it wasn’t until the company made major changes in its strategy and behavior that its operations In Finland finally turned a profit: Lidl increased the amount of domestic brands and products in its product range, it started to accept credit cards as a payment method and other brands’ bottles in its reverse vending machines. It worked closely together with the Finnish services union (PAM) and corrected its HRM practices; it changed its no comment policy to open communication with the media, and introduced clever and humorous TV advertising campaigns. And it finally gave in and changed those annoying short checkout counters to longer ones, similar to what other Finnish grocery stores had, with plenty of room to pack one’s purchases at the counter.

The example of Lidl in Finland emphasizes the common viewpoint in International business research, according to which firms’ survival and performance are determined by the extent of alignment with the institutional environment. Hence, when operating in foreign markets, multinational enterprises have to comply with external pressures of the host country institutional environment if they wish to succeed. However, this viewpoint does not acknowledge the important agency role of MNEs as they also construct their institutional environments.

Indeed, despite having to adapt its original strategies in Finland, Lidl also introduced some new-to-the-market practices that were welcomed by Finnish stakeholders, and eventually became institutionalized in Finnish grocery retail sector as domestic companies adopted similar practices. For instance, Lidl taught Finns to require good quality with lower prices and introduced consumers to many delicacies and new products, such as prosciutto, duck breast and proper bratwurst, forcing domestic competitors to follow suit.

Hence, the interplay between organizations and their environments is characterized by co-evolutionary development where organizations influence their environments, and environments that consist of other organizations and populations in turn influence those organizations. This dynamic is orchestrated by stakeholder responses but is also linked to how well established the existing institutions in the field are.  You can read more about the interplay between MNEs’ entry and the host country informal institutional environment in our forthcoming book chapter in the series ‘Progress in International Business Research (PIBR) ‒The Multiple Dimensions of Institutional Complexity in International Business Research’. (See:

Chapter details: Pelto, Elina & Karhu, Anna (2020) Chapter 13: Stakeholder responses and the interplay between MNE post-entry behaviour and host country informal institutions. In: Progress in International Business Research ‒The Multiple Dimensions of Institutional Complexity in International Business Research, eds. Verbeke, A., van Tulder, R., Rose, E. and Wei, Y. Emerald Insight.

Elina Pelto PhD
University Lecturer

Is our open and globally connected world turning into a more closed one?

Year 2020 proved to be very different from any predictions. Although there has been a number of pandemics throughout the human history, only the emergence of the latest, COVID-19, can be labelled as a Black Swan. The virus itself was not rare or unpredictable but its impact was – for the first time the interconnected world came to a halt at the same time. Global networks froze and the entire world stayed at home, due to the measures taken in response to the COVID-19.

The enforcement of social distancing, lockdowns and restrictions on mobility of people had immediate effects on the society, such as increase of online shopping, social media use and teleconferencing. International travel bans affected over 90 per cent of the world population and with widespread restrictions on public events, tourism more or less ceased. Almost overnight, the globally-connected world turned into a stay-at-home economy, and it is likely that restarting mobility – particularly nonessential movements – will be challenging and we will be experiencing a period of lower mobility for years (Benton, 2020).

What next? The global business environment has been volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous for quite some time and different anti-globalization tendencies have gained momentum aside global networkedness and interdependencies. However, compared to financial-based crises, the economic crisis due to the coronavirus is fundamentally different. One of the key differences is its focus on individual. Therefore, when experts say that the society returns to a “new normal”, they refer to the change that happens at the grassroots level. Additionally, on the individual level, each individual experiences crises and vulnerabilities differently and the length of crises and thereof their influence varies individually.

Recovering from the external shock due to the pandemic will be particularly demanding for cosmopolitan entrepreneurs. The global lockdown and stay-at-home economy confront the core values of cosmopolitans and jeopardises the identity and life style they cherish. With our interview-based research, we shed light on how COVID-19 has changed the lives of Finnish-born cosmopolitan entrepreneurs, discussing what they feel about the changes and how they see their future. Our findings indicate that after the emergence of the pandemic, these cosmopolitans may not be as open to opportunities as before. Link to the article on the journal website:

Professor Niina Nummela

Public actors as market shapers

Some people think that markets are efficient and governments should let enterprises act freely in the market. In reality, public actors often intervene in markets and it is practically impossible to find a market that would not be guided by governments to some level. Partly, this is due to negative (e.g., pollution or addiction) or positive (e.g., education and welfare) impact of market activities that require brake or boost from public actors on a daily basis. Partly, the intervention is justified during the time of a shock, such as COVID-19 that encouraged governments to guide market action worldwide. Despite the importance of public actors shaping markets, there has not studies to develop our understanding of how public actors can shape markets, if they wish to do so.  

We studied how public actors shaped three interesting markets, namely (1) the betting market in Finland, in which public actors retained the domestic monopoly: (2) the open district heating market in Sweden, in which public actors changed the competitive landscape; and (3) the peer-to-peer lending market in New Zealand, in which public actors actively set up new structures and symbolic systems to facilitate new patterns of activity. We identified twenty granular mechanisms of institutional work that public actors employed to shape markets. These mechanisms are all potentially employable in creating, maintaining, or disrupting markets. Moreover, the idea of market shaping public actors is not limited to these three unique contexts.

A forthcoming special issue on renewable energy in international business initiates discussion on the theme, and consequently the role of governments in supporting (and sometimes hindering) the market development. Governments for instance create and discard incentive policies for solar energy production and consumption. While these measures can have great impact, multilateral agreements are often criticized for not leading to changes in the market to diminish the amount of greenhouse gases.

In another ongoing project, we study the business implications of coronavirus. It is evident that public actors took again a large role from closing restaurants to banning exports of masks and ventilators. The crisis bought new interesting questions from ’what is essential service’ and how can public actors determine and create metrics for defining ’essential’ to the questions on what kind of legislation is needed to limit free trade and secure national interest in forthcoming crises without deteriorating international competitiveness between the crises.

By having a better understanding of how public actors shape markets, it is possible to first guide them in making more informed decisions about market shaping as well as help companies in utilizing public authorities in driving the preferred market agenda. While interventions may hurt some market actors, for others political decision-making can be beneficial. We just need to make sure that the politicians are aware of various market-shaping mechanisms, make informed decisions in employing them, and ensure that the benefits of the intervention overcome the cost in the long run.

Valtteri Kaartemo
Postdoctoral Researcher, International Business D.Sc. (Econ.)

Tea, biscuits and Brexit

Greetings from Yorkshire! I moved here in January, with the help of a Tutkijat maailmalle -grant from Liikesivistysrahasto, to work on a project on cross-cultural management. For an international business researcher in general and a cross-cultural researcher in particular, this experience has already been an eye-opener into the reality of crossing borders.

Beginning from renting an apartment, more things are different than you might first imagine. I got some good advice when I was running in open houses: touch the walls to see if the paint is wet (a big no-no in the land of the mould), check if the taps actually work (as water pressure on this island can be horrible), ask about heating costs (which are huge and not included in the rent) and city council tax (which allows you to use the bins), and so forth. Setting up electricity and water bills, finding home insurance, getting in touch with the building manager in case something goes wrong, you name it – it is more difficult, when you are not exactly sure whose responsibility everything is. Luckily my landlord is very helpful and has so far sorted out a leak and a broken oven in record time.

Everyone at the University has been very friendly. However, as people tend to live a bit further away, not many come to the office daily, which can make the place feel a bit lonely at times. Nevertheless, once a week we meet for an international business faculty coffee break to catch up on the latest on research and teaching. In addition, I have joined a paper development circuit, which is basically a series of mini seminars, as well as a qualitative research reading group, which is also basically a series of mini seminars, but explicitly focusing on qualitative studies. Cooperation with my hosts Professor Jeremy Clegg and Associate Professor Hanna Gajewska-DeMattos has been intense yet rewarding. The work is running smoothly, albeit coming up with a new theory of cross-cultural management is not the easiest thing I have attempted. I am lucky to have such innovative co-authors and mentors on my visit.

Of course, I was here for Brexit day. Despite raucous parties going on in London, Leeds remained no more pub-going than on any regular Friday. In central Leeds, according to voter maps, most voted against Brexit. However, Yorkshire as a whole is rather rural. The traditional business here is sheep farming. Thus, once outside the central city area, you are more than likely to run into brexiteers. Like my cab driver, who said he preferred a new British colonialism to a Fourth Reich. While I have never had any trouble with anyone, you can sense the country is deeply divided. The atmosphere reminds me of the first five minutes after a fight with a sibling, when you think you will never be friends again. I think it will take years for these wounds to heal.

Brexit has had so many dates now, that people really are fed up with it. The first time around, my Yorkshire friends were stalking up on toilet paper and food like there was going to be an immediate shortage. When Brexit eventually happened, I heard of no-one hoarding. It is like a never-ending story, which even now is in sort of limbo, as we cannot yet tell what the EU-UK relationship will look like in the future. And of course, we never know what might happen. The scariest scenarios are that healthcare runs out of medicine and workers – which, according to some projections, is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Nevertheless, there is much advice available to whomever needs it. For example, the University of Leeds hosts Brexit seminars often to give advice to foreign employees and students on how the changing situation will affect them. Luckily, I will move back to Finland before the transition period ends, so should be safe and sound.

There are two things I have learned since moving to Yorkshire. First, there are many, many more variations of not raining than you thought. There are the tiny droplets that fall rapidly but are so small that they do not make you wet. There are the huge droplets which fall so slowly they do not make you wet. There are the medium-sized droplets that fall at a medium speed, again not making you wet. Basically, anything short of soaking you through in five minutes flat is not considered rain. Second, I finally understand, why the call it a howling wind. My windows in Finland, no matter how much draft they tracked in, have never made such a sound. Think of a strong wind caught in a pipe. Double glazing here means a second window has been built in a bit inward from the original. The glazing layers are basically unconnected, leaving the air in between to do whatever it wills. And sometimes, it howls. Luckily there’s much tea and biscuits to be had to keep you warm. Betty’s of Harrogate, which you may know through their export brand Taylor’s of Harrogate, is apparently the place to go for afternoon tea around here. Their scones are definitely worth a try.

Dr. Riikka Harikkala-Laihinen
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Turku
Visiting Researcher, Leeds University Business School

The Dark Side of International Business

Our perspectives on International Business are constantly evolving and broadening as we accept that the world is more complex than what a narrow perspective on the ‘international success and failure of the firm’ can explain. The global business environment is composed of systemic force fields where events forming initial conditions can produce a multitude of new phenomena and outcomes in very short time.  It is the dynamic and complex interconnectedness, interdependencies and interactions of political, economic, social, technological and environmental systems, among others, that we call globalization, which has brought to us unprecedented wealth, but also new problems, and of course also potential solutions.

But, sitting in Finland looking out of the window, how skewed is our perception of the big wide world really? According to Hans Rosling’s (Rosling et al., 2018) book, Factfulness, we tend to believe that the world is poorer, less healthy and more dangerous than it really is and that the way we perceive global events through media biases our shared picture of the world. One current example is the recent novel Corona Virus outbreak in Wuhan, China. When following the news coverage and discussions in social media, this provides a very good case of globalized systems and how events very far away arrive, by plane or media, and affect the way we go about our daily lives, affecting stock markets and threatening the functioning of value chains. Or a speech of a Swedish teenager who requests to do something about a looming catastrophe is sending shock waves around the political and corporate establishment is another example of the interconnectedness and interdependencies.

However, there is an array of topics that usually are on a blind spot, at least where we are sitting and that should interest us as much as many other topics. We have started to discuss these under the label ‘the dark side’ of international business, some time ago. It consists of topics that seem very far from our perception and are nevertheless part of the systems we live in. For instance, having recently reviewed an article on Modern Slavery was a revelation. According to the International Labor Organization and the Walk Free Foundation (2017) for every 1000 people in the world 5.4 are considered victims of modern slavery, being exposed to the effects of another person having control over one, being in a relationship suffering structural power or physical violence with the objective of being economically exploited. Some of the global value chains that produce many of the products and services we might consume daily are using questionable practices. These require more attention.

Over the past years, our research interests have turned towards these less popular but hugely important issues. TSE has made business ethics and critical engagement key strategic organizational values that should partly define who we are as an organization. As a result, we have many researchers who have been investigating these kinds of topics. For instance, Salla Laasonen (doctoral defense 2012) has written about stakeholder dialogue as a tool for corporate responsibility and accountability. Frederick Ahen (doctoral defense 2015), critically examined the corporate social responsibility narrative in the context of global health urging to make responsibility a key strategic dimension rather than a public relations activity. Irfan Ameer (doctoral defense 2019) has been investigating the broader social context of institutionalized bribery in developing countries and he discussed corruption practices of Multinational firms. Emilia Isolauri (current doctoral student) investigates the sources, mechanisms and outcomes of international money laundry and Isabella Galvis (current doctoral student) researches the competing pressures under which social enterprises in different institutional contexts have to balance their goal attainments. These are just a few of many examples and we can see that critically engaged international business scholarship is an important movement, which is further taken up in numerous Masters theses and which is increasingly becoming a strong integrated part of our courses in the Bachelor and Masters programs.

The goal is to include other than mainstream topics in international business to form some of the important foundations when the next generations of graduates join the constituencies they choose to serve and eventually one day steer.

Dr. Peter Zettinig

University Research Fellow

Adjunct Professor in International Business

From North-South- experiences of internationalization

In the spring of 2018, I knocked on the door of TSE, department of International Business (IB), with my doctoral research proposal. After approval, I was able to enter the IB community. Embarking on a Ph.D. is unique, and we all take up our own paths towards accomplishments. For me, though, having previously been working on various development cooperation projects, this is where I move from. The work I did involved traveling across continents mostly between the EU and the developing world. But I will narrate a bit more about my experiences and the valuable insights I gained from it. It is from here that I intend to explore further through acquiring scientific knowledge, and IB this the right place to be.
Since 2012, I have been part of international expert teams implementing and doing various development cooperation projects especially in developing countries. As you may know, project is tendered and bid for; thus, it is a game where you either win or lose. My main area of expertise is broadly in Private Sector Development tasks, that is, formulating strategies for economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries. Perhaps before I continue narrating, it’s better that I describe in brief about the types of projects. Actually, the essence of development cooperation projects is to render support and complement efforts of developing countries to guarantee the provision of universal social basic needs of their citizens along and fundamental human rights. Development cooperation projects that are not profit-driven, but some try to seek a lower profit.
Perhaps, for now, let me share with you a couple of my experiences and field missions which are synonymous to data collection as in research, but this requires onsite presence. Field missions are performed in academic research or other and consultants, as for me. Normally, before the onset of a field mission, experts are selected to implement a project with timeline. So, about a couple of years ago, we won a tender where I was admitted to an international expert team. I was on a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and UNDP, which was to be implemented in and around communities of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia. The primary purpose of the project was to provide a baseline scenario of Lake Tanganyika, livelihoods, socio-economic, and environmental situations. So, our tasks were to examine existing strategies and constraints faced by local communities living around the Lake in pursuit of economic activities for sustaining their livelihood and income opportunities
The journey to the field began early morning in order to cover 800km to Kasama town. It was indeed a long trip, tiresome but exciting as we drove through beautiful landscape, as you can see in the photograph below. I selected this photograph from my album because I find it meaningful. In the sense that our lives, careers, and just like research, are journeys with curiosity and where you can encounter the unknowns on the path to your future. But as we all know, at least I think so, staying focused on the road can guarantee a safe arrival to your destination, similarly for our undertakings. So, we arrived at our destination safely and we straight away went to doing our field activities with our first meeting in one community. While in village residents gathered, and we divided theme into groups by age and gender. As such our questionnaires had an open-ended question, for interactive discussion. Before we began the activities, we first had to pay courtesy to the village chief, for permission. Doing so is a standard protocol to get the right to interview people in the community, you may sort of call as data protection. But we needed to explain the purpose of our visit, study, why it’s needed, and the benefits it will bring to the people. Well, we managed to collect data and successfully prepared our findings with recommendations to be implemented. It was an exciting mission and our finding was that there was significant depletion of natural resources such as forests across the region. But the thing which baffled the most within our findings was that of all the communities we interviewed, about 95% of the people, had not heard about Climate Change, as of 2015. One of the main reasons was the poor outreach to rural areas and weaknesses in the institutions. In brief, our recommendation included strategies that focused on supporting conservation of natural resources, adoption of land management and support to SMEs, young men and women entrepreneurs in the fish value chain.

The Great North Road, Zambia (Photo taken by Ephraim Daka, 2015)

In June 2019, I embarked on a unique field mission to Mogadishu, Somalia , to perform a feasibility study on the Business Incubation ecosystem to be supported by the European Commission (EC) for international development cooperation or Europe-Aid. This was a unique mission because it was my very first time to travel to a country that is on the recovery from decades of civil war. I spent ten days in Mogadishu, and in safe hands. The next day, I was driven to the city of Mogadishu in an armored car with my security guard, to go and conduct my first interviews at an iRise Innovation Hub. Although I was uneasy during the whole mission, I was glad that the whole mission went well. What I find more interesting was that, despite of the global news about Somalia, it was business as usual and life looked normal. In brief, our report proposed capacity building from top to down of all key actors involved in entrepreneurship ecosystem based on the context of the country.
I will conclude with my recent visit to Berlin, where I attended the 18th Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) colloquium, where I presented a conceptual paper. The seminar was hosted by The European School of Management and Technology (ESMT-Berlin), the theme was Business in Society; Measuring and Creating Change. The event was exciting, with good vital speakers and panel discussions. There was a good representation from academia, corporate, and non-governmental organizations. The opening speech and panel discussion included Professor Yury Blagov, St Petersburg school of management, Dr. Ivo Matser, CEO for ABIS, Professor Tamer Boyaci ESMT Berlin, Associate Professor Lin Lerpold, Stockholm School of Economics and Katariina Stenholm, Senior Vice President, Danone Corporation among others. The debates and arguments hovered around the best practices on impact investing and mainly on the trade-off issues of social impact versus market-rate returns. In a nutshell, our homework as researchers is to investigate further how an investor can do good for society while doing well in business.
On this note, I will end here. Such have been my experiences in international business, and with these, that’s the path of my research. As such, most development cooperation programs embed the theory of Change, filling in the gaps of change initiatives.

Ephraim Daka,

Ph.D. Student, International Business

« Older posts