The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Researchers can have impact on important real-world problem by studying corporate corruption

3 August 2020

Management researchers can have a real impact on an important real-world problem by studying corporate corruption, says new study co-authored by Dr Armando Castro.

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Now is a particularly good time to seriously consider corporate corruption as a research area, given the recent pandemic and its aftermath. "Many corporate corruption scandals of the past 20 years emerged in downturns" this is "likely to be an area ripe for further research", the academic paper says.

Extensive research focused on corruption is available, but it is largely focussed on corruption in government. This study focuses on the corporate aspect of corruption which “we believe, has received insufficient attention”.

The paper entitled “Corporate Corruption: A Review and an Agenda for Future Research” was published in the Academy of Management Annals (AMA). AMA is the highest impact journal in business and management studies with an impact factor of 15.49 (Scopus, 2019).

The article’s first author Dr Armando Castro commented,

“In the last years, we have seen several corporate corruption scandals in many different industries ranging from construction to pharma. Although corporate corruption is difficult to measure, the World Economic Forum recently estimated that up to $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year. International business managers have also estimated that corruption boosts the cost of international projects by more than 10 per cent, and can up to 25 per cent of the cost of procurement contracts”, says article co-author Dr Armando Castro. “In our paper, we define corporate corruption, review and categorize the existing research on the topic and offer insights for future research on how to tackle this grand challenge.”

The article defines corporate corruption as “the misuse of formal power by a corporate representative for organizational or private benefit”. It is an area of research that is growing but fragmented, the study shows how it is distinct from some of the existing conceptualizations of corruption.

The study proposes a framework for organizing research on corporate corruption into four perspectives: corporate corruption as rational action, corporate corruption as institutionalized practice, corporate corruption as cultural norm, and corporate corruption as moral failure. “To date, there have been few conversations between these different perspectives, and it is important to begin these conversations to achieve a comprehensive understanding of corporate corruption”.

“By bringing existing theories of organisation and management to bear on the problem of corruption and using the well-developed tools in our methodological toolkit, management researchers have the opportunity to make a real contribution to improving what is a dire situation”.

The article is co-authored by Dr Armando Castro of University College London, Nelson Phillips of Imperial College London and Professor Shaz Ansari of Cambridge Judge Business School.

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