News & Highlights

  • June 2017

Zhang Mei MBA 1996 featured in Skydeck, HBS Alumni Podcast Series

Author and WildChina founder Zhang Mei (MBA 1996) takes us inside the kitchens of her native Dali, in the Yunnan province in southwest China. She is the author of "Travels Through Dali with a Leg of Ham," a travelogue and recipe collection culled from kitchens of her Chinese hometown. Zhang's founding of WildChina is featured in an HBS case written in 2009, focusing on themes of leadership and entrepreneurship challenges.
  • April 2017
  • Alumni News

Bringing Markets to Myanmar

For 25 years, David Brunell (MBA 1962) has worked in private sector development all over the world, transforming centralized economies to market-based economies in 20 different countries, including Zambia, Vietnam, and Pakistan. His most recent work was with the government of Myanmar, which recently emerged from decades of military rule with a planned economy. Bulletin editor Dan Morrell talked to David about his experience in Myanmar, and what the process of private sector development looks like at the ground level.

New Research on the Region

  • 2017
  • Working Paper

Organizational Structures and the Improvement of Working Conditions in Global Supply Chains: Legalization, Participation, and Economic Incentives

By: Yanhua Z Bird, Jodi L. Short and Michael W. Toffel

Exploitive working conditions have spurred the development of formal organizational structures that deploy mechanisms including legalization—adherence to a set of law-like rules and procedures—and worker participation to improve labor standards in global supply chains. Yet little is known about whether these structures are associated with improved working conditions, especially in organizations in which they compete with productivity-driving economic incentives. Drawing on the economic sociology of law and organizations and theories of organizational learning, we investigate whether and how these formal organizational structures, individually and in combination, are associated with improved working conditions. Using data on 3,276 suppliers in 55 countries, we find greater improvement at suppliers that adopt legalization structures (operationalized as management system standards) and worker participation structures (unions) and find that the combination of these structures amplifies improvement. We find less improvement at suppliers with organizational incentive structures meant to increase worker productivity (piece-rate pay), but also find that this negative relationship is attenuated by organizational legalization and worker participation structures. These findings challenge existing theories of decoupling by showing how these organizational structures can be credible signals for improvement and can also be coupled with organizational changes via processes of organizational learning, even in the face of intense efficiency demands. Furthermore, our findings suggest important strategic considerations for managers selecting supplier factories and provide key insights for the design of transnational sustainability governance regimes.

  • June 2017
  • Case

Goodbye IMF Conditions, Hello Chinese Capital: Zambia's Copper Industry and Africa's Break with Its Colonial Past

By: Rafael Di Tella, Vincent Pons, Sarah Mehta and David Lane

Over the past several decades, rapid growth in Chinese investment and trade has created for Africa a new development partner. China represents an alternative to U.S. and European nations whose past imperialism, resource avarice, and economic dictates—through the conditionality of IMF and World Bank lending—remain a negative legacy. This case uses the story of Zambia’s Chambishi copper mine, which was purchased in 1998 by the state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, to illustrate China’s growing interest and involvement in the African continent. While many in Africa welcome the substantial Chinese investment, resentment over labor abuses, low pay, and substandard working conditions at some Chinese-owned enterprises fuels anti-China sentiment. At Chambishi copper mine, a 2005 explosion, caused by management’s shoddy adherence to safety standards, killed nearly 50 miners and sparked outrage among Zambians. The explosion marked the first in a long series of protests and safety violations that would unfold at Chambishi over the next ten years.

  • June 2017
  • Teaching Material

Succession Planning at Samsung: The Merger Formula of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T

By: Gwen Yu

A merger deal of two Samsung group companies becomes a center of a corruption scandal. The merger of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T was seen as a crucial step to transfer power to Lee Jae Yong, the heir of Samsung group. The deal was criticized to purposefully undervalue Samsung C&T’s stocks to transfer wealth to Lee at the expense of the shareholders. Elliott Management, a New York–based hedge fund, launches a campaign urging shareholders to vote against the merger. However, the National Pension Service (NPS)—a major shareholder of Samsung C&T—votes in favor of the deal. The case sheds light on the political ties between the government and the family controlled conglomerates in South Korea, which have powered the country’s economy for decades.

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