Thursday, November 7, 2013

Call for papers: Ethics, technology and innovation


This event, and the related symposium to be published in the Journal of Business Ethics in the first half of 2015, intends to analyze the impact of ethics-related variables on the development of new products and services and on organizational innovation. For example, in recent years, customers’ privacy expectations have shaped how companies design and commercialize new products and services in communication, entertainment and many other sectors (see, e.g. Floridi, 2005; Pollach, 2005; Nissenbaum, 2009; Vaccaro and Madsen, 2009). By the same token, security and reliability expectations have dramatically affected how designers develop new products and services in the automotive sector (see, e.g. Thomke, 2003).

Organizations differ in how they deal with ethical issues. For example, the literature on technology ethics (see, e.g. Nissenbaum 2004 Gorman, 1998; Mitcham, C. 1995) presents interesting cases where designers have intentionally pursued an immoral objective, see e.g. a bridge designed with the aim of preventing bus transit from areas with a high concentration of Afro-Americans (which embed and convey social discrimination values) or hardware and software designed to control users’ activities, violating elementary privacy rights, etc. Thus, Internet technologies have not only driven a flatter world as many argue, but they have also led to the creation of ‘digital sweatshops’, i.e. overcrowded rooms where workers play online games, such as Lineage, for up to twelve hours a day in order to create virtual goods, such as characters, equipments or in-game currency, which can then be sold to other, obviously richer, players (Floridi, 2009, p. 14).

On the other side of the moral scale, it is possible to find exemplary cases of high ethical standards. The example that comes quickest to mind are the 100% biodegradable products: They address the function for which they were designed but they also convey the moral duty of environmental protection (see, e.g. Guiltinan, 2009; Fraj-Andrés et al., 2009).

These considerations highlight the need to further current understanding of the role played by ethics-related variables in new product / service development and more generally, in firms’ innovation efforts (see, e.g. Adolphson, 2004; Madsen, 2005). This symposium will address this need by focusing on three main broad themes.

First, the issue of social responsibility (SR) has attracted considerable attention from scholars and practitioners during the last two decades. However, there is a shortage of studies, in the literature on technology policy and ethics, concerning under what conditions, how and why companies address ethical and social responsibility issues in the development of new products / services. For example, we do not know how organizational processes of information collection and sharing, decision-making, project evaluation etc. are adapted (if they are at all) to include ethical considerations in response to, e.g. changing EU Eco-norms, or customers’ expectations and/or moral values shared at industry level.

A second main theme that this symposium will investigate concerns the impact of environmental ethics on new product development. In particular, contributions are expected to explore how environmental concerns affect new product and service development, how companies deal with different environmental legislations when they design new products and services, and the use of environmental sustainability as a source of competitive advantage.

The third and last theme will explore processes associated with social innovation in hybrid organizations (Montgomery et al., 2012; Santos, 2012; Vaccaro, 2012). In particular, the symposium’s editors will encourage papers that analyse how stakeholders’ expectations and perceptions affect process innovation and/or changes in the structure and strategy of organizations attempting to combine business and social objectives.

Theme 1: Ethics, Social Responsibility and Innovation

  • 1. How customers’ ethical perceptions and expectations affect new product/service development.
  • 2. How stakeholders’ ethical perceptions and expectations affect new product/service development.
  • 3. How companies manage and resolve conflicting ethical perceptions and expectations of their stakeholders in multi-cultural or multi-national contexts.

Theme 2: Environmental Ethics and Innovation

  • 1. How environmental issues affect new product and service development.
  • 2. How companies deal with different environmental legislations in new product and service development.
  • 3. Environmental sustainability as a source of competitive advantage.
  • 4. Ethical issues in environmental sustainability: green-washing vs. real environmental improvement. 

Theme 3: Social Innovation and the Organization

  • 1. How employees’ ethical expectations and perceptions affect innovation in organizational processes.
  • 2. How stakeholders’ ethical expectations and perceptions affect innovation in organizational processes.
  • 3. Innovation in organization structure: How to combine business and social objectives by leveraging stakeholder expectations.
  • 4. The new emerging ethical issues affecting hybrid organizations.

Timetable and submission procedures: 

The conference is organized by ETH, Zurich, IESE Business School on January 7 and 8, 2014. The conference’s venue will be the ETH Campus in Zurich. The deadline for submission of the complete paper is December 1, 2013.

Papers have to be submitted to the attention of Ms. Rosario Magre Miro specifying in the subject of the e-mail “Submission to Innovation Conference”. (If you do not receive a confirmation of your submission within 24 hours, please re-submit your document). Acceptance for presentation at the conference will be sent to authors by December 8.

The best papers presented at the conference will be invited for submission to the symposium of the Journal of Business Ethics. This process will include a double-blind review process by 2-3 anonymous referees. The invitation for submission to the symposium does not guarantee publication of the article.

Papers that were not presented at the conference cannot be submitted for publication in the symposium. Please use the guidelines for authors of the Journal of Business Ethics ( ) to format your paper.

Guests Editors' bio

Stefano Brusoni is Professor of Technology and Innovation Management at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH Zürich). He coordinates the TIMGROUP - the new Chair of Technology and Innovation Management at the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics (D-MTEC). He is Associate Editor of Information, Economics and Policy and member of the Review Board of Organization Science. His publications have appeared in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Research Policy and Industrial and Corporate Change.

Antonino Vaccaro is Academic Director of the Center for Business in Society at IESE Business School where he also serves as a faculty member in the department of business ethics. He has served as guest editor for Ethics and Information Technology and for the Journal of Business Ethics in a special issue about Network Ethics and in the special issue of the EBEN AC 2011. His publications have appeared in journals such as Journal of Management Studies, Research Policy, Journal of Business Ethics, Ethics and Information Technology and IEEE-HICSS-Transactions, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, The Information Society, etc.


  • Adolphson, D. 2004. A New Perspective on Ethics, Ecology, and Economics, Journal of Business Ethics 54(3), 201-213.
  • Flanagan, N., Howe, D and Nissenbaum, H. 2008. Embodying Values in Technology: Theory and Practice. In Information Technology and Moral Philosophy, Jeroen van den Hoven and John Weckert (eds.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Floridi, L. 2005. The Philosophy of Presence: From Epistemic Failure to Successful Observability, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 14(6) 656-667.
  • Floridi, L. 2009. Information Ethics: A very short introduction (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
  • Fraj-Andrés, E., Martinez-Salinas, E. and Matute-Vallejo, J. 2009. ‘A Multidimensional Approach to the Influence of Environmental Marketing and Orientation on the Firm’s Organizational Performance’, Journal of Business Ethics, 88(2), 263–286.
  • Gorman, M. E. 1998. Transforming Nature: Ethics, Invention and Design. Springer.
  • Guiltinan, J. 2009. Creative Destruction and Destructive Creations: Environmental Ethics and Planned Obsolescence, Journal of Business Ethics, 89, 19–28.
  • Madsen, P. 2005. Responsible Design and the Management of Ethics, DMI Review 16(3): 37-41.
  • Mitcham, C. 1995. Ethics Into Design. In Discovering Design, Eds. R. Buchanan and V. Margolis, 173-179. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Montgomery, A.W., Dacin, P. and Dacin, T. 2012. Collective Social Entrepreneurship: Collaboratively Shaping Social Good, Journal of Business Ethics, 111(3), 375-388.
  • Nissenbaum, H. 2004. Privacy as Contextual Integrity. Washington Law Review, 79(1): 119-158.
  • Nissenbaum, N. 2009. Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy and the Integrity of Social Life (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press).
  • Pollach, I. 2005. A Typology of Communicative Strategies in Online Privacy Policies: Ethics, Power and Informed Consent, Journal of Business Ethics, 62, 221–235.
  • Santos, F. 2012. A positive Theory of Social Entrepreneurship, Journal of Business Ethics, 111(3), 335-351.
  • Thomke, S. 2003. Experimentation Matters: Unlocking the Potential of New Technologies for Innovation. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Vaccaro, A. and P. Madsen, 2009. ‘Transparency: The new ICT-driven Ethics?’ Ethics and Information Technology, 11(2), 113-122.
  • Vaccaro, A. 2012. To Pay or not to Pay? Dynamic Transparency and the Fight against the Mafia’s Extortionists, Journal of Business Ethics, 106(1), 23-35.

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