Geoffrey G. Jones

29 Results


Waste, Recycling and Entrepreneurship in Central and Northern Europe, 1870-1940

The efficient and appropriate collection and disposal of solid waste has been recognized as essential to the hygiene and health of urban societies since the nineteenth century. Over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, sanitary engineers and the broader public also came to understand that the inappropriate treatment of waste could cause major environmental degradation, while recycling could contribute significantly to environmental sustainability. A key question for this industry, therefore, has been whether such social value could be combined with the pursuit of profitable opportunities. In this paper the authors focus on the late nineteenth century through the 1940s, a crucial period for the emergence of firms concerned with waste disposal in industrialized central and northern Europe. The authors show that German, Danish, and other European entrepreneurs built substantial businesses which aimed to achieve "shared value" by making positive social and environmental contributions to their societies. Some of these entrepreneurs had strikingly modern views of environmental challenges and they prefigured many later twentieth-century recycling processes. At the same time, the profit motive encouraged technological innovation, a major ideal of capitalist enterprise, and left a legacy of scientific and engineering knowledge of waste materials and their processing and utilization which benefited later recyclers. Although post-1970 non-profit community recycling centers, municipal collection programs, and recycling divisions of waste management companies provide the terminology and the ideology behind modern recycling, they owe their technological and organizational foundations to an earlier generation of profit-seeking engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Read More

Entrepreneurship and Multinationals Drive Globalization

Why is the firm overlooked as a contributor when we identify the drivers of globalization? Geoffrey Jones discusses his new book, Entrepreneurship and Multinationals: Global Business and the Making of the Modern World. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Book Excerpt: ’Entrepreneurship and Multinationals’

An excerpt from Entrepreneurship and Multinationals: Global Business and the Making of the Modern World, by Geoffrey Jones. Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Historical Origins of Environmental Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s-1980s

This paper examines the emergence of environmental strategies in the chemical industry between the 1950s and the 1980s. German chemical firms have been hailed as "eco-pioneers" in this regard, but this study demonstrates that initially the leading chemical companies of both Germany and the United States followed a similar approach to societal concerns about environmental pollution. Both German and American firms suggested that pollution incidents and complaints were a matter for local responses, tailored to specific settings, and should be considered primarily as nuisances rather than as environmental or health hazards. By the 1970s, however, the evolution of environmental strategies in the German chemical industry diverged greatly from that of the United States. This working paper explores how and why by examining the strategies of two prominent German chemical companies, Bayer and Henkel. The German firms diverged from their American counterparts in using public relations strategies not only to contain fallout from criticism of their pollution impact, but also to create opportunities for changes in corporate culture to encourage sustainability. While the US chemical industry remained defensive and focused on legal compliance, there was a greater proactivity among the German firms. The study stresses the importance of the regional embeddedness of Bayer and Henkel in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which made their reputations especially vulnerable to criticism. A new generation of corporate leaders also perceived that more reactive strategies were needed to fulfill societal expectations. They were savvy enough to understand that investing in environmental sustainability could provide an opportunity to create value for the firm, and that self-identifying as eco-pioneers had commercial as well as reputational benefits, provided that the image reflected genuine policies and processes. Read More

Debating the Responsibility of Capitalism in Historical and Global Perspective

The concept of corporate responsibility is often assumed to be recent in origin. This is far from accurate. Indeed, a recent study has traced the long history of corporate responsibility concepts in the United States back to the eighteenth century. This working paper puts this United States evidence in a wider comparative and global perspective. The paper proceeds chronologically, beginning with the era of the first global economy during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and going forward to the present day. Overall, the author demonstrates that from the nineteenth century, American, European, Japanese, Indian, and other business leaders discussed the responsibilities of business beyond making profits, although until recently such views have not been mainstream. Read More

Entrepreneurs, Firms, and Global Wealth since 1850

This paper examines the historical causes of the wealth gaps between the West and "the Rest." It integrates the business history literature into the current dominant explanations of global wealth and poverty which focus on deficient institutions, poor human capital development, geography, and culture. It argues that there is a "missing gap" between these factors, and the entrepreneurs and firms which create wealth and drive innovation. The paper examines why entrepreneurial catch-up was so challenging in the Rest in the nineteenth century. It shows that nonetheless productive business enterprises were emerging in Asia, Latin America, and Africa by the first half of the twentieth century. However, these were often crippled by the subsequent era of Communism and state intervention. The second global economy from the 1980s provided new opportunities for firms from the Rest to catch up, including easier access to knowledge and capital through returning diaspora, business schools and management consultancies, and smarter state capitalism. (A revised version of this working paper is forthcoming in Entrepreneurship and Multinationals: Global Business and the Making of the Modern World, Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, fall 2013). Read More

Entrepreneurship in the Natural Food and Beauty Categories Before 2000: Global Visions and Local Expressions

How do entrepreneurs create a market? Geoffrey Jones takes a historical approach and focuses on influential figures who created new categories of natural and organic food, agriculture, and beauty products over the course of the twentieth century. At first these pioneering entrepreneurs, often motivated by ideological or religious convictions, faced little consumer demand for "green" products and little consumer knowledge of what they entailed. The creation of new categories thus involved a lengthy process with three overlapping waves of entrepreneurship. First, the diffusion of ideas through publishing, and promotion of research and education, engaged many entrepreneurs. They were, in effect, making the ideological case for natural products, and providing the basis for them to be made available. Second, entrepreneurs engaged in the creation of industry associations which could advocate, as well as give the nascent industry credibility and create standards. Finally, entrepreneurial ventures established retail stores, supply and distribution networks, and created brands. Read More

“Power from Sunshine”: A Business History of Solar Energy

In each generation, the concept of getting "power from sunshine" has attracted entrepreneurial visionaries who encountered a perennial problem: Solar energy was expensive compared to conventional fuels that were not priced to incorporate wider environmental costs. This paper by Geoffrey Jones and Loubna Bouamane provides a business history of solar energy between the nineteenth century and the present day. Its covers early attempts to develop solar energy, the use of passive solar in architecture before World War II, the subsequent growth of the modern photovoltaic (PV) industry, and alternative non-PV technologies such as parabolic collectors. As the authors argue, building viable business models proved crucially dependent on two factors: the prices of alternative conventional fuels and public policy. Read More

Reintroducing Intellectual Ambition to the Study of Business History

The editors of Harvard Business School's Business History Review, Walter A. Friedman and Geoffrey Jones, are challenging historians to tackle big subjects with major importance to the future of business. Read More

Historical Trajectories and Corporate Competences in Wind Energy

Analyzing developments in the wind turbine business over more than a century, Geoffrey Jones and Loubna Bouamane argue that public policy has been a key variable in the spread of wind energy since the 1980s, but that public policy was more of a problem than a facilitator in the earlier history of the industry. Geography has mattered to some extent, also: Both in the United States and Denmark, the existence of rural areas not supplied by electricity provided the initial stimulus to entrepreneurs and innovators. Building firm-level capabilities has been essential in an industry which has been both technically difficult and vulnerable to policy shifts. Read More

The Untold Story of ‘Green’ Entrepreneurs

The history of entrepreneurs in green industries is largely unwritten, a fact that Harvard Business School business historian Geoffrey Jones is trying to remedy. In a new paper, Jones explores the edge-of-society pioneers who created the wind turbine industry. Open for comment; 16 Comments posted.

Managing Political Risk in Global Business: Beiersdorf 1914-1990

After the outbreak of World War 1, management of political risk became a central concern for firms, especially those operating internationally. These risks were on many levels, from expropriation to exchange controls and other economic policies. German firms, which had flourished during the second industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century, and enthusiastically expanded internationally, found themselves especially exposed to such risks. Focusing on one such firm, Beiersdorf, a German-based pharmaceutical and skin care company (and, during the Nazi years, a so-called Jewish business), the authors examine corporate strategies of political risk management during the twentieth century, especially the volatile years of Nazi Germany. The history of Beiersdorf highlights areas of managerial discretion. Faced by the worst of all worlds, the firm survived and was able, albeit at great cost, to rebuild its business. Read More

The History of Beauty

Fragrance, eyeliner, toothpaste—the beauty business has permeated our lives like few other industries. But surprisingly little is known about its history, which over time has been shrouded in competitive secrecy. HBS history professor Geoffrey Jones offers one of the first authoritative accounts in Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Industry. Read More

Multinational Strategies and Developing Countries in Historical Perspective

HBS professor Geoffrey Jones offers a historical analysis of the strategies of multinationals from developed countries in developing countries. His central argument, that strategies were shaped by the trade-off between opportunity and risk, highlights how three broad environmental factors determined the trade-off. The first was the prevailing political economy, including the policies of both host and home governments, and the international legal framework. The second was the market and resources of the host country. The third was competition from local firms. Jones explores the impact of these factors on corporate strategies during the three eras in the modern history of globalization from the nineteenth century until the present day. He argues that the performance of specific multinationals depended on the extent to which their internal capabilities enabled them to respond to these external opportunities and threats. The paper highlights in particular the changing nature of political risk faced by multinationals. The era of expropriation has, for the moment, largely passed, but multinationals now experience new kinds of policy risk, and new forms of home country political risk also, such as the Alien Tort Claims Act in the United States. Read More

Business Summit: Historical Roots of Globalization

In this breakout session, panelists shared insights, informed by history, of the convergence that globalization promotes. Read More

Sharpening Your Skills: History Matters

Business history is a rich source of knowledge and inspiration for today's executives. Do we pay enough attention to the past? Here are four Working Knowledge articles that provide lessons from history about leaders, leadership, and business organization. Read More

The Lessons of Business History: A Handbook

Compiling a handbook on the current thinking in any area of study seems daunting enough, but the just-published Oxford Handbook of Business History carries an even larger mission: bring the lessons of business history to current research in other disciplines and to the practice of business management itself. A Q&A with coeditor Geoffrey Jones. Read More

Managing Governments: Unilever in India and Turkey, 1950–1980

During the postwar decades, consumer-products giant Unilever survived and even thrived in developing countries such as India and Turkey even as business conditions discouraged or drove away peer companies. Why? At least five factors explain Unilever's ability and willingness to persist in such developing countries. These factors may also explain why foreign direct investment shrank to low levels in these countries, and has remained low. Read More

Entrepreneurship and Business History: Renewing the Research Agenda

This paper identifies major opportunities to raise entrepreneurship as a central research issue in business history and to build on the strong roots that are already in place in that discipline. Historical research on entrepreneurship began in the 1940s and 1950s, much of it at Harvard Business School, but then lost momentum. Nevertheless the paper shows the major achievements in exploring how context shaped the structure of entrepreneurship, and identifying the wide variation in organizational form and entrepreneurial behavior. It concludes with the main contributions of business history to the study of entrepreneurship, and proposes a renewed research agenda. Read More

Globalizing the Beauty Business Before 1980

Even six-month-old infants may understand what makes faces "attractive," regardless of ethnicity, but adults vary considerably in how they present themselves through clothes, hairstyles, and physical appearance. Studying the period from 1945 to 1980, this paper examines the drivers of the globalization of beauty; the strategies that firms employed to overcome challenges to globalization; and the outcomes, including the level to which globalization has brought about a homogenization of beauty ideals and practices. Read More

Nationality and Multinationals in Historical Perspective

Many people believe that globalization has caused companies to lose their national identity. This study traces the history of corporations and nationality and finds that multinational companies have always had ambiguities, particularly before World War I. National subsidiaries became stronger in the twentieth century, and companies like Ford, for example, would feel very American in the United States, but have a more local identity in another part of the world. In the twenty-first century, globalization has caused a reemergence of issues concerning corporate nationality. However, this research shows that in many ways corporate affiliation with a country may matter more than ever. Read More

Schumpeter’s Plea: Rediscovering History and Relevance in the Study of Entrepreneurship

Academic studies of entrepreneurship have focused on people and firms but ignored the context of history. The result is an over-reliance in the experiences of high-tech start-ups in the U.S., leading to generalizations using empirical evidence from an exceptional and atypical industry and location. Economist Joseph Schumpeter believed the study of entrepreneurial behavior made little sense without the equal study of the broader industrial, social, and economic setting in which they operated. An exchange between historical and social scientific approaches will yield far richer understanding. Read More

Unilever: Transformation and Tradition

In a new book, professor Geoffrey Jones looks at Unilever's decades-old transformation from fragmented underperformer to focused consumer products giant. This epilogue summarizes the years 1960 to 1990. Read More

Restoring a Global Economy, 1950–1980

In his recent book Multinationals and Global Capitalism, professor Geoffrey Jones dissects the influence of multinationals on the world economy. This excerpt recalls the rebuilding of the global economy following World War II. Read More

Bringing History into International Business

International Business scholars often talk about history, but rarely take it seriously. The first generation of International Business scholars placed a high priority on evolutionary and historical perspectives and methodology, but little work these days grapples with the history of International Business or uses historical data to explore an issue. Jones and Khanna discuss new avenues for researching business groups in history and in contemporary emerging markets, resource-based and path-dependent theories of the firm, and foreign direct investment and development over time. Read More

Business History around the World

One way to understand management trends and ideas today is to look at yesterday. HBS entrepreneurship professor Geoffrey G. Jones and co-editor Franco Amatori have done just that with their new book, Business History around the World. Read More

Unilever—A Case Study

As one of the oldest and largest foreign multinationals doing business in the U.S., the history of Unilever's investment in the United States offers a unique opportunity to understand the significant problems encountered by foreign firms. Harvard Business School professor Geoffrey Jones has done extensive research on Unilever, based on full access to restricted corporate records. This recent article from Business History Review is the first publication resulting from that research. Read More

Foreign Multinationals in the U.S.: A Rocky Road

Why do many of the world’s leading multinationals experience managerial and performance problems in the United States? The answers, as offered by Harvard Business School professor Geoffrey G. Jones, provide lessons for all companies operating on foreign soil. Read More

Merchants to Multinationals: British Trading Companies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

It was a business world defined by globalization and growing interdependency. But it's not international trade circa 2000. As HBS professor Geoffrey Jones points out, the "global economy" first emerged in the 1870s. Read More