Doctoral Degrees (University of Stellenbosch Business School)

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    From corporate social responsibility to brand activism and the effect on customer loyalty : a structural equation modelling approach
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2023-03) Welser, Carolin; Terblanche-Smit, Marlize; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. University of Stellenbosch Business School.
    ENGLISH SUMMARY: Increasingly multinational companies are making statements related to socio-political topics. This phenomenon is called brand activism and augments the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Therefore, it has the potential to direct a wider variety of socio-economic issues. Brand activism implementation causes negative and positive customer reactions. It is a challenge for companies to implement brand activism and predict the impact on customers. Existing literature lacks a robust theoretical body for brand activism. The effects of brand activism on customers are unclear, and there is no valid measurement model. This thesis aimed to understand the phenomenon of brand activism by identifying brand activism as an evolution of the concept of CSR and measuring the quantitative effect on customer loyalty. Therefore, brand activism was differentiated from CSR and implementation guidelines were inferred. A positive impact of progressive brand activism on customer loyalty was anticipated. Based on an in-depth literature review, this positive relationship was ascertained and observed by developing a measurement model to discover the impact of brand activism on customer loyalty. Thereof six brand activism dimensions, namely social, legal, workplace, economic, political, and environmental, were tested regarding the impact on customer loyalty and the effects of the six brand activism dimensions. The impact of brand activism on customers’ legitimacy and authenticity perceptions was uncovered. Customers’ expectations were compared to the measured effect on customer loyalty to make assumptions about the optimal implementation of brand activism. An experimental method utilising a survey with 372 respondents from South Africa, divided into six experimental groups and one control group, was applied. The survey targeted the Millennial generation (Generation Y). Millennials were selected as the unit of analysis as they have greater expectations regarding the socio-political activities of corporations than previous generations. The sample size was determined by applying a statistical power analysis. The experiment constituted six different treatments, including examples from the automotive brand Volkswagen in South Africa. Analysis of Variance was executed, and a structural equation model (SEM) was developed and applied. The SEM included three mediating variables, brand trust, customer-company identification, and brand image, besides the independent variable, brand activism, and the dependent variable, customer loyalty. The study reported an overall positive relationship between brand activism and customer loyalty. The variance analysis did not report significant results. Customer-company identification was the only mediating variable within the SEM reporting a high significance towards customer loyalty. Respondents perceived environmental brand activism as the most important dimension. Customers’ expectation regarding brand activism implementation was higher than the measured customer loyalty. Implementing brand activism was perceived more in an authentic manner than a legitimate one. This research suggests that brand activism as a concept should be implemented complementary to CSR. The relationship between brand activism and customer loyalty is based on the social identity theory. Therefore, customer identification with the company was the strongest predictor of loyalty within this relationship. An expectation-behaviour gap was suggested as customers’ expectations towards the company were higher than their actual remuneration with loyal behaviour. A customer grid model to minimise the cognitive dissonance of customers is proposed for implementation. Overall, this research contributes to the field of strategic marketing and consumer behaviour. In terms of qualitative contribution, this thesis adds to CSR, brand activism, and customer loyalty research. A theoretical basis of the brand activism phenomenon is developed, and a strategic brand activism framework is implemented. The quantitative contribution of the study is a measurement model for testing the relationship between brand activism and customer loyalty and the results of the applied experimental study. The practical contribution of this research is the developed loyalty grid model, loyalty stage process, and overall recommendations based on qualitative and quantitative findings.
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    The development of positive work identities of women in male-dominated jobs
    (Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University, 2023-03) Konadu-Osei, Obaa Akua; Bosch, Anita; Boros, Smaranda; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. University of Stellenbosch Business School.
    ENGLISH SUMMARY: This dissertation explores how women1 build positive work identities in male-dominated jobs within a collectivist context. The exploratory nature of the dissertation necessitated a qualitative research approach, which is also commensurate with my relational orientation regarding ontology and epistemology. Three objectives, which form the basis of the three separate but interrelated studies, guide this dissertation. As such, specific research strategies, namely a systematic review and case studies, were utilised to achieve the objectives of the three studies. The first study (Chapter 4:) explores how local epistemologies can be utilised in conducting contextsensitive work identity research in the South African context. The methodological choices of 68 publications on work identity were analysed through a systematic review. The review contends that an either-or-neither approach to methodology selection is a false dilemma, and advances suggestions for complementing and integrating Western and local epistemologies. The outcome of this study shaped the methodological choices of the remainder of the research. The second study (Chapter 5:) explored how women navigate dominant identities in the workplace and create alternative ways of existing, using the case of 15 women in blue-collar roles in three companies in male-dominated industries in South Africa. A Deleuze–ubuntu theoretical frame was used to conceptualise identity in a collectivist context, explore minority identities, and understand the disruption of norms towards social transformation. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews, the findings show that women employ various strategies, broadly categorised as sustaining identities, divesting identities, and counterattacking negative behaviour. However, within these strategies, women balance between adopting major or owning minor identities, simultaneously rejecting and/or differentiating from elements of both. The study concluded that the identity work process does not conform to a ‘zero sum’, but, rather, a kaleidoscope of processes that offer fluid and non-linear strategies towards new pathways of being and becoming. The third study (Chapter 6:) explored formal and informal workplace structures that support women’s upward career mobility and foster the development of positive identities. Through semi-structured interviews, 22 work colleagues of the blue-collar women workers in Chapter 5: were engaged. Through thematic and document analysis, data were analysed. The findings show that support mechanisms formally rendered by companies were identified and categorised as: commitment from management, equality of opportunities (structures), and equality of opportunities (processes), whereas informal support was either technical, relational, or personal. Despite the positive impact of colleagues’ support on women’s upward career mobility, informal support tends to offer paternalistic help rather than tools that enable women to succeed in the workplace. Although this dissertation does not claim generalisability, the findings significantly contribute to literature on identity, gender and work, and organisational behaviour. The overall contributions of the dissertation include the following: a) the either-or-neither approach to selecting a research methodology is a false dilemma, and that, researchers can benefit from a fusion of conventional and contextually sensitive epistemologies; b) identity work is a kaleidoscope of processes that present fluid, non-linear, and adaptable strategies aimed at making new pathways and alternatives for these women; and c) organisational policies on diversity and inclusion may remain aspirational if organisational culture and norms continue to perpetuate negative stereotypical views about women’s competencies. The dissertation shows that, for women in male-dominated industries in collectivist contexts, building positive work identities hinges on both interpersonal and intrapersonal identity resources. The benefits thereof enhance the individual’s self-efficacy and workplace relationships, as well as organisational outcomes.
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    Quality financial inclusion, financial vulnerability, and subjective well-being : evidence from South Africa
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2023-03) Kudakwashe Joshua, Chipunza; Ashenafi Beyene, Fanta; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. University of Stellenbosch Business School.
    ENGLISH SUMMARY: Financial inclusion has been at the forefront of the policy agenda in many developing countries due to its potential to improve consumers’ welfare as indicated by, for example, subjective well-being, financial vulnerability, and financial resilience. Beyond the provision of basic financial products, the policy is shifting to improving the quality of financial inclusion which refers to the use of diversified financial products that are flexible, easy to understand, appropriate, and affordable. This is important considering that although 84% of adults in South Africa own bank accounts, consumers remain financially vulnerable, and the subjective wellbeing of consumers, measured by life satisfaction, remains lower relative to other emerging and developed economies. Moreover, only 18% of consumers in South Africa can raise emergency funds which might make it difficult for them to be financially resilient to adverse shocks. The need for financial resilience has been brought to the fore by the recent COVID-19 pandemic which rendered many consumers in South Africa unable to meet basic living costs. To understand how quality financial inclusion could enhance subjective well being, bolster financial resilience, and reduce the financial vulnerability of consumers, the thesis has been divided into four empirical chapters. The study is based on the FinScope 2015 consumer survey of South Africa except for chapter three where the FinScope 2021 consumer survey of South Africa was used. The first empirical chapter computed a multi-dimensional demand-side measure of quality financial inclusion using polychoric principal component analysis. This composite index of quality financial inclusion was more comprehensive than previous measures since it captured indicators of affordability, flexibility, and appropriateness which had been excluded in previous composite indices. This is pertinent because an indicative measure of one’s inclusion in the financial system should capture as many dimensions as possible. Moreover, the inclusion of these dimensions is consistent with the utility maximisation theory, bounded rationality theory, and preference for flexibility theory which suggest that consumers derive value from using financial products that are affordable, appropriate, and flexible. Employing an ordinary least squares regression, the results suggest that females had higher quality financial inclusion than males while bank distance was a statistically insignificant determinant. The proposed index of quality financial inclusion could be used by researchers in assessing how a broader focus on financial inclusion influences consumers’ welfare. The second empirical chapter examined the impact of quality financial inclusion on consumers at various levels of financial vulnerability. The link between the use of financial products and financial vulnerability is explained by the capital conduit theory, social insurance theory, and debt intermediation theory. These theories assert that insurance hedges the risk of unforeseen life events while saving platforms and credit can help consumers to invest in income-generating projects, which contribute to lower financial vulnerability. However, previous composite measures of financial vulnerability excluded dimensions of saving vulnerability and lifestyle vulnerability. Therefore, this study makes a methodological contribution by computing an index of financial vulnerability that captures dimensions of saving vulnerability, expenditure vulnerability, and lifestyle vulnerability. Moreover, unlike previous studies that relied on single indicators or narrower indices of financial inclusion, the study extends extant literature by examining the link between a broader measure of quality financial inclusion and consumer financial vulnerability. The results from the method of moments quantile regression analysis showed that consumers with the highest quality of financial inclusion (top 20%) were less financially vulnerable, but this was less pronounced among the more vulnerable consumers. Implicitly, policymakers and financial institutions need to improve the quality of financial inclusion as this contributes to the enhancement of consumers’ welfare through the mitigation of financial vulnerability. The third empirical chapter examined the role of various channels of financial inclusion in building financial resilience to the COVID-19-induced income shock. The link between financial product use and financial resilience is explained by social insurance theory, risk sharing models, and precautionary saving theory. These theories suggest that consumers can become financially resilient to shocks by purchasing insurance, receiving remittances, and postponing current consumption. However, previous studies focused on the role of financial inclusion on financial resilience to agricultural sector-specific shocks and region-specific shocks. Therefore, the current study contributes to the literature by examining the various channels of financial inclusion through which consumers enhanced their financial resilience to the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic that reduced the income of most consumers. Results from propensity score matching suggested that consumers that employed formal channels to save, insure and borrow did not experience a statistically significant decline in consumption after the COVID-19-induced income shock. Also, a robustness check showed that indebted consumers employing both formal and informal channels were not financially resilient to the COVID-19- induced income shock. These results suggest that policymakers ought to increase access to formal financial services and complement it with financial education programs targeting debt management to build financial resilience to adverse economic shocks in the future. The fourth empirical chapter contributed to the empirical literature by examining whether an improvement in the quality of financial inclusion could indirectly enhance the subjective wellbeing of consumers via asset accumulation. The study was based on the theory of institutional saving, Quach’s (2016) theoretical model, and social insurance theory which suggests that saving, credit, and insurance could improve asset ownership. In turn, an increase in asset endowment could enhance the subjective well-being of consumers according to the asset effects theory. To this end, the chapter extends previous literature that had only examined how various channels of financial inclusion had influenced asset accumulation by examining whether this, in turn, improves the subjective well-being of consumers. The results from the partial least squares path model suggested that an increase in the quality of financial inclusion had a positive indirect effect on the subjective well-being of consumers via asset accumulation. The implication to social policymakers is that an improvement in the quality of financial inclusion could indirectly enhance the subjective well-being of consumers via asset accumulation. The overarching evidence presented in this thesis suggests that an improvement in the quality of financial inclusion can play a significant role in reducing financial vulnerability and indirectly improving the subjective well-being of consumers via asset accumulation. Moreover, the evidence emerging from the study suggests that increased access to formal financial services bolsters consumers’ financial resilience and prepares them against future economic shocks. Noteworthy, the study relied on a cross-sectional dataset of South Africa hence future studies should employ panel data to assess the dynamic link between quality financial inclusion, financial vulnerability, and subjective well-being.
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    Artificial Intelligence (AI) in retail : the AI-enabled value chain
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-04) Oosthuizen, Kim; Botha, Elsamari; Butler, Martin; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. University of Stellenbosch Business School.
    ENGLISH SUMMARY: The competitive landscape is shifting for retailers, and many are scrambling to stay ahead of the competition by investing in new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, robotics and blockchain. Traditional retailers face disruption from competitors that can deliver value to their customers faster through these new technologies. AI, in particular, is earmarked to transform retailing, and its influence on retail is projected to be substantial. However, empirical research on AI in retail remains limited. This study investigates how AI is transforming the retail value chain through a qualitative two-stage research design, using four articles to answer the research question: How is AI transforming the retail value chain? The Leavitt Diamond model and the jobs-to-be-done theory are used to answer the research question. First, this study used all the Leavitt Diamond Model variables (i.e. structure, technology, tasks and people) to examine how AI transforms the retail value chain. The process offered a more comprehensive view of the organisational factors that need to be considered when adopting AI in the retail value chain. Previous research typically focuses on only one of these components. Articles one and three broadens our understanding of applying jobs theory and outcomes-based innovation in the context of AI in the retail value chain. In article one, the jobs-to-be-done approach was used as a lens to conceptually cluster the jobs AI technologies can perform in the retail value chain. The article conceptually proposed four AI technology dimensions that can fulfil most of the roles in the “traditional” retail value chain. Article one introduced a conceptual framework to understand AI's role in the retail value chain proposing an alternative AI-enabled value chain. Article two conducted a detailed review of AI's different tasks across the retail value chain. In article three, an outcomes-based approach was used to present a framework of four outcomes for applying AI in the retail value chain and tested the association between the AI outcome and the value chain stage. Therefore, this study proposes the appropriate theoretical lens to understand better the use of AI in the retail value chain. However, it also improves this framework in the final chapter, presenting an adapted conceptual lens. Finally, article four aimed to understand retailers' challenges better when implementing AI, using Leavitt’s Diamond Model. The overall findings suggest that AI transforms the retail value chain in three ways. First, the iterative nature of AI requires the shape of the retail value chain to change from linear to circular, with data and insight at the core of the successful value chain. Second, AI changes how retailers attain goals in the retail value chain through achieving specific outcomes. The outcomes are dependent on where AI is applied in the retail value chain. Third, there is a complex interplay between structure, technology, people and tasks when implementing AI into the retail value chain, transforming how retailers operate. This study broadens the understanding of how new technologies impact value chains in general and retail value chains in particular. For retailers to successfully implement AI into their business, they need a clear understanding of how it impacts people, organisational structure, other technology, and organisational tasks. This study created a framework of eight imperatives retailers need to consider when implementing AI, offering a holistic view of the consideration needed across people, structure, tasks and technology to ensure successful integration of AI into the business.
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    The relationship between project complexity and project success and the moderating effect of project leadership styles and roles in the construction industry of an emerging economy
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-04) Dartey-Baah, Samuel Kwasi; de Klerk, Mias; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. University of Stellenbosch Business School.
    ENGLISH SUMMARY: Construction projects in most emerging economies provide infrastructural growth that facilitates economic and social development. However, most construction projects fail to meet expected outcomes owing to their complex nature. Various studies have alluded to managerial influences on the nexus between project complexity and project success. With this background, the purpose of the study was to determine how project complexity relates to project success and to explore the potential moderating effect of project leadership styles and roles on the project complexity–project success relationship. The study adopted a mixed-methods approach, the sequential explanatory mixed-methods strategy. Data were first collected and analysed quantitatively and then, based on the findings, qualitative data were collected and analysed to provide deeper insights and a better understanding of the initial quantitative findings. The study was conducted in three main stages involving different sets of samples. The first sample consisting of 10 experts in Ghana’s construction industry was obtained using the convenient sampling technique. This sample engaged in assessing the face and content validity of Geraldi and Adlbrecht (2007) project complexity scale and the proposed project leadership role instrument in Ghana’s construction industry. The second stage of the data collection involved 315 participants from Ghana’s construction industry who were conveniently sampled for the quantitative survey. The final data collection involved 20 participants, who were conveniently sampled from the participants who took part in the main survey for the purpose of qualitative interviews. The quantitative data were collated using an Excel spreadsheet and exported into SPSS (Version 20) and Amos (Version 22.0). Covariance-based structural equation modelling (CB-SEM) was used in analysing the quantitative data. The qualitative data were transcribed, collated, and analysed using thematic analysis. The researcher ensured that all ethical considerations were strictly adhered to throughout the study. The study’s findings confirmed results from previous studies of the negative relationship between aspects of project complexity and project success, although the relationship of project complexity as a composite construct with project success was insignificant. Analyses of the qualitative data revealed that this might be due to the participants’ understanding of the implementation of mitigating measures to deal with complexity. For instance, experienced project teams working on complex projects contributed to reducing the negative effect of project complexity on project success, albeit at a higher cost. The net effect of the success of projects can thus be neutral or the determination of success of large construction projects can become ambiguous. The findings of the study confirmed that transformational and ethical leadership styles are important to ensure project success and positively moderate the insignificant relationship between project complexity and project success. The transactional leadership style had no significant effect on project success and did not moderate the project complexity–project success relationship and did not engender project success. Furthermore, the study showed that project leadership roles significantly moderate the relationship between project complexity and project success. The findings demonstrated how project complexity should be approached because of the uniqueness and influence of each of the dimensions of complexity. For complexity associated with novelty and uncertainty, experience plays a significant role in ensuring project success. Complexity of fact relates to proper decision-making that is guided by reliable information and skilled personnel. Complexity of interaction requires proper stakeholder engagement and communication. The study also sheds light on some of the expectations of project teams concerning how project managers should lead large and complex construction projects in order to promote the probability of success. The demonstration of trust, respect, and concern creates a positive environment that encourages project teams to work hard in difficult times. Particularly, project managers can create an environment that eschews corrupt practices through the demonstration of exemplary behaviours such as fairness, openness, and professionalism. Considering the fact that corruption contributes significantly to project failure and is widespread in construction projects, the management of ethics must be designed to fight corruption in such projects. One way to operationalise ethical behaviours is to have leadership put in place structural mechanisms for managing ethics. This should include monitoring ethical behaviours among project teams, communicating ethical polices, creating channels for reporting ethical violations, promoting ethical training, and putting in place sanctions for corrupt and unethical practices. Despite research work on the concept of leadership being conducted over many years, studies have not yielded any comprehensive definition of leadership that embraces unique project situations such as handling complex projects. This is because leadership can be understood, not only in different fields, but in different ways. Leadership has different connotations within the same field. Studies on leadership which have focused on traits and behaviours as a means of unearthing effective leadership have been criticised as being too idealistic. Some scholars have suggested that, rather than focusing on leadership traits and behaviours, project leaders could focus on performing essential project leadership roles. To address this, the study identified key leadership roles relevant to the project environment through an extensive literature search. The main contribution of the study to the field of project management is the conceptualisation of project leadership roles and the development of the project leadership role instrument. Furthermore, this study’s recommendation to shift the preoccupation of mainstream leadership literature from leadership styles to more practical leadership roles that are suitable for large construction project environments is a unique and innovative contribution to the body of knowledge on project leadership.