Photo of Luis Ballesteros

Luis Ballesteros

Doctoral Student

Research Interests: decision making under uncertainty, organizational learning and knowledge management, business responses to natural disasters, competitive advantages and non-market responses, systemic risk and market strategy, private provision of collective goods

I am interested in organizational decision-making under high uncertainty. And I mean the contexts of high-magnitude, low-probability shocks that disrupt the status quo in market systems, such as natural disasters. I argue that high-stake decisions that affect significantly the availability of rents and market competition often occur during these time intervals. I am also fascinated by the role of business organizations' responses in contributing to collective goods and their impact on social welfare.

Currently, I am focused on three lines of research: how firm-market linkages affect decision-making in the aftermath of natural disasters, how organizations overcome information scarcity during such time spans, and how the characteristics of the organizational decision, external stakeholders' needs, and the institutional context drive firm performance and social welfare. More information on these studies can be found in my Research.



Drivers and Impacts of Corporate Disaster Giving:

Uncertainty, Market Rents, and the Social Value of the Firm

In my dissertation, I analyze  the magnitude and timing of corporate disaster giving by the 10,000 largest global firms as well as the impact of that giving on subsequent sales and visibility growth of giving firms in affected countries and the total magnitude of disaster giving (i.e., do private donations just crowd out or substitute for public aid). The first chapter centers on the drivers of corporate provision of collective goods during disasters. It argues that the variance in the stake that firms have in specific markets drives the organizational likelihood to supply collective goods such as disaster giving. The bigger the stake, the greater the firm’s reliance on the market’s collective goods (e.g., communication networks, transportation infrastructure). Therefore, a market’s relative importance for a firm should be a significant predictor of corporate pro-social behavior—an association that is not explained by theories on social preferences or the extant literature on strategic considerations. Using a quasi-natural experimental design, I test this argument by constructing a measure of corporate economic reliance on market systems based on the literature on club goods. I show that accounting for variation in economic reliance leads to a more accurate prediction of the frequency and magnitude of corporate pro-social behavior after the shock of a disaster than widely invoked arguments rooted in the strategic philanthropy and institutional literatures.

The second chapter assesses the association between the organizational decision of providing collective goods during disasters and subsequent firm performance proxied using post-disaster sales growth in the affected country.  It presents a comparative analysis of the economic efficiency of leading versus following (i.e., imitating or choosing a different response) or abstaining in the decision to donate to major earthquakes. Drawing upon work on the social construction of preferences in the behavioral economics literature and institutional logics in the organizational literature, I formalize that optimization and the possession of relevant experience are not sufficient factors to predict rent allocation. Organizations characterized by naïveté and the use of heuristics often capture rents. The contribution of the study to the timing strategy literature centers on the identification of clear incumbent (dis)advantages, the assessment of time-dependence and non-linearity patterns, and fine-grained timing measures (to the minute granularity). The preliminary results support the argument that market response is driven by the interaction of the characteristics of the organizational choice, the relative organizational standing in an institutional group, and stakeholder expectations regarding the social need.

The final chapter studies the effect of corporate disaster giving on social welfare proxied using the magnitude of total aid received across different types of disasters. Over 90 percent of the deaths from natural disasters have occurred in low- and middle-income countries, yet more than 85 percent of in-kind and monetary relief coming from business organizations worldwide has gone to high-income economies. From the perspective of social welfare, does this mean an inefficient allocation of economic resources? Is this a failure of the doing well by doing good argument? The extant literature has produced little systematic evidence as to answer these questions and understand whether society at large benefits more by the intervention of firms in such areas as education, social infrastructure, and disaster relief, than by limiting such responsibility to the state. I examine the causal effect of corporate disaster giving in the efficiency of disaster relief and recovery. I argue that business giving efficiently specializes in black swans, highly unexpected and costly phenomena that maximize the incapacity of the state to cope with the economic hardship. In such contexts, corporate giving acts as a stop-loss mechanism and complements public funding in nations that have been historically deprived of public multilateral aid.

I analyze these arguments with a unique dataset comprised by all organizational responses reported in news media (i.e., firms and foundations, non-profit national and multinational organizations) to the relief and recovery fund of all the major sudden natural disasters that affected the world in the last 20 years. I match this original dataset to data on the geographic location and sales of the 10,000 largest multinational corporations from the Directory of Corporate Affiliates. I also use news media reports from Factiva to track firm visibility one year before and after the event. In addition to taking advantage of the exogenous characteristic of the timing of sudden disasters, I contribute to the organizational literature in addressing the econometric challenge posed by endogeneity by bringing novel methods to evaluate the private and social efficiency of organizational choices.