From Diffusion to Diffuse-ability: A Text-as-Data Approach to Explaining the Global Diffusion of Corporate Sustainability Policy

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Abstract

This paper argues that attributes of diffusion objects, in their own right, shape the form and extent of policy diffusion. To date, diffusion scholarship focuses on actor-level attributes (e.g., connections, culture, physical proximity, etc.) to explain what is diffused and how much. Extending existing theory on the impacts of policies' textual properties on diffusion patterns, we argue that policies that are easier to understand, specific in their applicability, and that do not mandate specific behavior have their text diffused with less adaptation, regardless of the attributes of the authoring organization. We test our argument in the context of the global diffusion of corporate sustainability policy (CSP), analyzing a novel dataset of 1,429 CSPs from 100 countries, 20 international organizations, and 12 regional organizations over a 65-year period. Offering a precise measure of diffusion as the extent to which a source text is copied into an adopter text, we find statistical support for our hypothesis. We contribute to diffusion scholarship by helping to mainstream natural language processing methods and by theorizing how attributes of policy documents affect how much adaptation occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbersqad106
JournalINTERNATIONAL STUDIES QUARTERLY
Volume68
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • ESG
  • POLICY
  • SUSTAINABILITY
  • Natural language processing (NLP)

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