Why do firms train non-employees? Combining institutionalist and resource-based views to understand MNE strategy in Mozambique

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Education interventions by companies have been widely observed in low income countries in recent years, however they have not been studied systematically in their own right. This study explores the question of why and how Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) decide to engage in non-employee training programs focused on the extractives industries in Mozambique. A growing literature is trying to explain why private actors engage in the provision of local public goods. The present study draws on the two main theories used in the literature on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): (i) Institutional Theory and (ii) the Resource-Based View of the Firm. In addressing how firm resources mediate institutional pressures, the present study synthesizes these two lines of theory. It outlines a theoretical framework that elucidates the interplay between resources and institutional pressures comprehensively. Further, the synthesis allows us to understand the active pursuit of legitimacy (both at the MNE and the subunit level), how other firm resources can help a firm achieve legitimacy, and how legitimacy can be used a resource, something that could not be done by either theory alone. This framework treats legitimacy as a resource, along with knowledge about skills and external relationships, but uses Institutional Theory to understand which actions may be expected from firms and by whom. To clarify the variations (the ‘how’) in non-employee training interventions, including the decision whether to train, what levels of training to offer (from basic to higher education), and whether to team up with external partners (including both the public and private sectors), the research develops a typology and decision theory of training. 
The variations of drivers within and across interventions with the public and private sector are then explored relying on evidence from interviews with key informants from firms, government ministries and bilateral donor organisations as well as on document analysis of corporate reports. The research finds that legitimacy with different actors is the main driver of training interventions at all levels, particularly those carried out in collaboration with the public sector. This resonates with a substantial literature on CSR and legitimacy. Relatedly, there is also variation of drivers between skill levels, as interventions at the primary level are more legitimacy-oriented than those at higher levels with institutional pressures from different actors converging at the primary education level. This suggests that further research on CSR interventions should provide more nuance in their analysis rather than focusing on the large aggregations of CSR such as community development. It also finds that other resources, particularly knowledge about skills gain importance in interventions carried out in collaboration with the private sector, sometimes as an intermediary step towards legitimacy. This connection between how non-legitimacy resources can help a firm gain legitimacy, suggests that combining Institutional Theory and the Resource Based View leads to insights that could not be gleaned from only one of the theories.
Date of Award1 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPeter Kingstone (Supervisor) & Andres Mejia Acosta (Supervisor)

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