Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



Business and Management

Start dates

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This 3-year self-funded PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Hamid Foroughi and Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust.

The work will include:

  • Implementation of either traditional or virtual ethnographic fieldwork, depending on the core research skills of the PhD candidate.
  • A comparative design to investigate how different communities commemorate events surrounding corporate irresponsibility to propose an explanation into why some initiatives are more successful than others.
  • Collaborative work within and across the strategic research themes Sustainability and the Environment, and Security and Risk at the Faculty of Business and Law.

Corporate irresponsibility is understood as intentionally irresponsible strategies, decisions, or actions, which negatively affect an identifiable stakeholder or the environment (Keig et al. 2015, Strike et al. 2006). Some scholars argue that a growing international emphasis on sustainability will force businesses to abandon irresponsible practices and adopt social responsibility in their core strategy (Aguilera 2007, Othman et al. 2011).

Critical scholarship on the topic, however, argues that companies either lack the skills or motivation to effectively address sustainability challenges (Crilly et al, 2012). Their responses to isomorphic forces are often reduced to window-dressing (Lin, 2010, Shevchenko et al, 2016). They suggest that corporations change course only if they are subject to a stronger set of regulatory controls.

On the contrary, research on stakeholder engagement argues that community’s active involvement can compel organizations to react and transform their patterns of thought, behaviour and social relationships to pursue a more sustainable development model (Stephan et al. 2016).

These studies encourage investigations into how communities can hold companies accountable by demanding a concrete change in corporate responsible behaviour. They highlight the role of reputational actors, who can leverage organizational concern for reputation to bring about a change in how organisations think about their responsibility (see Fine 2012) and engage in truly sustainable activities to rectify their reputation (Jackson et al. 2014) and neutralise public hostility (Lange & Washburn 2012).

One major challenge faced by reputational actors is that events of corporate irresponsibility are often forgotten soon after the immediate visible effects of the events are dissipated. Mena et al. (2016) argue that this is partly because corporations are actively involved in ‘forgetting work’; that is, attempts to erase or diffuse memories of corporate irresponsibility by attempting to discredit ‘mnemonic actors’, eliminate ‘mnemonic traces’ or to dissociate with the events.

Their research highlights the need for future research to explore ‘memory work’- symbolic activities in order to maintain and propagate a public memory - in order to promote corporate responsibility. This project sits within this context, and aims to explore it.

  1. Crilly, D., Zollo, M., & Hansen, M. T. (2012). Faking it or muddling through? Understanding decoupling in response to stakeholder pressures. Academy of Management Journal, 55(6), 1429-1448.
  2. Jackson, G., Brammer, S., Karpoff, J. M., & Lange, D., Zavyalova, A., Harrington, B. (2014). Grey areas: Irresponsible corporations and reputational dynamics. Socio-Economic Review, 12(1), 153-218.
  3. Lange, D., & Washburn, N. T. (2012). Understanding attributions of corporate social irresponsibility. Academy of management review, 37(2), 300-326.
  4. Mena, S., Rintamäki, J., Fleming, P., & Spicer, A. (2016). On the forgetting of corporate irresponsibility. Academy of management review, 41(4), 720-738.
  5. Shevchenko, A., Lévesque, M., & Pagell, M. (2016). Why firms delay reaching true sustainability. Journal of Management Studies, 53(5), 911-935.


Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

February start

2019/2020 entry

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,327 p/a*

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,164 p/a*

International full-time students: £15,900 p/a*

International part-time students: £7,950 p/a*

By Publication Fees 2019/2020

Members of staff: £1,610 p/a*

External candidates: £4,327 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase

October start

2020/2021 entry

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,327 p/a**

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,164 p/a**

International full-time students: £16,400 p/a*

International part-time students: £8,200 p/a*

By Publication Fees 2020/2021

Members of staff: £1,680 p/a**

External candidates: £4,327 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase
**This is the 2019/20 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2020/21 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2020.  

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

  • You must be a UK or EU resident and hold a good honours degree (2:1 or above) from a recognised higher education institution.
  • In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

  • We welcome applications from highly motivated prospective students with a background in social sciences (e.g. anthropology, communication studies, critical management studies and other relevant disciplines) with an interest in corporate responsibility
  • A familiarity with qualitative and ethnographic methods is desirable (not essential)
  • We are also interested in candidates who are familiar with social media analysis and software assisted textual analysis for an alternative research design, which focuses on virtual communication and virtual communities
  • We encourage prospective students to design their own research strategies depending on their interest and core skills


If you have project specific enquiries, please contact Dr Hamid Foroughi ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

How to apply

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Business and Management’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

To be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity quote project code BUSM4500219 when applying.

February start

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October start

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