Business and Sustainability: Concepts, Strategies and Changes: Volume 3

Cover of Business and Sustainability: Concepts, Strategies and Changes
Subject:

Table of contents

(24 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages xiii-xiv
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Dr. Gabriel Eweje is a senior lecturer in Management and Director, Sustainability & CSR Research Group, at the School of Management, College of Business, Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand. His background is mostly in teaching, research and consultancy in international business, corporate social responsibility and sustainability-related disciplines. Previously, he worked as a research fellow at the United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS), Tokyo, Japan, and taught for several years at Royal Holloway, University of London, England. His Ph.D. from University of London focused on Corporate Social Responsibility and Activities of Multinational Oil and Mining companies in Developing Countries. He also worked as a research fellow with International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London on a project on how mining and minerals can contribute to sustainable development (MMSD). His research interest lies around the issues of business ethics, corporate social responsibility and sustainability-related disciplines. He has also published his work in international academic journals and presented his research findings at international conferences. He has experience working with international management consulting firms on corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues.

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Introduction

Pages xxiii-xxx
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This book aims to assist readers in navigating the conceptual maze surrounding discussions of business and sustainability by offering critical reflection on the state of business action for environmental sustainability and providing evidence about what is actually taking place in real localities and businesses. The chapters in this volume are relevant in sustainability research, focusing on issues that are critical, topical and needed at this stage of the discussion. This volume makes three main contributions. First, it offers a critical review of business engagement with sustainability from four perspectives: sustainability as a political project; sustainability as a response to environmental crisis, sustainability as business opportunity and sustainability as stakeholder management. The chapters for example, link business case for sustainability to the larger debate about ‘ecological modernisation’: this perspective believes that the way out of the ecological crisis is to go further into the process of industrialisation. A complication to this claim is that business must be given the right market signals to identify and profit from their environment impacts, in other words that ‘ecology must be economised’. As the chapters will show, the notion of a business case is misleading if it is intended to imply some freely arrived at evaluation without reference to the context in which decisions are made.

A key factor in business success in developed economies is the quality of those who work for the organization. The ability of an organization to attract and retain the best professional talent depends increasingly on its record in sustainability, including creating a constructive culture underpinned by effective leading-edge human resource strategies that increase the skills portfolios and career prospects of those who work there.

A recent experience illustrates the following. I was dining with a friend, a specialist in Human Resource Management. She had just taken a call from her niece, Jodie, a 30-year-old with a well-paid finance job in a large corporation. Jodie called to let her aunt know that she had turned down the outstanding job offer she received from another organization than the one she worked for – an offer she had previously discussed with her aunt.

“What made you decide to turn down such an excellent offer?” my friend asked her niece. Her reply was: “I went on to their website and checked out the number of women in senior management positions – that didn't look very good. Then I checked out their latest sustainability report; that was wishy-washy. I located informal contacts in the company who confirmed that the company was not playing a leading role in gender equity or sustainability so I decided to stay where I am. When I told my boss, he quickly organized a meeting to review my career path and I received a salary raise. However even so I won't be as well off financially right now but I would rather be with a company that is on the leading edge in these areas.”

This chapter explores how, in a variety of ways such as this, the drive to create a more sustainable society increasingly defines business opportunity and performance. For many of the world's leading corporations, sustainability is now simply part of their mainstream business. But first, to understand how business opportunity is changing, we examine key factors that are reshaping the future, including business itself.

Facing the widely spread malaise in and through irresponsible practices of and by modern organizations, phenomenology can provide an approach that is helpful for assessing this situation as well as getting a renewed perception concerning work and life (Fay & Riot, 2007). In particular, it can contribute to a renewal of understanding and enacting responsibility in the lifeworld of business. Practically, it may also provide reflexive practitioners with clues that can trigger new and more responsible practices. The following phenomenological perspective on responsiveness is a kind of application of phenomenology (Harmon, 1990) for reevaluating the constitution of responsibility as capacity to respond adequately in and of organizations and its members. Part of the organizational realities for its members is that it is challenging them to act, speak, and express, that is, they are provoked to give answers. A corresponding responsiveness as an answering behavior can be defined specifically as one, in which there is openness for the points of view of both (or various) parties involved, and by which the setting of pattern and standards coevolve.3

The International Ergonomics Association (IEA)'s definition of HF/E includes the following:Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance … Organizational ergonomics is concerned with the optimization of sociotechnical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes. (IEA Council, 2000)

The rise of aesthetics within organizational studies has been met with enthusiasm by a growing coterie of scholars. Aesthetics, it is claimed, offers a dimension that has been missing in a discipline that has been dominated by instrumental approaches. It is not surprising, then, that Pierre Guillet de Monthoux, one of the field's champions, asserts that “if the German artist Joseph Beuys … was right in claiming that art is tomorrow's capital, it seems reasonable to consider aesthetics its new organization theory” (Guillet de Monthoux, 2000, p. 35).

Using the Bennett (1991) and Berle (1991) publications as a historical picture of what were considered to be “best-practice” examples of ecopreneurial businesses in the 1990s allows a longitudinal assessment of the success and failure of such businesses almost two decades on. Tracking their evolution facilitates the consideration of emerging patterns in their development, such as what happened within certain industries, whether common patterns emerge in the role of the founder ecopreneurs and how successful different firms actually were.

It is not in doubt that pollution prevention and resource efficiency projects can sometimes make good business sense for an individual enterprise. For organizations that have previously done little to address their environmental impacts, some opportunity frequently exists to lessen those impacts while raising production efficiency and keeping their basic approach to business intact. This was the experience of many businesses during the 1980s and the origins of the suggestion that the environment was a “win-win” issue for business (Walley & Whitehead, 1996). Simply updating production equipment can offer a double dividend, which is partly why so many businesses are able to claim they are getting greener while aggregate environmental conditions deteriorate (McDonough & Braungart, 2002). The unresolved issue is whether an ongoing commitment to improve environmental performance is reflected in ongoing gains in business performance. As expressed by one advocate of eco-industrial development, the issue is not about doing the same with less but rather about doing far more with far less (Cohen-Rosenthal, 2003, p. 22).

This chapter reports and discusses an empirical study that examines the sustainability practices and strategies of NZ companies. The empirical work for this study was carried out in NZ (Auckland, Wellington, and Waikato) between January and December 2009. There were visits to head offices and regional offices of 15 companies comprising large national and multinational companies (MNCs) operating in NZ. Companies were chosen from different industries including aviation, chemicals, energy and power, financial institutions (banks), pharmaceuticals, retail, and telecommunications.

It is indubitable that society expects organizations “to employ their assets in a socially responsible manner” (Cordeiro, 1997, p. 1390) and also to be seen to be doing so. BP is a case of interest as in July 2000 the company launched a public relations campaign to appeal to the public as an environmentally-friendly “green” energy company. The company rebranded with “Beyond Petroleum” as a tagline, alongside a new logo of a fresh sunburst replacing the solid shield of BP. In the wake of the consumer boycotts of Exxon and Shell that clearly demonstrated how intense public feeling was about environmental issues, BP made a decision to invest in renewable energy. Although it was only a small investment compared to their commitment to fossil fuels, it was widely promoted. Their stated quest was to produce the cleanest burning fossil fuels and to become a producer of solar energy that would provide sustainable fuel to reduce carbon emission levels with products that were “safe, practical and affordable” (Verschoor, 2010).

The post industrial revolution era, driven by an expansion of the global energy system (Jaccard, 2006), has witnessed an exponential increase in the consumption of finite and non-renewable resources, coupled with substantial destruction of the natural environment. Weizsacker and Jesinghaus (1992) observed that the consequence of further growth in a conventional sense would not be worldwide prosperity, but rather lead to destruction, putting in jeopardy prosperity and indeed the very basis of life. It follows that the continuance of such economic growth, measured by traditional means is unsustainable and illogical in the long run.

Stakeholder theory has become one of the main theoretical foundations of corporate social performance (CSP) (Clarkson, 1995; Margolis & Walsh, 2003; van der Laan, van Ees & van Witteloostuijn, 2008). There are three interconnected constructs related to CSP in the literature, and referring to different aspects of business involvement in social issues. First, corporate social responsibility (CSR, or CSR1) refers to the business philosophy that directs managers making policy and management decisions towards normatively correct performance regarding expectations of multiple stakeholders of the firm (Dentchev, 2009; Van der Laan et al., 2008). Carroll (1979, 1991) distinguishes social expectations as four dimensions of CSR: economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary.

Sustainability is far from being a new concept, having been around since the mid-1970s, notably through ‘The Natural Step’ developed in Sweden by Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt. Recently, the Bruntland's Commission's report ‘Our Common Future’, published in 1987, defined sustainable development as ‘meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’ (WCED, 1987, p. 43). Although the Bruntland's definition has arguably become the most widely used, the debate about what sustainability is and what it is not most certainly continues.

An in-depth analysis of management and academic literature regarding sustainable development, on the one hand, and retailers' involvement on the other, has been conducted. Related topics such as responsibility (Barthel, 2006; Binninger, 2008; Lauriol, 2004; Pasquero, 2005; Thierry, 2005), trust (Guibert, 1999; Lapeyre & Bonnefont, 2004; Sireix et al., 2004; Swaen & Chumpitaz, 2008), and consumer resistance (Aouina-Mejri & Benhallam, 2009; Peñaloza & Price, 1993; Roux, 2007) have also been investigated. Furthermore, we studied the theoretical corpus of the frameworks used (Stakeholder Theory and Legitimacy Theories).

Scholars in Management Learning (Goleman, 1998; Hambrick, 1994; Kayes, 2002; Wegner, 1998) emphasize the importance of providing “real-world” learning opportunities that transcend the theoretical or are academically self-reinforcing. Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, and Smith (1994, 1997) indicate that to over-come reliance on theoretical models that do not represent organizational reality or management as practiced, inter-disciplinary, action learning, and experiential styles of education are most appropriate as they do not seek to reduce complexity or eliminate paradox. Whittington (1996) refers to this approach to management learning as “management as practiced” and Balogun (2006) uses the term the “management practice turn.”

Cover of Business and Sustainability: Concepts, Strategies and Changes
DOI
10.1108/S2043-9059(2011)3
Publication date
2011-12-06
Book series
Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78052-439-9
eISBN
978-1-78052-439-9
Book series ISSN
2043-9059