The Sustainability Debate: Volume 14

Cover of The Sustainability Debate

Policies, Gender and the Media


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(16 chapters)


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Purpose: The purpose of the chapter is to provide an overview of sustainability debates and a rationale for the book.

Method: A literature review was conducted prior to starting this book project, and this literature review is analysed and situated within a debate the book fosters.

Originality/Value: The paper outlines debate in the field of sustainability and provide a rationale for the book focusing on human sustainability, thus contributing towards extending knowledge on the sustainability concept and debates.

Section I Sustainability Policies


Purpose: The paper aims to examine the link between the indicators of competitiveness of World Economic Forums (WEFs) in the area of higher education, on the one hand, and the Global Competitiveness Index 4.0 and ‘Future Orientation of Government’ sub-pillar, on the other.

Method: Consideration of the link between the mentioned link will be conducted on a sample that includes European Union member countries and potential members. The key information basis for conducting this research makes data from the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 of the WEF. The research was conducted by applying multiple regression analysis.

Findings: The results of the research show that there is a positive correlation between higher education, on the one hand, and the level of national competitiveness and sustainable development, on the other.

Practical Implications: The obtained results of empirical research can serve as a ‘global benchmark’ of future public policy in the field of higher education in the analyzed countries.

Originality/Value: The key contribution of this paper is reflected in providing a clearer insight into the competitiveness factors of the analyzed countries that are expressed in the field of sustainable development and higher education and pointing out the priority activities of competent state authorities to their improving and raising the level of national competitiveness.


Purpose: This chapter aims to analyse the current literature on the supply and demand for skills in the UK labour market to identify key trends and themes around skill mismatch, identify gaps and areas for future research.

Method: Selected articles were analysed to identify key themes and trends in the existing literature.

Findings: The overall finding is that the UK labour market suffers from various forms of widespread skill mismatch, but most particularly in the form of skill shortage. The areas with the most notable skill shortage highlighted in the literature include basic literacy, numeracy and digital; employability including leadership and management; STEM and health-related areas; teaching and training and a range of higher-level skills (including leadership and management, digital and creative, and industry-specific skills in STEM and health-related sectors, financial and business services, technology media and telecommunications, as well as teaching and training). Skill mismatch in the form of skill shortages in these areas is projected to worsen considerably by 2030, with some areas expected to suffer acute shortages by this time. Continued improvements to the education system will help to ensure the pipeline of future workers. However, changes to the education system are unlikely to impact on 80% of the future 2030 workforce who are already working and active in the UK labour market.

Originality/value of paper: The chapter provides a review of key literature in the field and aggregates key findings, so a wider picture of the extent and nature of the UK's skill mismatch challenge can be appreciated.


Purpose: This paper aims to understand the relevance of the concept of integrated reporting (<IR>) to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Methodology/approach: The literature reviewed is from a wide range of reputable business reports, government or governmental bodies as well as academic journal papers.

Findings: The review has provided evidence of the relevance of <IR> to SMEs and highlights the advantages as well as difficulties relating to adoption. Further, although evidence suggested that over 40% of <IR> adopters globally are SMEs, current research on <IR> in SMEs is scant.

Research limitations/implications (if applicable): This literature review has highlighted a need to investigate <IR> and SMEs more widely across more European countries across a wider range and number of SMEs to gain a wider understanding of <IR> and SMEs in a European context.

Practical implications (if applicable): Research that highlights the increasing relevance and advantages of <IR> for SMEs could stimulate further adoption by SMEs.

Social implications: While the individual impact of SMEs on global societal and environmental issues is small, their collective impact is believed to be considerable. <IR> creates the potential to significantly improve the long-term health of corporations and the external environment they impact through consideration of the three indivisible and integrated dimensions of sustainable development: the economy, the society and the environment.

Originality/value of paper: To the author's knowledge, this is the first literature review in this field, thus providing an overview of the issue, which can inform future research.


Purpose: The purpose of this chapter is to establish the sustainability reporting practices of FTSE 100 companies using integrated reporting (IR), corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate governance (CG) as proxies. Our study has adopted a holistic approach by combining dimensions of each factor in one variable.

Design/Methodological Approach: The study data cover all FTSE 100 companies over five years, thereby generating 505 company-year observations for each variable of the study. Authors have collected the data from Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reports filed with Thomson Reuters and International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).

Findings: Results indicate the practice of sustainability reporting in FTSE 100 companies both per variables and dimensions levels. It shows, for example, 89% of the companies reported on their charitable donations. The study also found that 79% of the FTSE 100 companies reported on their sustainability committees whilst 86% and 85% reported on their emission reduction and waste reduction policies, respectively. Results show that the CSR impact is higher than CG regarding IR adoption. The Logistic Model manages to explain a high percentage of IR adoption while controlling for other misspecification issues such as multicollinearity.

Practical Implication: The study highlights practice of substantiality reporting for public shareholding companies listed on FTSE 100 Index along with interaction among proxies. These will be of interest to companies not only in the FTSE 100 Index but also those outside. Companies can rely on these factors to strengthen their governance, social responsibility and reporting policies in consideration of all stakeholders and not just a few. We believe that we shed a quantitative explanation on IR adoption by CSR and CG factors, and we expect an impact on practices following results of our study.

Social Implication: Results have indicated that at least 60% of companies in the FTSE 100 Index have imbedded social responsibility activities, such as charitable giving, waste reduction initiatives, emissions reduction policy and sustainability committees.


Purpose: Ocean plastic pollution has increased scrutiny towards businesses that produce plastic packaging. The article presents the perspective of businesses alongside those of consumers concerning packaging sustainability, as these two areas are fundamentally related.

Method: A mixed-methods approach consisted of an interview with a plastic packaging design manager, an action research group of packaging industry professionals and a survey (of 1000 UK consumers) and focus groups to investigate similar issues from a consumer perspective.

Findings: The business research showed that they feel frustrated by emotional arguments against plastic that push towards alternative packaging formats that have greater negative environmental impacts. They also highlighted problems of inconsistent recycling infrastructure and the need to communicate the benefits of packaging more effectively to consumers. The consumer research identified high levels of awareness of ocean plastic pollution but a lower understanding of the properties of different packaging materials. Many do not yet look for the most sustainable packaging when shopping and feel that retailers must take more responsibility for reducing environmental degradation from the packaging.

Originality/Value: The study provides a new perspective on packaging sustainability issues by combining the views of industry and consumers. In doing so, it acknowledges the different human influences on environmental outcomes. A realist conceptual model highlights the potential mechanisms triggered within different contexts. While the research is just a snapshot of views on selected topics, it conceptualises various components of the relationship between businesses and consumers to identify different aspects of the problem for further research.

Section II Gender and Sustainability


Purpose: This paper aims to present the case study of the SHE (Šibenik Hub for Ecology) hub project, ecofeminist business practice in Croatia. The SHE hub is a sustainable tourism project based around issues of ‘ethical consumerism’ and sustainable development and shows that is possible to implement ecofeminist ideas in business.

Method: Paper is divided into two parts. The first part is theoretical and presents an overview of relevant literature regarding ecofeminism, sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and green consumerism. The second part is a case study of the SHE hub project, based on analysis of the project website, content analysis of the media coverage regarding the project and an in-depth interview with project initiator.

Findings: The results show that strengthening of the ethical consumerism movement has given a new impetus to the realisation of ecofeminist projects in real life and that SHE hub is a good example of this. Although the SHE hub has insufficient transformative social potential, it is important to notice that sustainable change always begins with small steps.

Originality/value: The topic of the relationship between social corporate responsibility and ecofeminism has not been researched, so this case study represents a valuable contribution to the research of this relationship.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the sustainability of women's independent utopian visionary and land projects.

Methodology: The approach is to examine projects in depth.

Findings: The findings are that because women are an oppressed, inexperienced, under-resourced population, it is very difficult to sustain these projects even if utopian visionaries can get them off the ground at great personal expense.

Research limitations: The limitations of the research are that it is an entirely first-person narrative of the principal founder and developer. Other participants might be more able to add optimistic perspectives.

Practical implications: Practically the paper implies that a better footing is required than personal resources of an individual to enact a visionary dream.

Social implications: Social implications are that to progress in any visionary way, society as a whole must find a way to support utopian visionary thinkers and schemers.

Originality: The paper is original in that it makes a seemingly honest record of what it is like to organise volunteer labour in organisations, even if for other than feminist causes, and the value is that a record is provided for future visionaries to see the problems that might face them and what kind of issues they can expect to have to overcome.


Purpose: This paper aims to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between gendered ageism and sustainable work in Croatian context through the perspective of the founders of the Association of Women 50+, the first association which gathers women aged 50 and above in the Republic of Croatia.

Method: Using a case study approach, semi-structured interviews with four founders of the Association of Women 50+ were conducted and the questions were divided into three sets. The Transcripts were analysed through unitising data and then the answers were fit into those three sets.

Findings: Gendered ageism represents a serious obstacle to employability and work progression for older women. Looking at the gendered ageism in the realm of the workplace through the eyes of four women, founders of Association of Women 50+, the first association in the Republic of Croatia which empowers women aged 50 and above discovers that gender ageism must not be ignored.

Research limitations: The results derived from this case study cannot be generalised since they are based on a single case in one country and the interview sample is small.

Social implications: The results derived from this case study can serve as a valuable resource for national political decision-makers to get a deeper understanding of the relationship between gendered ageism and sustainable work in the Republic of Croatia.

Originality/value of paper: The paper represents the first research on the relationship between gendered ageism and sustainable work in the Republic of Croatia for women aged 50 and above.


Purpose: This chapter considers whether it would be beneficial, and appropriate based on the application of equality law to date, for the UK government to mandate gender equality objectives set by the United Nations as requirements in initiatives aimed at stimulating the economy, specifically the Northern Powerhouse. It considers the success of the Northern Powerhouse and its impact on females in the region.

Method: The data used as a basis for analysis in this chapter were obtained through secondary research. A mixture of quantitative and qualitative data is used, with a heavy weighting towards quantitative information.

Findings: Gender inequality remains a significant issue for females in the United Kingdom. The UK government have implemented the requirements of Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) through a non-prescriptive framework, resulting in specific industries and businesses lobbying for further development. Gender equality was not a specific consideration in the launch of the Northern Powerhouse, leading to challenges in its implementation.

Originality: There has been significant research undertaken on gender inequality in the United Kingdom, however, this chapter is the first to explore the relationship between the requirements of CEDAW and the government initiative, the Northern Powerhouse.

Section III Media and Sustainability


Purpose: This paper offers a first look into journalistic coverage on the enduring issue of marine litter. The presented study seeks to identify dominating news issue frames of marine pollution to analyse the prospective approaches of journalists.

Method: A content analysis of print news-of-record sources was conducted. The theoretical background of Cultural Studies and Political Consumerism Theory was employed to analyse environmental reporting in the United States and France.

Findings: The main result is that French sources focus primarily on proposed legislation and political commentary around the issue instead of ways for readers to solve the problem themselves. Journalists who assert legislation as the principal method for fighting marine debris eliminate plastic from the source. Conversely, American journalists predominantly framed the environmental threat of marine debris as a cultural issue. This individualistic approach aims to motivate privileged readers to make lifestyle changes that, notionally, will suppress global consumption of single-use plastics.

Research limitations/implications: The individualistic approach common in American news coverage aims to motivate privileged readers to make lifestyle changes that, notionally, will suppress global consumption of single-use plastics. This approach does not reflect the scientific communities overwhelming scepticism of oversimplistic solutions to this global environmental issue.

Originality/value: This foundational paper offers issue frames through which social science research on framing, rhetorical criticism and media effects of marine litter news coverage can build upon.


Purpose: This study explores the Zero Waste lifestyle trend through the lens of user-generated content posted on Instagram. The aim is to investigate consumer-driven activities and shared beliefs associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle movement from a consumer culture perspective.

Method: Data were collected from 313 public posts associated with the #zerowaste hashtag from 313 individual users on Instagram. A textual analysis of user biographies and a thematic analysis of both visual and textual posts were carried out.

Findings: Findings suggest a female-led consumer lifestyle movement that seems to believe in the power of community to cause an environmentally significant impact. Zero Waste seems to be regarded as a long-term goal rather than an immediate radical action by members of the social media community. This study also identifies an emergence of Zero Waste product/brand influencers which could be categorised as follows: (1) Product promoters, (2) Product critics, (3) Sponsored brand promoters and (4) Non-sponsored brand admirers.

Originality/Value of Paper: This study provides a richer understanding of the Zero Waste lifestyle phenomenon which has grown in popularity through social media during recent years. Besides, findings allow for a better understanding of the role of consumer activists and social media influencers in promoting the Zero Waste lifestyle within online communities.


Purpose: This paper aims to explore how Instagram can be used as a communication channel in green marketing digital mix through content analysis of posts published on the official Instagram account of bio&bio, the first Croatian organic food store.

Method: Using a case study approach, qualitative content analysis was implemented in the period from January to May 2020. A total of 93 textual posts published on the official bio&bio Instagram account were analysed and then categorised using Carlson, Grove and Kangun's categorisation of the following five types of environmental claims – product orientation, process orientation, image orientation, environmental orientation and combination.

Findings: Instagram in the first line serves as the promotion channel. Although Instagram de-emphasises textual description in favour of image use, which makes it different from other social media platforms, this study showed how companies can send effective green messages using the appropriate environmental-oriented claims to their audience and in that way raise the awareness about their products and position themselves as good corporate citizens.

Research limitations: The results derived from this case study cannot be generalised since they are based on a single case in one country.

Originality/value of paper: The paper represents the first research on how Instagram can be used as a communication channel in the context of green marketing digital mix in the Republic of Croatia. The results derived from this case study can serve as a ground floor for future researches on how companies can use Instagram as a communication channel embedded in green marketing digital mix.


Purpose: Forces of fragmentation make achieving climate change goals difficult. Social media is enabling more stakeholders to get involved in sustainability debates. This study aimed to investigate the debates taking place about sustainability on Twitter using the hashtag #ClimateAction as a search term, to identify influential actors and their connections with other users on the platform.

Methodology: NodeXL was used to investigate the social network structure of actors discussing #ClimateAction on Twitter. Tweets were thematically used to identify the topics being discussed. The most influential actors involved in the network were identified. The tweets included in the analysis were posted between Saturday 17 August and Thursday 22 August 2019. The data set was obtained from Twitter on 22 August 2019 and was downloaded from NodeXL Graph Gallery.

Findings: The network included 14,512 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained #ClimateAction, or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets. The network included 38,855 unique edges with an average geodesic distance of 4.19, indicating a close network. Five key themes were identified: Encouraging action, Citizen movements and activists, Climate change and its effects on the planet, Politics, policies and approaches for climate change and Climate research.

Originality: The study provides new qualitative insights into how Twitter is used as a platform for debate and agenda setting for sustainability. The debate was not as polarized as previous research suggests which may reflect the global nature of Twitter and the increased capacity for advocates to shape policy debates about sustainability on social media.


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Cover of The Sustainability Debate
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Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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