Category Archives: sustainable development

Product-Service Systems for Sustainable Businesses

This is an excerpt from my latest paper: Camilleri, M. A. (2018). The circular economy’s closed loop and product service systems for sustainable development: A review and appraisal. Sustainable Development. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/sd.1909

(c) The Sustainable Business Edit

Many academic commentators claim that product-service systems (PSS) are moving society towards a resource‐efficient, circular economy (CE) (Tukker, 2015; Piscicelli et al., 2015; Yuan et al., 2006). PSSs shift the businesses’ focus from designing and selling only physical products, to selling a marketable set of products, services, supporting networks, and infrastructures, by including repair and maintenance, updates/upgrades, help desk, training and consultancy, and disposal‐services such as recycling and take‐back (Gaiardelli et al., 2014). Therefore, PSS consists of tangible products as well as intangible services that are combined so that they are jointly capable of satisfying the consumers’ demands (Hockerts & Weaver, 2002).

PSS providers are in a position to design need‐fulfilment systems with lower impacts to the environment, by either replacing an alternative product‐service mix or by influencing the customers’ activities to become more eco‐efficient. Tukker (2015) suggested that firms have an incentive to prolong the service life of their products and to make them as cost‐ and material‐efficient as possible. Moreover, PSSs would typically extend beyond purchase, affecting the use and disposal of resources. Hence, these systems could lead to the minimisation of material flows in the economy whilst maximising the businesses’ service output and their users’ satisfaction (Tukker & Tischner, 2006). There are three types of PSSs that prescribe different product service components and ownership packages:

(a) a product‐PSS that adds extra services but the ownership of the product(s) is transferred to the consumer(s);

(b) the results‐PSSs that would involve both parties agreeing to achieve target results, as they recast product(s) as utilised materials;

(c) in use‐PSSs, the provider(s) lease, share or pool their product(s); however, they retain the ownership of the product(s).

For instance, Koninklijke Philips N.V. (Royal Philips, commonly known as Philips), a diversified technology company utilises the use‐PSS approach, as it provides a lighting service to customers and is responsible for its technology risk. The Dutch company installs its lighting equipment (including street lighting), maintains it, and ensures that it runs for a very long time. Eventually, it reclaims back its equipment when it is the right time to recycle materials. This property rights are distributed amongst Philips and its clients, over the life time of the products. Philips has recognised an untapped opportunity to retain ownership of its products, as it has committed itself to dispose of the infrastructure and its constituent parts at their end of life. At the same time, customers (including the government) do not have to pay high upfront costs for their lighting equipment. Interestingly, Philips is also adopting a similar PSS within health care environments where it has established leasing relationships with clients for its medical infrastructure. Again, the company will eventually reclaim back its equipment and upgrades it when necessary. When the medical equipment is refurbished with the state‐of‐the art technology, the multinational firm will reuse it for another customer; it provides a warrantee cover and guarantees its products as new.

The idea of shared ownership is conspicuous with the results‐ and use‐PSSs. These systems have led to upstream effects (through sustainable designs) and increased throughput. As a result, they are sustainable in the long run, as there are less externalities, in terms of waste and emissions.

References

Camilleri, M. A.(2017). Corporate sustainability, social responsibility and 
environmental management: An introduction to theory and practice with 
case studies. Cham: Springer Nature.

Gaiardelli, P.,Resta, B., Martinez, V., Pinto, R., & Albores, P. (2014). A
classification model for product‐service offerings. Journal of cleaner 
production, 66,507–519.

Hockerts, K.,& Weaver, N. (2002). Are service systems worth our interest.
Assessing the eco‐efficiency of sustainable service systems. Working document, INSEADFontainebleau, France.

Piscicelli, L.,Cooper, T., & Fisher, T. (2015). The role of values in collaborative
consumption:Insights from a product service system for lending
and borrowing in the UK. Journal of Cleaner Production, 97, 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.07.032

Tukker, A. (2015). Product services for a resource‐efficient andcircular
economy—A review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 97, 76–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.11.049

Tukker, A., &Tischner, U. (2006). Product‐services as a research field: Past, present and future. Reflections from a decade of research. Journal of 
Cleaner Production, 14(17),1552–1556. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2006.01.02

Yuan, Z., Bi, J.,& Moriguichi, Y. (2006). The circular economy: A new development strategy in China.Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10(1), 4–8.



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The Circular Economy and the Sustainability Agenda

This is excerpt from my latest paper that was accepted by ‘Sustainable Development’ (Wiley).

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. (2018). The Circular Economy’s Closed Loop and Product Service Systems for Sustainable Development: A Review and Appraisal. Sustainable Development. Forthcoming.

The Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987) defined sustainable development as; “development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (p. 43). Its underlying assumption is that the world’s physical resources are not finite, therefore, they have to be managed responsibly to sustain future generations. Subsequently, the United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development has put forward Agenda 21 that dedicated a chapter that was focused on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. This document recommended that the UN’s member states ought to intensify their efforts to reduce the use of scarce resources during production processes, whilst minimising the environmental impacts from generation of waste and pollution (Agenda 21, 1992).

In 2002, the UN Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development also made reference to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. The UN’s member states were urged to manage their natural resources sustainably and with lower negative environmental impacts; by promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems, whilst reducing waste (WSSD, 2002, p 13). Moreover, in another resolution, entitled; “The future we want”, the General Assembly at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development has reaffirmed its commitment to implementing green economy policies in the context of sustainable development. The Heads of State and Government or their representatives have agreed to continue promoting the integrated and sustainable management of eco-systems; whilst facilitating their conservation, regeneration and restoration of resources (UNCSD, 2012). Furthermore, during the UN’s General Assembly Resolution of 25 September 2015, entitled; “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” the world leaders have agreed to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals that replaced the previous millennium development goals that were established in the year 2000. Specifically, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 of the 2030 agenda, namely; “Sustainable Consumption and Production” explained that there is an opportunity for business and industry to reap economic gains through resource and energy efficiencies. It also raised awareness on the use of sustainable infrastructures and urged the UN member states to address air, water and soil pollution to minimise their environmental impact (UNDP, 2015). Moreover, the Paris Climate Agreement (COP 21) and Resolutions 1/5 and 2/7 on chemicals and waste, and 2/8 on sustainable production and consumption, as adopted by the 1st and 2nd sessions of the United Nations Environment Assembly (that was held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 27th June 2014 and the 27th May 2016), are also considered as important policy instruments for many stakeholders, as they have paved the way for the transition toward the circular economy strategy.

These intergovernmental policy recommendations on sustainable consumption and production have led to increased regulatory pressures on business and industry toward controlled operations management and environmentally-responsible practices. In 2014, the European Union (EU) Commission anticipated that, “new business models, eco-designs and industrial symbiosis can move the community toward zero-waste; reduce greenhouse emissions and environmental impacts” (EU, 2018). Eventually, in March 2017, the EU Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee organised a Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference, where it reported on the delivery and progress of some of its Action Plan. It also established a Finance Support Platform with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and issued important guidance documents to Member States on the conversion of waste to energy.

Other EU Communications on this subject, comprised: “Innovation for a sustainable future – The Eco-innovation Action Plan“; “Building the Single Market for Green Products: Facilitating better information on the environmental performance of products and organisations“; “Green Action Plan for SMEs: enabling SMEs to turn environmental challenges into business opportunities“; “Closing the loop –An EU action plan for the Circular Economy” and the report on its implementation, and “Investing in a smart, innovative and sustainable Industry – A renewed EU Industrial Policy Strategy“, among others (EU, 2017). Recently, the EU commission has adopted a set of measures, including; a “Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy” that specified that all plastics packaging will have to be recyclable by 2030; It released a communication on the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation, as it explains how they relate to each other. Moreover, the commission launched a Monitoring Framework that may be used to assess the progress of its member states towards the implementation of the circular economy action plan. This framework is composed of a set of ten key indicators, comprising; 1) EU self-sufficiency for raw materials; 2) Green public procurement; 3a-c) Waste generation; 4) Food waste, 5a-b) Overall recycling rates, 6a-f) Recycling rates for specific waste streams, 7a-b) Contribution of recycled materials to raw materials demand, 8) Trade in recyclable raw materials, 9a-c) Private investments, jobs and gross value added, and 10) Patents. Furthermore, (EU, 2018) published a report on the supply and demand of critical raw materials that are used in mining, landfills, electrical and electronic equipment, batteries, automotive sector, renewable energy, defence industry as well as for chemicals and fertilizers.


References

Agenda 21. 1992. United Nations Conference on Environment & Development. Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992. United Nations Sustainable Development. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/Agenda21.pdf [6 July 2018].

EU 2017. Council conclusions on eco-innovation: enabling the transition towards a circulareconomy. European Council of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/12/18/council-conclusions-on-eco-innovation-transition-towards-a-circular-economy/#[5th July 2018].

EU 2018. Implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan. European Commission.  http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm[5th July 2018].

UNCSD 2012. The Future We Want – Outcome document. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 27 July 2012. United Nations  General Assembly. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/288&Lang=E [25 June 2018].

UNDP 2015. Transforming our World. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_70_1_E.pdf [25 June 2018].

WSSD 2002. United Nations Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August- 4 September 2002.  http://www.un-documents.net/aconf199-20.pdf [29 June 2018].

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The Corporations’ Non-Financial Disclosures

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The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Jenkins Report may be considered as one of the major documents that has provided the foundations for non-financial disclosures. Notwithstanding, there were other guidelines that were developed by other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including; the Global Reporting Initiative, AccountAbility, Accounting for Sustainability (A4S), the World Intellectual Capital Initiative (WICI), the Enhanced Business Reporting Consortium, the CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), the International Corporate Governance Network, the Sustainability Reporting Standards Board and the Climate Disclosure Standards Board, among others. The International Standards Organization (ISO), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Greenpeace, Rainforest Alliance and Home Depot Certifiable, Fair Trade and the US Department of Agriculture’s USDA Organic Labelling, among others, have formulated uncertifiable, multi-stakeholder standards and instruments to support organizations in their CSR communication. In addition, certain listed corporations are adopting Fortune’s reputation index, the KLD Social index or RepTrak (Camilleri, 2017). Such measures require corporate executives to assess the extent to which their organization behaves responsibly towards the environment and the community. Despite the development of these guiding principles and indices, their appropriateness remains doubtful (Camilleri, 2015).

In 2010, the development of ISO 26000 had represented a significant milestone in integrating socially and environmentally responsible behaviors into management processes. ISO 26000 was developed through a participatory multi-stakeholder process as the International Labor Organization (ILO) had established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure that ISO’s social responsibility standard is consistent with its own labor standards. In fact, ISO 26000’s core subject on ‘Labor Practices’ is based on ILOs’ conventions on labor practices, including; Human Resources Development Convention, Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines, Forced Labor Convention, Freedom of Association, Minimum Wage Fixing Recommendation and the Worst Forms of Child Labor Recommendation, among others. Moreover, ISO’s core subject on ‘human rights’ is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (that was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948). On the other hand, many academic commentators argue that ISO 26000 has never been considered as a management standard (Camilleri, 2017). The certification requirements have not been incorporated into ISO 26000’s development and reinforcement process, unlike other standards, including ISO 9000 and ISO 14001. Notwithstanding, ISO 14001 belongs to a larger set of ISO 14000 certifications that conform with the European Union’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

The European Union (EU) has developed its non-binding guidelines for the non-financial disclosures of large, public-interest entities that engage more than 500 employees (Stubbs and Higgins, 2015; EU, 2014). The European Parliament mandated Directive 2014/95/EU on non-financial reporting; that was subsequently ratified by the European member states. Therefore, large undertakings are expected to disclose material information on their ESG behaviors. These entities are required to explain any deviations from their directive’s recommendations in their annual declaration of conformity, as per the EU’s “Comply or Explain” principle (Camilleri, 2015; EU, 2014). Their non-financial disclosures include topics, such as; social dialogue with stakeholders, information and consultation rights, trade union rights, health and safety and gender equality, among other issues. Moreover, the organizations’ environmental reporting could cover; material disclosures on energy efficiencies, the monitoring of efficiency levels their energy generation capacities, assessments on the co-generation of heating facilities, the use of renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water and air pollution prevention and control from the production and processing of metals, mineral industry, chemical industry, waste management, livestock farming, etc. (Camilleri, 2015). Therefore, large undertakings are expected to bear responsibility for the prevention and reduction of pollution. The EU recommends that the large organizations implement ILO’s Tri-partite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, as well as other conventions that promote the fair working conditions of employees. It also makes reference to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and mentions ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility (EU, 2014). Following, the EU’s mandate for non-financial reporting, it is expected that 6,000 European public interest entities will be publishing their sustainability reports in 2018, covering financial year 2017-2018 (GRI, 2017).

 


Additional Reading:

Camilleri, M.A (2015). Environmental, Social and Governance Disclosures in Europe. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. 6 (2), 224 – 242. Emerald.  http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2014-0065 Download this paper

Camilleri, M.A. (2015). Valuing Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability Reporting. Corporate Reputation Review, 18 (3), 210-222. Palgrave Macmillan DOI:10.1057/crr.2015.9 http://www.palgrave-journals.com/crr/journal/v18/n3/full/crr20159a.html Download this paper

Camilleri, M.A. (2017). Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes toward ISO’s social responsibility standard. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence. (forthcoming). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344 Download this paper

Camilleri, M.A. (2017). Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany. ISBN 978-3-319-46849-5 http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

CSRWire (2015). Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting in Europe. http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/1574-environmental-social-and-governance-disclosures-in-europe

 

 

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Closing the loop for resource efficiency, sustainable consumption and production: a critical review of the circular economy

Abstract: The circular economy proposition is not a novel concept. However, it has recently stimulated sustainable consumption and production ideas on remanufacturing, refurbishing and recycling of materials. A thorough literature review suggests that the circular economys regenerative systems are intended to minimise industrial waste, emissions, and energy leakages through the creation of long-lasting designs that improve resource efficiencies. In this light, this research critically analyses the circular economys closed loop systems. The findings suggest that this sustainable development model could unleash a new wave of operational improvements and enhanced productivity levels through waste management and the responsible use and reuse of materials in business and industry. In conclusion, this research implies that closed loop and product service systems could result in significant efficiencies in sustainable consumption and production of resources

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. (2018). Closing the Loop for Resource Efficiency, Sustainable Consumption and Production: A Critical Review of the Circular Economy. International Journal of Sustainable Development (forthcoming). DOI: 10.1504/IJSD.2018.10012310

Keywords: circular economy; resource efficiency; corporate sustainability; creating shared value; corporate social responsibility; strategic CSR; stakeholder engagement; social responsibility; recycling resources; reusing resources; restoring resources; reducing resources.

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An Authoritative Textbook on Responsible Management for Business Students

Springer Nature’s “Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management” was one of the top 25% most downloaded eBooks in 2017.

This book can be ordered/downloaded directly from its home pa ge.Alternatively,  it is available in the following online shop(s):


This publication provides a concise and authoritative guide on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and related paradigms, including environmental responsibility, corporate sustainability and responsibility, creating shared value, strategic CSR, stakeholder engagement, corporate citizenship, business ethics and corporate governance, among others. It is primarily intended for advanced undergraduate and / or graduate students. Moreover, it is highly relevant for future entrepreneurs, small business owners, non-profit organisations and charitable foundations, as it addresses the core aspects of contemporary strategies, public policies and practices. It also features case studies on international policies and principles, exploring corporate businesses’ environmental, social and governance reporting.

“Mark Camilleri’s new book provides an excellent overview of the eclectic academic literature in this area, and presents a lucid description of how savvy companies can embed themselves in circular systems that reduce system-wide externalities, increase economic value, and build reputation. A valuable contribution.”
Charles J. Fombrun, Founder of Reputation Institute and a former Professor of Management at New York University and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA

“I am pleased to recommend Dr. Camilleri’s latest book, Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Environmental Management. The book is a rich source of thought for everyone who wants to get deeper insights into this important topic. The accompanying five detailed case studies on a wide array of corporate sustainable and responsible initiatives are helpful in demonstrating how theoretical frameworks have been implemented into practical initiatives. This book is a critical companion for academics, students, and practitioners.”
Adam Lindgreen, Professor and Head of Department of Marketing, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

“This book is an essential resource for students, practitioners, and scholars. Dr. Mark Camilleri skillfully delivers a robust summary of research on the business and society relationship and insightfully points to new understandings of and opportunities for responsible business conduct. I highly recommend Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies.”
Diane L. Swanson, Professor and Chair of Distinction in Business Administration and Ethics Education at Kansas State University, KS, USA

“Mark’s latest book is lucid, insightful, and highly useful in the classroom. I strongly recommend it.”
Donald Siegel, Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Management at the University at Albany, State University of New York, NY, USA

“The theory and practice of corporate sustainability, social responsibility and environmental management is complex and dynamic. This book will help scholars to navigate through the maze. Dr Camilleri builds on the foundations of leading academics, and shows how the subject continues to evolve. The book also acknowledges the importance of CSR 2.0 – or transformative corporate sustainability and responsibility – as a necessary vision of the future.”
Wayne Visser, Senior Associate at Cambridge University, UK. He is the author of CSR 2.0: Transforming Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility and Sustainable Frontiers: Unlocking Change Through Business, Leadership and Innovation

“Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies” provides a useful theoretical and practical overview of CSR and the importance of practicing corporate sustainability.”
Geoffrey P. Lantos, Professor of Business Administration, Stonehill College. Easton, Massachusetts, USA

“This book offers a truly comprehensive guide to current concepts and debates in the area of corporate responsibility and sustainability. It gives helpful guidance to all those committed to mainstreaming responsible business practices in an academically reflected, yet practically relevant, way.”
Andreas Rasche, Professor of Business in Society, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

“A very useful resource with helpful insights and supported by an enriching set of case studies.”
Albert Caruana, Professor of Marketing at the University of Malta, Malta and at the University of Bologna, Italy

“A good overview of the latest thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Management based on a sound literature review as well as useful case studies. Another step forward in establishing a new business paradigm.”
René Schmidpeter, Professor of International Business Ethics and CSR at Cologne Business School (CBS), Germany

“Dr. Camilleri’s book is a testimony to the continuous need around the inquiry and advocacy of the kind of responsibility that firms have towards societal tenets. Understanding how CSR can become a modern manifestation of deep engagement into socio-economic undercurrents of our firms, is the book’s leading contribution to an important debate, that is more relevant today than ever before.”
Mark Esposito, Professor of Business and Economics at Harvard University, MA, USA

“Mark’s book is a great addition to the literature on CSR and EM; it will fill one of the gaps that have continued to exist in business and management schools, since there are insufficient cases for teaching and learning in CSR and Environmental Management in Business Schools around the globe.”
Samuel O. Idowu, Senior Lecturer in Accounting at London Metropolitan University, UK; Professor of CSR at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, China and a Deputy CEO, Global Corporate Governance Institute, USA

“Corporate Social Responsibility has grown from ‘nice to have’ for big companies to a necessity for all companies. Dr Mark Camilleri sketches with this excellent book the current debate in CSR and CSR communication and with his cases adds valuable insights in the ongoing development and institutionalization of CSR in nowadays business.”
Wim J.L. Elving, Professor at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Social Responsibility Research in Total Quality Management and Business Excellence (Taylor & Francis Online)

 

This is a pre-publication version of an academic paper, entitled; “Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes toward ISO’s social responsibility standard”, that was accepted by Total Quality Management and Business Excellence (Print ISSN: 1478-3363 Online ISSN: 1478-3371).

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. (2018). Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes toward ISO’s social responsibility standard. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence. (forthcoming). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344


Abstract

The International Standards Organisation’s ISO 26000 on social responsibility supports organisations of all types and sizes in their responsibilities towards society and the environment. ISO 26000 recommends that organisations ought to follow its principles on accountability, transparency, ethical behaviours and fair operating practices that safeguard organisations and their stakeholders’ interests. Hence, this contribution presents a critical review of ISO 26000’s guiding principles. Afterwards, it appraises the business practitioners’ attitudes towards social responsibility practices, including organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues as well as community involvement and development. A principal component analysis has indicated that the executives were primarily committed to resolving grievances and on countering corruption. The results suggested that the respondents believed in social dialogue as they were willing to forge relationships with different stakeholders. Moreover, they were also concerned about environmental responsibility, particularly on mitigating climate change and sustainable consumption. In conclusion, this paper identifies the standard’s inherent limitations as it opens up future research avenues to academia.

Keywords: ISO 26000; International Standards Organisation; Social Responsibility; Organisational Governance; Human Rights; Labour Practices; environmental responsibility; fair operating practices; consumer issues; community involvement.


Introduction

The International Standard Organisation’s ISO 26000 provides guidance on social responsibility issues for businesses and other entities. This standard comprises broad issues, comprising labour practices, conditions of employment, responsible supply chain management, responsible procurement of materials and resources, fair operating practices, recommendations for negotiations with interested parties as well as collaborative stakeholder engagement among other issues (Helms, Oliver, & Webb, 2012; Castka & Balzarova, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). ISO 26000 is aimed at all organisations, regardless of their activity, size or location. Its core subjects respect the international norms and assist organisations on accountability, transparency and ethical behaviours.

The social responsibility standard has emerged following lengthy partnerships’ agreements and negotiations between nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and large multinational corporations (Helms et al., 2012; Boström & Halström, 2010; Castka & Balzarova, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). Prior to ISO 26000, there were other certifiable and uncertifiable, multistakeholder standards and instruments; the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Greenpeace, Rainforest Alliance and Home Depot, among others (Balzarova & Castka, 2012; Castka & Corbett, 2016a). At the time, many organisations adopted voluntary environmental and social standards, as well as eco-labels such as ISO’s 14000, FSC, Fair Trade or the US Department of Agriculture’s USDA Organic Labelling. Like ISO 26000, their regulatory guidelines and principles encourage organisations and their stakeholders to become more socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. However, despite there are many standards and regulatory instruments, private businesses do not always provide credible information on their eco-labelling (Darnall, Ji, & Vazquez-Brust, 2016).

For this reason, environmental NGOs are putting pressure on national governments for more stringent compliance regulations on large undertakings to adhere to certified standards or ecolabels (Schwartz & Tilling, 2009). This approach could possibly inhibit the businesses and other organisations to reveal relevant information about their social responsibility and stakeholder engagement (Castka & Corbett, 2016b). Notwithstanding, there is still limited research and scant empirical evidence on how businesses are resorting to ISO 26000’s principles in their responsible managerial practices (see Hahn, 2013; Hahn & Weidtmann, 2016; Claasen & Roloff, 2012; Castka & Balzarova, 2008a, 2008b)Therefore, this contribution provides a review of the socially responsible standard’s guiding principles and appraises the executives’ attitudes towards ISO 26000. Firstly, it examines relevant theoretical insights and empirical studies on the managerial perceptions towards responsible organisational behaviours. Secondly, it sheds light on the development of ISO’s standard on social responsibility and its constituent elements. Thirdly, this paper reveals the managers’ perceptions of ISO 26000’s core topics, including organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues as well as community involvement and development. This research uses a principal component analysis (PCA) to obtain a factor solution of a smaller set of salient variables from ISO 26000’s core issues. The findings identify specific socially responsible activities which are being emphasised by the companies’ executives. The results suggest that the respondents were committed to improving their relationships with employees, marketplace as well as political and community stakeholders.

Literature review

The managerial perceptions of social responsibility

Several empirical studies have explored the managers’ attitudes towards and perceptions of corporate social responsibilities (Carollo & Guerci, 2017; Eweje & Sakaki, 2015; Moyeen & West, 2014; Fassin, Van Rossem, & Buelens, 2011; Pedersen, 2010; Basu & Palazzo, 2008; Nielsen & Thomsen, 2009 and Perrini, Russo, & Tencati, 2007, among others). A number of similar studies have gauged corporate social responsibility by adopting Fortune’s reputation index (Fryxell & Wang, 1994; Griffin & Mahon, 1997; Stanwick & Stanwick, 1998), the KLD index (Fombrun, 1998; Griffin & Mahon, 1997) or Van Riel and Fombrun’s (2007) RepTrak. Such measures required executives to assess the extent to which their company behaves responsibly towards the environment and the community (Fryxell & Wang, 1994). Despite their wide usage in past research, the appropriateness of these indices is still doubtful. For instance, Fortune’s reputation index failed to account for the multidimensionality of the corporate citizenship construct, and is suspected to be more significant of management quality than of corporate social performance (Waddock & Graves, 1997). Fortune’s past index suffered from the fact that its items were not based on theoretical arguments, as they did not appropriately represent the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary dimensions of the corporate citizenship construct.

Other academics, including Pedersen (2010), identified a set of common issues that were frequently used by managers when describing societal responsibilities. This study reported that managers still had a relatively narrow perception of societal responsibilities. Generally, they believed that CSR involves taking care of the workforce, and to manufacture products and deliver services that the customers want, in an eco-friendly manner. The managers who participated in Pedersen’s (2010) study did not believe that they had responsibilities towards society on issues such as social exclusion, Third World development and poverty reduction, among other variables. In a similar vein, Eweje and Sakaki (2015) pointed out that corporate social responsibility involved volunteering, diversity in the workplace and work–life balance. They contended that these are important areas that merit more attention, particularly for those businesses that are willing to prove their credentials. Moreover, Moyeen and West (2014) noticed that sustainable development and environmental issues often remained on the periphery of the managers’ understandings and perceptions of CSR

ISO’s social responsibility standard

In 2010, the development of ISO 26000 has represented a significant milestone in integrating socially and environmentally responsible behaviours into management processes (Toppinen, Virtanen, Mayer, & Tuppura, 2015; Hahn, 2013). ISO 26000 was developed through a participatory multi-stakeholder process with an emphasis on participatory decision-making and

democracy (Hahn & Weidtmann, 2016). For instance, the International Labour Organization (ILO) had established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure that ISO’s social responsibility standard is consistent with its very own labour standards. In fact, ISO 26000’s core subject on ‘Labour Practices’ is based on ILOs’ conventions on labour practices, including

Human Resources Development Convention, Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines, Forced Labour Convention, Freedom of Association, Minimum Wage Fixing Recommendation and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation, among others. Moreover, ISO’s core subject on ‘human rights’ is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948).

The standard comprises seven essential areas in the realms of social responsibility: organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development (ISO, 2014). ISO’s goal is to encourage organisations to integrate their guiding principles on social responsibility into their management strategies, systems and processes. Therefore, ISO 26000 assists in improving environmental, social and governance communications and also provides guidance on stakeholder identification and engagement (Camilleri, 2015a). It advises the practising organisations to take into account their varied stakeholders’ interests. According to Castka and Balzarova (2008a, p. 276), ‘ISO 26000 aims to assist organisations and their networks in addressing their social responsibilities as it provides practical guidance on how to operationalise CSR, by identifying and engaging with stakeholders and enhancing credibility of reports and claims made about CSR (Hąbek & Wolniak, 2016). Therefore, this standard has the potential to capture the context-specific nature of social responsibility.

ISO 26000 has been characterised as an evolutionary step in standard innovation because it is suitable for organisations of all sizes and sectors. This standard has unique features regarding authority and legitimacy (Hahn, 2013). Its guidelines describe social responsibility as ‘the actions a firm takes to contribute to “sustainable development”’ (Perez-Baltres, Doh, Miller, & Pisani, 2012, p. 158). Hahn (2013) suggested that ISO 26000 offers specific guidance on many facets of CSR, as it helps responsible businesses in their internal and external assessments and evaluations. Furthermore, when the organisations adopt ISO 26000, they could signal their social responsibility credentials and qualities to their marketplace stakeholders (Graffin & Ward, 2010). This way they may also reduce information asymmetries among supply chain partners (King, Lenox, & Terlaak, 2005).

ISO 26000 provides a unilateral understanding of social responsibility across the globe. It acknowledges that ‘social responsibility should be an integral part of the businesses’ core strategy (ISO, 2014). A wide array of social responsibility practices and stakeholder management issues are addressed in ISO 26000. This standard aims to unify and standardise social responsibility; it also acknowledges that each organisation has a responsibility to bear that are relevant to its business (Hąbek & Wolniak, 2016; Hahn, 2013). Notwithstanding, there are different industries, organisational settings, regional or cultural circumstances that will surely affect how entities implement the ISO standards ‘recommendations on responsible behaviours’.

The corporate culture is an important driver for socially responsible activities. Therefore, CEOs play a key role in giving their face and voice to their corporate sustainability agenda (Waldman et al., 2006; Caprar & Neville, 2012). Hence, ISO 26000 can be used as a vehicle for CSR communication. Hąbek and Wolniak (2016) suggested that this standard is rooted in a quality management framework, as it holds potential to enhance the credibility of the corporations’ social responsibility claims. Similarly, Moratis (2015) argued that the concept of credibility relates to scepticism, trust and greenwashing. Other research has demonstrated that some stakeholders have used standards to enhance their credibility, learning and legitimacy (Hąbek & Wolniak, 2016; Boström & Halström, 2010). Consequently, the organisations that are renowned for their genuine CSR credentials could garner a better reputation and image among stakeholders. This will ultimately result in significant improvements to the firms’ bottom lines. An organisational culture that promotes the sustainability agenda has the potential to achieve a competitive advantage, as businesses could improve their long-term corporate financial performance (Eccles, Ioannou, & Serafeim, 2012) via the development of valuable, rare and non-imitable organisational resources and capabilities (Barney, 1986). Eccles et al. (2012) analysed the financial performance of firms with either high or low sustainability orientation. The authors found that firms with a high sustainability orientation were associated with distinct governance mechanisms for sustainability, longer time horizons and deeper stakeholder engagement, as they dedicated more attention to non-financial disclosures. Their adoption of the sustainability standards, such as ISO 26000, can also be interpreted as a signal of a responsible corporate culture (Waldman et al., 2006).

On the other hand, many academic commentators argue that ISO 26000 has never been considered as a management standard. The certification requirements have not been incorporated into ISO 26000’s development and reinforcement process, unlike other standards, including ISO 9000 and ISO 14001(Hahn, 2013). In its present form, ISO 26000 does not follow a classical plan–do–check–act–type management system approach as it is the case for ISO 14001 (Hahn, 2013). Arimura, Darnall, and Katayama (2011) reported that the facilities that were certified with ISO’s 14000 were 40% more likely to assess their suppliers’ environmental performance and 50% more likely to require that their suppliers undertake specific environmental practices. Nevertheless, Arimura, Darnall, Ganguli, and Katayama (2016) argued that although ISO 14001 was a certifiable standard, the facilities that were adopting it were no more likely to reduce their air pollution emissions than noncertified ones.

Rasche and Kell (2010) admitted that the responsibility standards can never be a complete solution to the perennial social and environmental problems; they argued that the standards have inherent limitations that need to be recognised. Certain prestandardisation preparations may have created boundaries which have restricted the stakeholders’ influence. Suchman (1995) described the pre-standardisation phase as an effort which embedded new structures and practices into already legitimate institutions. During the pre-standardisation discussions among stakeholders, there were differing opinions and not enough consensus over ISO 26000’s certification (Mueckenberger & Jastram, 2010). Other authors declared that the certification of standards does not necessarily lead to improved performance (Aravind & Christmann, 2011; King et al., 2005). The development of ISO 26000 involved lengthy, multi-stakeholder corroborations that did not necessarily ensure legitimacy or guarantee that the standard could be considered as an enforceable instrument for industry participants. Balzarova and Castka (2012) also pointed out that the scope of the ISO 26000 standard was unclear as the actual implications for social and environmental improvement were still unknown. Many stakeholders, including chief executives, should have been in a position to leverage their arguments during the pre-standardisation arrangements (Balzarova & Castka, 2012). The responsible businesses could have discussed possible avenues for the standard’s reinforcement. For instance, those organisations that are in complete compliance with ISO 26000 are not required to disclose their social responsibility reports and to make them readily accessible to stakeholders (Balzarova & Castka, 2012). This contentious issue could lead organisations to not fully conform themselves to this uncertifiable standard.

Different industry representatives were (and are still) concerned that costly certification requirements could overburden organisations, particularly in emerging economies. The organisations’ stakeholders, including their employees, may be against the introduction of new standards as they could affect their firms’ bottom lines. When the standards are enforced, industry stakeholders need to comply with their requirements. The companies will usually have to absorb the cost of compliance with the standards (Delmas, 2002). Moreover, the standards may also lead to the creation of trade barriers and to significant increases in production costs (Montabon, Melnyk, Sroufe, & Calantone, 2000). Notwithstanding, when introducing new standards, the standard setters’ external audits could reveal regulatory non-compliance among adopting organisations (Schwartz & Tilling, 2009; Delmas, 2002). As a result, the industries’ implementation of a new standard such as ISO 26000 could be time-consuming because it may require holistic adaptations to change extant organisational processes. The standardisation of social responsibility has also been criticised for being costly and thereby difficult to implement, especially among the smaller companies (Toppinen et al., 2015).

Ávila et al.’s (2013) survey indicated that ISO 26000’s themes were under-represented, particularly those involving labour practices and the environment. The authors posited that the organisations that were supposedly following ISO 26000 have often faced difficulties in incorporating the social responsibility throughout all organisational mechanisms, processes and decisions. Ávila et al. (2013) argued that the businesses’ unsatisfactory engagement with consumer issues was even more serious, as they justify the organisations’ existence. It may appear that Ávila et al.’s (2013) research participants were only concerned about their corporate image (as they were supposedly implementing the social responsibility concept and its premises). Evidently, these firms were less interested in undertaking necessary actions to ensure truthful and fair compliance with ISO 26000.

Methodology

This research has explored the senior executives’ stance on ISO’s social responsibility standard. The respondents were all employed by listed companies in a small European member country. They were expected to indicate their attitudes towards and perceptions of ISO 26000’s core topics, including organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues as well as community involvement and development. The questionnaire’s design, layout and content were consistent with the social responsibility standard. Respondents were asked to indicate the strength of their agreement or disagreement with ISO 26000’s subjects. The survey instrument made use of the five-point Likert scaling mechanism, where a numerical value was attributed to the informant’s opinion and perception. The responses were coded from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) with 3 signalling indecision. Such symmetric, equidistant scaling has provided an interval level of measurement.

An online questionnaire link was sent electronically by means of an email, directly to the senior executives of all companies that were listed on the Malta Stock Exchange. There were numerous attempts to ensure that the questionnaire has been received by all email recipients. Many steps were taken to ensure a high response rate, which included reminder emails and numerous telephone calls. Eventually, there was a total of 374 (out of 1626) respondents who have willingly chosen to take part in this research. This sample represented a usable response rate of 23% of all targeted research participants. The surveyed respondents gave their socio-demographic details about their ‘role’, ‘age’, ‘gender’ and ‘education’ in the latter part of the survey questionnaire. The objective of this designated profile of owner-managers was to gain a good insight into their ability to make evaluative judgements in taking strategic decisions on social responsibility matters. Table 1 presents the profile of respondents who participated in this study.

 

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Following the data gathering process, the researcher carried out descriptive statistics to analyse the distribution and dispersion of the data. Afterwards, factor analysis (FA) data reduction techniques were used to achieve the desired reliability, timely and accurate assessment of the findings. Unless an instrument is reliable, it cannot be valid. The FA was developed to explore and discover the main construct or dimension in the data matrix. The primary objective of this analysis was to reduce the number of variables in the data-set and to detect any underlying structure between them (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1998). Therefore, FA identified the interrelationships among variables. FA extracted components to obtain a factor solution of a smaller set of salient variables which exhibited the highest variation from the linear combination of original variables (Hair et al., 1998). It then removed this variance and produced a second linear combination which explained the maximum proportion of the remaining variance. The first step was to decide which factor components were going to be retained in the PCA. This approach was considered appropriate as there were variables that shared close similarities and highly significant correlations. The criterion for retaining factors is that each retained component must have some sort of face validity and/or theoretical validity, but prior to the rotation process, it was impossible to interpret what each factor meant. The first component accounted for a fairly large amount of the total variance. Each succeeding component had smaller amounts of variance. Although a large number of components could be extracted, only the first few components will be important enough to be retained for interpretation.

The SPSS default was set to keep any factor with an eigenvalue larger than 1.0. If a factor component displayed an eigenvalue less than 1.0, it would have explained less variance than the original variable. Once the factors have been chosen, the next step was to rotate them. The goal of rotation was to achieve what is called a ‘simple structure’, with high factor loadings on one factor and low loadings on all others. The factor loading refers to the correlation between each retained factor and each of the original variables. With regard to determining the significance of the factor loading, this study had followed the guidelines for identifying significant factor loadings based on the specific sample size, as suggested by Hair et al. (1998).

Analysis

The survey questionnaires’ responses were imported directly into SPSS. After filtering responses and eliminating unusable or incomplete survey observations, a total of 374 valid responses were obtained. The managers of the listed companies were required to indicate their level of agreement with ISO 26000 core subjects. Reliability and appropriate validity tests have been carried out during the analytical process. Cronbach’s alpha was calculated to test for the level of consistency among the items.

Principal component analysis

Bartlett’s test of sphericity revealed sufficient correlation in the data-set to run a PCA since P< .001. The Kaiser–Meyer– Olkin’s Test (which measures the sampling adequacy) was also acceptable, as it was well above 0.5. With respect to scale reliability, all constructs were analysed for internal consistency by using Cronbach’s alpha. The composite reliability coefficient (Bagozzi & Yi, 1988) was 0.79, well above the minimum acceptance value of 0.7.

PCA has been chosen to obtain a factor solution of a smaller set of salient variables, from a much larger data-set. A varimax rotation method was used to spread variability more evenly among the constructs. PCA was considered appropriate as there were variables exhibiting an underlying structure. Many variables shared close similarities as there were highly significant correlations. Therefore, PCA has identified the patterns within the data and expressed it by highlighting the relevant similarities (and differences) in each and every component. In the process, the data have been compressed as it was reduced in a number of dimensions without much loss of information. From SPSS, the PCA has produced a table which illustrated the amount of variance in the original variables (with their respective initial eigenvalues), which were accounted for every component. There was also a percentage of variance column which indicated the expressed ratio, as a percentage of the variance (for each component). A brief description of the extracted factor components, together with their eigenvalues and their respective percentage of variance, is provided in Table 2 . The sum of the eigenvalues equalled the number of components. Only principal components with eigenvalues greater than 1 were extracted, and they accounted for more than 63% variance before rotation. The PCA analysis yielded 17 extracted components from ISO 26000’s 37 variables. These factor components were labelled following a cross-examination of the variables with the higher loadings. Typically, the variables with the highest correlation scores had mostly contributed towards the make-up of the respective component.

total variance

Discussion and conclusions

Many stakeholders, particularly the regulatory ones, from the most advanced economies are increasingly inquiring about the corporations’ responsible behaviours. Very often, multinational businesses are resorting to the NGOs’ tools and instruments, such as process and performance-oriented standards in corporate governance, human rights, labour, environmental

protection, anti-corruption as well as health and safety, among others (Camilleri, 2015a). In this light, ISO 26000 standard has been chosen to investigate company executives’ stance towards social responsibility practices.

This empirical research suggests that the respondents’ responsible and sustainable behaviours were both internally and externally focused. The managers indicated that they were paying attention to their human rights issues, labour and fair operating practices. Table 2 reported that the executives gave due importance to resolving grievances and anti-corruption within their organisation. This finding is consistent with other contributions which link CSR with the human resources management literature (Currie, Gormley, Roche, & Teague, 2016; Hahn, 2013; Wettstein, 2012; Pedersen, 2010; Ewing, 1989). The workplace conflict may be intrinsic to the nature of work, because employees and managers may have hard-to-reconcile competing interests (Currie et al., 2016). Ewing (1989) argued that companies develop grievance procedures to help them in their due processes. The author maintained that its development leads to better morale and productivity, fewer union interventions and less likelihood of being sued. However, grievance procedures could incur operating costs, often consume large amounts of previous time from executives and may open the door to chronic malcontents.

This study evidenced that the corporations’ managers were clearly against corrupt practices. Today’s listed businesses are increasingly expected to explain how they are fighting fraudulent activities and bribery issues. This study was conducted in a European Union jurisdiction which mandates a ‘comply or explain’ directive on non-financial reporting (Camilleri, 2015b). The European corporations are expected to be as transparent as possible, to disclose material information and to limit the pursuit of exploitative, unfair or deceptive practices (Camilleri, 2015b). Moreover, large organisations that are operating in member states (that have ratified the ILO’s conventions on labour rights) are morally and legally bound to promote fair operating practices and to engage in social dialogue. The findings suggest that the respondents were committed to forging relationships with different stakeholders, including suppliers and market intermediaries, the wider communities at large, as well as political groups, among others. Porter and Kramer (2011) contended that capable local suppliers foster greater logistical efficiency and ease of collaboration in areas, such as training, in order to boost productivity. Therefore, the success of every company is affected by supporting stakeholders and the extant infrastructure around it. The big businesses’ stakeholder engagement is rooted in institutional theory, as they are capable of aligning themselves with their broader context (Brammer, Jackson, & Matten, 2012). In fact, this study has also measured the respondents’ attitudes on social engagement (including the creation of jobs and skills development, the conditions of employment and the individuals’ civil and political rights) and on the subject of discrimination towards vulnerable groups, among other contingent topics. Moreover, the listed companies’ executives also indicated that they were concerned on environmental sustainability, particularly on global climate change. The corporations’ managers did not explain how they were committed to reduce the carbon footprint or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases. However, they may use new technologies, including renewable energy, water use and conservation. Alternatively, they could change older equipment to reduce pollution and make it more efficient and economical. The results suggest that respondents respected property rights, they utilised and consumed sustainable resources, and were concerned on protecting the natural environment.

Limitations and suggestions for future research

The extant literature has recognised this ISO 26000’s inherent limitations. For the time being, the businesses that are using this standard are not required to disclose material information on their social responsibility practices to stakeholders. One of the most contentious issues is that ISO 26000 still remains voluntary and uncertifiable. The practitioners may ultimately decide not to fully conform themselves with this standard, as they are not bound to do so. For this reason, ISO 26000’s role is still limited for regulators, standard-setting organisations and policy-makers.

In a nutshell, this paper has advanced an empirical study that explored the business executives’ appraisal of social responsibility practices. It has employed ISO 26000 as a comprehensive measure for organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development. Moreover, this contribution has critically analysed key theoretical underpinnings and previous empirical studies on the social responsibility standard. Further research may yield other conclusions about how responsible organisations and corporations could use this standard to appraise their social responsibility endeavours. Future studies could explore different stakeholders’ views, other than the corporation executives’ stance on ISO 26000 subjects. Academia could utilise ISO’s broad standard as a measure for social responsibility behaviours. Moreover, qualitative research could clarify in depth and breadth how organisations are mapping their progress and advancement in the implementation and monitoring of the standard’s responsible initiatives. Future research could identify certain difficulties in incorporating the social responsibility standard throughout the organisational systems and processes.

Acknowledgements

The author thanks this journal’s editor and his anonymous reviewers for their insightful remarks and suggestions.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

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Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility: Creating Value for Business, Society and the Environment

 

 

 

This an excerpt from my latest open-access paper in Springer’s Asian Journal of Sustainability and Social Responsibility.

This review paper has built on the previous theoretical underpinnings of the corporate social responsibility agenda including Stakeholder Management, Corporate Citizenship and Creating Shared Value as it presents the latest Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility perspective. This value-based model reconciles strategic CSR and environmental management with a stakeholder approach to bring long term corporate sustainability, in terms of economic performance for the business, as well as corporate responsibility’s social outcomes.

Recently, some international conferences including Humboldt University’s gatherings in 2014 and 2016 have also raised awareness on this proposition. The corporate sustainability and responsibility concept is linked to improvements to the companies’ internal processes including environmental management, human resource management, operations management and marketing (i.e. Corporate Sustainability). At the same time, it raises awareness on the businesses’ responsible behaviours (i.e. Corporate Responsibility) toward stakeholders including the government, suppliers, customers and the community, among others. The fundamental motivation behind this approach is the view that creating connections between stakeholders in the value chain will open-up unseen opportunities for the competitive advantage of responsible businesses, as illustrated in Table 2. Corporate sustainability and responsibility focuses on exploiting opportunities that reconcile differing stakeholder demands as many corporations out there are investing in corporate sustainability and responsible business practices (Lozano 2015). Their active engagement with multiple stakeholders (both internal and external stakeholders) will ultimately create synergistic value for all (Camilleri 2017).

 

Multinational organisations are under increased pressures from stakeholders (particularly customers and consumer associations) to revisit their numerous processes in their value chain activities. Each stage of the company’s production process, from the supply chain to the transformation of resources could add value to their businesses’ operational costs as they produce end-products. However, the businesses are always expected to be responsible in their internal processes toward their employees or toward their suppliers’ labour force. Therefore, this corporate sustainability and responsibility perspective demands that businesses create economic and societal value by re-aligning their corporate objectives with stakeholder management and environmental responsibility. In sum, corporate sustainability and responsibility may only happen when companies demonstrate their genuine willingness to add corporate responsible dimensions and stakeholder engagement to their value propositions. This occurs when businesses opt for responsible managerial practices that are integral to their overall corporate strategy. These strategic behaviours create opportunities for them to improve the well-being of stakeholders as they reduce negative externalities on the environment. The negative externalities can be eliminated by developing integrated approaches that are driven by ethical and sustainability principles. Very often, multinational businesses are in a position to mitigate risk and to avoid inconveniences to third parties. For instance, major accidents including BP’s Deep Horizon oil spill in 2010, or the collapse of Primark’s Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, back in 2013, could have been prevented if the big businesses were responsible beforehand.

In conclusion, the corporate sustainability and responsibility construct is about embedding sustainability and responsibility by seeking out and connecting with the stakeholders’ varied interests. As firms reap profits and grow, there is a possibility that they generate virtuous circles of positive multiplier effects (Camilleri 2017). Therefore, corporate sustainability and responsibility can be considered as strategic in its intents and purposes. Indeed, the businesses are capable of being socially and environmentally responsible ‘citizens’ as they are doing well, economically. This theoretical paper has contributed to academic knowledge as it explained the foundations for corporate sustainability and responsibility. Although this concept is still evolving, the debate among academic commentators is slowly but surely raising awareness that are needed to deliver strategic results that create value for businesses, society and the environment.

References

Camilleri MA (2017) Corporate sustainability, social responsibility and environmental management: an introduction to theory and practice with case studies. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany

Lozano R (2015) A holistic perspective on corporate sustainability drivers. Corp Soc Responsib Environ Manag 22(1): 32-44.

 

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. (2017) Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility: Creating Value for Business, Society and the Environment. Asian Journal of Sustainability and Social Responsibility. 1-16. DOI: 10.1186/s41180-017-0016-5

 

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Integrated Reporting: Valuing the Financial, Social and Natural Capital

The end of year financial statements usually focus on financial capital, whereas organisational performance relies on resources – such as the expertise of people, intellectual property that was developed through research and development, and interactions with the environment and the societies in which they operate.  In this light, Integrated Reporting (<IR>) was developed to fill such reporting gaps. The IR Framework categorises different stocks of value, including; Financial Capital; Manufactured Capital; Intellectual Capital; Human Capital; Social (and Relationship) Capital; as well as Natural Capital.

 

 

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) has promoted the concept of integrated thinking and reporting. In 2013, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) released a framework for integrated reporting. By doing so, IIRC has paved the way for the next generation of annual reports that enable stakeholders to make a more informed assessment of the organisation’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects. IIRC has aligned capital allocations and corporate behaviours with the wider goals of financial stability and  sustainable development. Its framework established the following ‘Guiding Principles’ and ‘Content Elements’:

Guiding Principles

  1. Strategic focus and future orientation –gives an insight of the organisation’s strategy;
  2. Connectivity of information – provides a holistic picture of the combination, inter relatedness and dependencies between the factors that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over time;
  3. Stakeholder relationships – describes the nature and quality of the organisation’s relationships with its key stakeholders;
  4. Materiality – discloses relevant information about matters that substantively affect the organisation’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term;
  5. Conciseness – provides sufficient context to understand the organisation’s strategy, governance and prospects without being burdened by less relevant information;
  6. Reliability and completeness – includes all material matters, both positive and negative, in a balanced way and without material error;
  7. Consistency and comparability – ensures consistency over time and enabling comparisons with other organisations to the extent material to the organisation’s own ability to create value.

Content Elements

  1. Organisational overview and external environment – What does the organisation do and what are the circumstances under which it operates?
  2. Governance – How does an organisation’s governance structure support its ability to create value in the short, medium and long term?
  3. Business model – What is the organisation’s business model?
  4. Risks and opportunities – What are the specific risk and opportunities that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term, and how is the organisation dealing with them?
  5. Strategy and resource allocation – Where does the organisation want to go and how does it intend to get there?
  6. Performance – To what extent has the organisation achieved its strategic objectives for the period and what are its outcomes in terms of effects on the capitals?
  7. Outlook – What challenges and uncertainties is the organisation likely to encounter in pursuing its strategy, and what are the potential implications for its business model and future performance?
  8. Basis of preparation and presentation – How does the organization determine what matters to include in the integrated report and how are such matters quantified or evaluated?

The ‘Guiding Principles’ underpin the preparation of an integrated report, whilst, the ‘Content Elements’ are the key categories of information that should be included in an integrated report according to the IR Framework. There are no bench marking for the above matters and the report is primarily aimed at the private sector; but IR could be adapted to the public sector and to not-for-profit organisations. The IIRC has set out a principle-based framework rather than specifying a detailed disclosure and measurement standard. This way each company sets out its own report rather than adopting a checklist approach. Hence, the report acts as a platform which explains what creates value to the business and how management protects this value. This gives the report more business impetus rather than mandating compliance-led approaches.

For the time being, the integrated reporting is not going to replace other forms of reporting but the vision is that large undertakings, including corporations, state-owned entities and government agencies, among others, may be expected to pull together relevant information already produced to explain the key drivers of their non-financial performance. Relevant information will only be included in the report where it is material to the stakeholder’s assessment of the business. The term ‘materiality’ suggests that there are legal connotations that may be related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, Yet, some entities out of their own volition are already including ESG information in their integrated report.

In sum, the integrated reports aim to provide an insight into the company’s resources, relationships (that are also known as the capitals) and on how the company interacts with its external environment to create value.

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A Conceptual Model of Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility

The corporate sustainability and responsibility concept is linked to improvements to the companies’ internal processes, including; environmental management, human resource management, operations management and marketing (Porter & Kramer, 2011; Fombrun, 2005; Maignan & Ferrell, 2004). At the same time, it raises awareness on the businesses’ responsible behaviours toward stakeholders, including the government, suppliers, customers and the community, among others (Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Freeman, 1984). The fundamental motivation behind this approach is the view that creating connections between stakeholders in the value chain will open-up unseen opportunities for the competitive advantage of responsible businesses, as illustrated here:

(Camilleri, 2017a)

Corporate sustainability and responsibility focuses on exploiting opportunities that reconcile differing stakeholder demands as many corporations out there are investing in corporate sustainability and responsible business practices (Camilleri , 2017b). Their active engagement with multiple stakeholders (both internal and external stakeholders) will ultimately create synergistic value for all (Camilleri, 2017a).

Multinational organizations are under increased pressures from stakeholders (particularly customers and consumer associations) to revisit their numerous processes in their value chain activities. Each stage of the company’s production process, from the supply chain to the transformation of resources could add value to their businesses’ operational costs as they produce end-products. However, the businesses are always expected to be responsible in their internal processes, toward their employees or toward their suppliers’ labour force. Therefore, this corporate sustainability and responsibility perspective demands that businesses create economic and societal value by re-aligning their corporate objectives with stakeholder management and environmental responsibility. In sum, corporate sustainability and responsibility may only happen when companies demonstrate their genuine willingness to add corporate responsible dimensions and stakeholder engagement to their value propositions. This occurs when businesses opt for responsible managerial practices that are integral to their overall corporate strategy. These strategic behaviours create opportunities for them to improve the well-being of stakeholders as they reduce negative externalities on the environment.  The negative externalities can be eliminated by developing integrated approaches that are driven by ethical and sustainability principles. Very often, multinational businesses are in a position to mitigate risk and to avoid inconveniences to third parties. For instance, major accidents including BP’s Deep Horizon oil spill in 2010; or the collapse of Primark’s Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, back in 2013 could have been prevented if the big businesses were responsible beforehand.

In conclusion, the corporate sustainability and responsibility construct is about embedding sustainability and responsibility by seeking out and connecting with the stakeholders’ varied interests. As firms reap profits and grow, there is a possibility that they generate virtuous circles of positive multiplier effects (Camilleri, 2017a). Therefore, corporate sustainability and responsibility can be considered as strategic in its intents and purposes. Indeed, the businesses are capable of being socially and environmentally responsible ‘citizens’ as they are doing well, economically. This contribution explains the foundations for corporate sustainability and responsibility. Although this concept is still evolving; the debate among academic commentators is slowly but surely raising awareness on responsible managerial practices and on the skills and competences that are needed to deliver strategic results that create value for businesses, society and the environment.

References:

Camilleri, M.A. (2017a) Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.) (2017b) CSR 2.0 and the New Era of Corporate Citizenship. IGI Global, Hershey, USA. ISBN13: 9781522518426 DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1842-6 http://www.igi-global.com/book/csr-new-era-corporate-citizenship/166426

Carroll, A. B., & Shabana, K. M. (2010). The business case for corporate social responsibility: A review of concepts, research and practice. International journal of management reviews, 12(1), 85-105.

Fombrun, C. J. (2005). A world of reputation research, analysis and thinking—building corporate reputation through CSR initiatives: evolving standards. Corporate Reputation Review, 8(1), 7-12.

Freeman, R.E. (1984). Strategic Management: A stakeholder approach. Pitman, Boston, MA. USA.

Maignan, I., & Ferrell, O. C. (2004). Corporate social responsibility and marketing: An integrative framework. Journal of the Academy of Marketing science, 32(1), 3-19.

Porter, M. E. & Kramer, M. R., (2011). Creating shared value. Harvard business review, 89 (1/2), 62-77.

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Filed under Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, Human Resources, Marketing, Shared Value, Stakeholder Engagement, sustainable development

Unleashing Corporate Social Responsibility Communication in the Digital Era

Part of this article has appeared in Camilleri, M.A. (2017) Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer International. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

The corporate communication is dynamic on digital media as the global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, electronic fora, webinars and social media networks have facilitated organisations, including businesses to attract prospects and consumer groups. The digital media could potentially speed up content marketing and increase direct interactions, dialogues and engagements with various audiences. Such interactive communications are often referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are usually perceived as highly trustworthy sources.

When organisations share information about their stakeholder relationships with online communities, they may find out that their followers (or friends) could also share their passion for laudable causes. Very often, there is a business case for corporate social responsibility as socially-driven enterprises and sustainable businesses could charge higher prices for their products or services, they may influence more people, and get more credibility, attention, customers; you name it. Therefore, they are encouraged to use digital media to stand out from the rest, reach out (to prospects, clients, followers, and experts), and engage (in networking and public relations events).

Online communication has potential to create a ripple effect that grows as it reaches wider audiences. Notwithstanding, social media has potential to empower users to engage with organisations on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR, sustainability, responsible management, responsible corporate governance, responsible procurement, philanthropic and stewardship credentials et cetera, in different markets and segments.

Due to their apparent lack of gatekeeping and their symmetric two-way communication, the digital media are suitable for undertaking a corporate-public dialogue. However, open platforms like social media can also increase the complexities of the debates as they decrease the level of institutionalisation of the interactions between organisations and their stakeholders.

The social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their external environment. These online networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. Therefore, digital media are helping business communicators and marketers to identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content (Some of the most popular hashtags in this regard, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions as well as green non-governmental organisations. They may also promote fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for organisations and businesses to leverage themselves through blogs and social networks as they engage with influencers and media. Modern tools like Scrivener make it easy to write and compile for formats including .mobi (Kindles) and .epub (iBooks). Guest blogging on respected industry websites is a great way to build reputation and authority, but also backlinks  are crucial for strong search engine optimisation. Moreover, regular contributions on blogs allow users to connect with others; by sharing ideas and opinions, they spread awareness on their promoted content. Businesses can make use of project management systems like Asana or Trello, or intranet tools like Interact or Podio to track the  effectiveness of their outreach campaigns. Their analytics tools could possibly reveal  which content had the biggest impact on the audiences.

Hence, social media is an unprecedented channel for connecting and sharing with millions around the planet (with an estimated 2.51 billion social media users worldwide in 2017). The ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. For instance, these networks have become popular tools that are used by millions of people to publish messages and to interact through conversations from their personal computers and mobile phones.

LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups.They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key socially responsible initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These platforms could so be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. For instance, businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. These networks provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain CSR issues.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube and Vimeo seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance,  webinars and videos featuring university resources may also comprise lectures, documentaries and case studies that could be created, distributed and shared online through Skillshare or Udemy.

The Internet and social media open platforms are shifting the power dynamics as they are putting forward the debates between business and society. Open platforms provide access to multiple stakeholders and facilitate two-way communication between participants. They increase the speed in communications as there are no gatekeeping mechanisms. Open platforms are therefore unique spaces in the emerging diversity and plurality of the sustainability agenda. Participants in social media can no longer be classified as formal, functional or institutionalised stakeholders (e.g., as customers or NGOs), Yet, they may be categorised in relation to their changing affinities with the specific issues under discussion.

In conclusion, despite the promise that digital media improves the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate communication between organisations and their publics,  the businesses’ implementation of online engagement is neither automatic nor easy. The dialogic features that are enabled by web pages, blogs, and other social media may not necessarily result in improved stakeholder relationships. The businesses may inevitably have to deal with legitimacy constraints as they manage online engagements in different contexts. At the same time, there are stakeholders, particularly customers who are  increasingly becoming more discerned about content marketing through digital media.

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