Sustainability is a concept that has been preached by scholars, activists, and policymakers across the globe. The purpose of this research paper is to give a brief overview on sustainability and its different but related concepts. The paper also seeks to provide a critical examination of an article published on sustainability as well as provide personal reflections on the importance and relevance of the topic discussed in the article.
Corporate sustainability is a profound business approach that involves taking into consideration the needs and limits of the environment while at the same time providing value for consumers. Companies are slowly shifting from the traditional profit maximization business focus to sustainable models that factor in social, economic, and environmental sustainability. The shift is largely due to the realization that sustainable practices that do not deplete natural resources are the only ways that the company can keep making profits. In addition, environmental awareness has made millions of consumers to shun companies that do not engage in sustainable business practices.
In this regard, the school of thought that advocates for corporate sustainability realizes the importance of maximizing profitability for a company’s shareholders while pursuing other goals for the sake of other stakeholders including the society it operates in. Such goals include social equity and justice, economic development, and environmental conservation.
The main concepts related to corporate sustainability include sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. The overwhelming demand from consumers to buy products from companies that have CSR programs and sustainable development practices has resulted in thousands of companies joining the CSR bandwagon. Most companies invest in CSR strategies in a bid to improve their corporate image, and thus guarantee their survival in the market as well as increased profits. It is no secret that CSR strategies have given many corporate leaders across the globe a competitive advantage over other companies.
Sustainable development refers to a type of human development that is able to cater to the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to also meet their needs when their time comes. The concept of sustainable development encompasses three broad areas namely environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
Social sustainability aims at guaranteeing that both current and future generations are able to access social resources. The social resources being referred to include community development, social capital, cultural competence, social equity, placemaking, and prioritization of human rights. From the above explanation, it is clear that social sustainability is a crucial element to sustainable development but sadly, it is the least understood of the three. Most policymakers place more emphasis on economic and environmental sustainability leaving social sustainability widely disregarded.
Social sustainability focuses on improving people’s welfare through social programs that help citizens share resources. On the other hand, environmental sustainability aims at improving the welfare of current and future generations by protecting environmental resources. The protection of the environment is critical for the sustenance of life on the planet. If the environment is destroyed then human beings will lack the resources to drive their lives. More importantly, they will lack quality air, food, and water that are critical for survival.
Furthermore, if the current population depletes the environmental resources currently at its disposal then future generations do not have a chance. The importance of conserving the environment has led most nations across the globe to begin to raise awareness about environmental protection and the use of renewable and efficient sources of energy.
Similarly, economic sustainability involves improving and maintaining people’s welfare, both present and future, by employing economic strategies that use available resources optimally to achieve a beneficial and responsible balance over the long term. Economic sustainability is geared towards ensuring that economies of the world are able to maintain an optimum economic production level indefinitely.
Hahn, Tobias, et al. "Tensions in corporate sustainability: Towards an integrative framework." Journal of Business Ethics 127.2 (2015): 297-316.
Overview of the Article
The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic framework that can help ease the tensions in corporate sustainability. The tensions in corporate sustainability arise due to the pursuance of one form of sustainability over another. The authors believe that an integrative view on corporate sustainability will eradicate such tensions. An integrative approach will rely on integrating the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of corporate sustainability without necessarily paying more attention to one aspect at the risk of the other dimensions.
The authors are advocating a framework that warrants firms to acknowledge the tensions in corporate sustainability, and to pursue goals from the different dimensions simultaneously even when it seems that the goals and the activities involved are contradictory in nature. There are several instances whereby the management of the company is caught between performing its ethical responsibility (part of social sustainability) and its economic responsibility (part of economic sustainability). In such instances, the authors argue that the management of a firm in such a position needs to pursue both goals even if they seem contradictory to one another.
The systematic framework proposed goes beyond the traditional corporate fixation on the social, economic, and environmental triangle on corporate sustainability. The traditional view of corporate sustainability was that the different dimensions were independent of one another. The independence granted the managers the opportunity to seek some sustainability goals at the expense of others. Most managers would pursue economic sustainability goals at the expense of social and environmental sustainability goals.
However, the authors argue that the tensions are interconnected and arise in different levels, in change processes, and within different contexts. The authors are calling for each organization to acknowledge the interconnectedness of the dimensions of corporate sustainability as well as the tensions that are sure to arise between them. By doing this, the firms are able to adopt strategies that will ensure most of the goals encompassed under the different dimensions of corporate sustainability are achieved.
The authors also recognize that there will be instances whereby it will be impossible to align the company’s financial interests with its environmental and social sustainability goals. During such instances, the firm has to be prepared for the tensions that will arise in trying to establish all of its sustainability goals. The framework provided by the authors will assist the managers determine the best course of action when such tensions arise.
The authors also delve deeper into some of the strategies that could be used in solving the issues of paradoxes, tensions, and strategic contradictions. The main strategies used in the literature include the resolution and acceptance strategies. The authors show that these two strategies would be very effective in the management of such tensions.
The article provides the management with distinctive tools on how to embrace the tensions between the different facets of corporate sustainability. They will also be able to fully understand how such tensions arise and how they can avert similar situations in the future. Once they embrace the tensions that arise, they can carefully consider the priority of each goal and its eventual impact on the corporation both in the short and in the long term. Prioritization of each dimension of corporate sustainability will guarantee that all the goals are weighed appropriately and the best outcome is sought.