The global corporation and its role as a source of innovation for sustainable development : beyond corporate social responsibility

Gonzalez, Maria Susana Muhamad ; Hamann, R. ; Loorbach, D. (2007-03)

77 leaves single side printed, preliminary pages i-v and numbered pages 1-72. Includes bibliography.

Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis explores how to bring about change through innovation by using current power structures to move towards a more sustainable society. The type of change we are concerned with is the transformation from social structures, economic systems and institutions which diminish natural resources; to systems of production, institutions and social structures which affirm and interact productively with living systems, assuring their own sustainability. This change cannot be limited to address the social, environmental and economic consequences of the current system but should redefine the basic principles of society’s design and operation. One of the key actors in the current system are Multinational Corporations (MNCs) which have the capacity to mobilize natural resources, labour, and financial capital at a global scale. It is defined that to contribute proactively towards sustainability, the role of the corporation is to innovate in its core business, creating products and services that help to solve the current un-sustainability patterns of society. However, how effective are targeted innovation platforms within MNC’s in designing and implementing meaningful innovations for sustainability? How meaningful are these innovation efforts in terms of the broader CSR strategy of the company and its sustainability performance? What can we learn from business innovation platforms in terms of organization and entrepreneurship for sustainability? In order to answer these questions an action research method was used in which I reflect on my own experience of using the innovation platform from the Royal Dutch Shell Group (Shell) to develop sustainability innovations. Within this perspective, the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is re-visited to highlight its potential to hinder or facilitate this process.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING:Hierdie tesis ondersoek hoe verandering met innovasie te weeg gebring kan word deur gebruikmaking van huidige magstrukture om sodoende te beweeg na ’n meer volhoubare gemeenskap. Die verandering waarmee ons gemoeid is, is die transformasie van sosiale strukture, ekonomiese stelsels en instansies - wat natuurlike hulpbronne verminder - na stelsels van produksie, asook instellings en sosiale strukture wat regstel en produktief wisselwerk met lewenskragtige stelsels om sodoende hulle eie volhoubaarheid te verseker. Hierdie verandering kan geensins beperk word om die sosiale, omgewings en ekonomiese gevolge van die huidige stelsel aan te spreek nie, maar behoort die basiese beginsels van die gemeenskap se ontwerp en optrede te herdefinieer. Een van die sleutelspelers in die huidige stelsel is die Multinasionale Korporasies (‘MNCs’) wat oor die vermoë beskik om natuurlike hulpbronne, arbeid en geldelike kapitaal op globale skaal te mobiliseer. Om pro-aktief tot volhoubaarheid by te dra, moet die rol van die korporasie – volgens definisie – van so ’n aard wees dat hy in sy kern-sakebedrywighede innoverend optree om produkte en dienste te skep wat sal bydra om die huidige nie-volhoubare patrone binne die gemeenskap uit te skakel. Maar hoe doeltreffend is geteikende innovasie-platforms binne die Multinasionale Korporasies egter vir soverre dit die ontwerp en toepassing van betekenisvolle innovasies betref wat op volhoubaarheid gerig is? Hoe betekenisvol is dié pogings rondom innovasie gemeet teen die breër strategie van korporatiewe sosiale verantwoordelikheid van die maatskappy en sy volhoubaarheidsprestasie? Wat kan ons van innovasie-platforms van sakeondernemings met betrekking tot organisasie en entrepreneurskap - gerig op volhoubaarheid - wys word? Met die oog op die beantwoording van hierdie vrae, is ’n aksie-navorsingsmetode gebruilc, waarin ek besin oor my eie ondervinding met die gebruik van innovasieplatforms van die Royal Dutch Shell Group (Shell) om volhoubaarheidsinnovasies te ontwikkel. Binne hierdie perspektief word weer gekyk na die konsep van korporatiewe sosiale verantwoordelikheid om sodoende sy potensiaal om dié proses te kortwiek of te fasiliteer, uit te lig.

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