The corporate social dimension of the triple bottom line : a sustainable development perspective

Human, Debbie (2004-04)

Thesis (MComm) -- University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the past the social dimension of business has often been neglected and regarded as inferior to issues related to the financial sphere of business. The rise of sustainable development and a growing awareness regarding the frailty of earth's resources have placed renewed emphasis on the importance of the corporate social dimension for sustained business success. Scrutiny of the literature revealed that numerous misconceptions regarding the corporate social dimension still prevailed and that the success of sustainable development is often jeopardised by a lack of implementation. The triple bottom line (TBL), a concept that embraces corporate economic, environmental and social elements, was identified as a most appropriate way of elucidating the corporate social dimension and for operationalising sustainable development, as it provides several philosophic and implementation principles and guidelines. The objective of this study was to contribute to an improved understanding of the corporate social dimension and its implementation as one of the three parts of the TBL, within the perspective of sustainable development. To achieve this objective it was considered fundamental to analyse the importance and development of the corporate social dimension, the concepts and terminology related to the social dimension, and the current status of the corporate social dimension in both a South African as well as a global context. The positive aspects and limitations of extant approaches were subsequently delineated. Another important prerequisite for achieving the objective of the study was the clarification of the importance, meaning and implications of sustainable development, and the TBL approach as an operationalisation method. The development, three drnensions, importance and benefits of the TBL approach were analysed and several fundamental principles and compulsory guidelines were identified as vital conditions (e.g. a stakeholder approach, leadership support and involvement, equal consideration of all the elements of the TBL, etc.) for apt TBL adoption and sustained business success. An analysis of the relevance of sustainable development and TBL principles and guidelines for the corporate social dimension, and the interrelation between business, government and the social dimension, contributed towards an improved understanding of the social dimension of the corporate triple bottom line and its implementation within the perspective of sustainable development, thereby facilitating the achievement of the objective of the study. The most salient conclusions of the study focused on the importance of addressing the corporate social dimension in an integrated manner within the perspective of sustainable development and by means of the TBL approach, despite the seemingly elusive nature of the social dimension and numerous debates and viewpoints regarding it. Based on the conclusions of the study a number of recommendations were made regarding the process of leveraging the context-specific and dynamic nature of corporate social definitions and viewpoints, the advancement of business application, and the advancement of theory.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die verlede is die sosiale dimensie van besigheid dikwels geïgnoreer en beskou as ondergeskik teenoor kwessies verwant aan die finansiële sfeer van besigheid. Die opkoms van volhoubare ontwikkeling en 'n groeiende bewuswording van die beperktheid van die aarde se hulpbronne het hernieude aandag gevestig op die belangrikheid van die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie vir volhoubare besigheidsukses. 'n Literatuur ondersoek het getoon dat verskeie wanbegrippe met betrekking tot die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie steeds bestaan en dat die sukses van volhoubare ontwikkeling dikwels op die spel geplaas word deur 'n gebrek aan implementering. Die "triple bottom line" (TBL), 'n konsep wat die korporatiewe ekonomiese, omgewings en sosiale elemente omhels, is geïdentifiseer as die mees geskikte manier om die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie toe te lig en volhoubare ontwikkeling te operasionaliseer, aangesien dit verskeie filosofiese en implementerings beginsels en riglyne verskaf. Die doelwit van hierdie studie was om 'n bydrae te lewer tot 'n verbeterde begrip van die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie en die implementering daarvan as een van die drie dele van die TBL, binne die perspektief van volhoubare ontwikkeling. Ter bereiking van hierdie doelwit is dit as fundamenteel beskou om die belangrikheid en ontwikkeling van die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie, die konsepte en terminologie verwant aan die sosiale dimensie, en die huidige status van die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie, beide in Suid-Afrika en in 'n globale konteks, te analiseer. Die positiewe aspekte en beperkinge van bestaande benaderings is vervolgens ondersoek. Nog 'n belangrike voorvereiste vir die bereiking van die doewit van die studie was die uitklaring van die belangrikheid, betekenis, en implikasies van volhoubare ontwikkeling, en die TBL benadering as 'n operasionaliserings metode. Die ontwikkeling, drie dimensies, belangrikheid en die voordele van die TBL benadering is geanaliseer en verskeie fundamentele beginsels en verpligtende riglyne is geïdentifiseer as deurslaggewende vereistes (bv. 'n belanghebbende benadering, leierskap ondersteuning en betrokkenheid, gelyke oorweging van al die elemente van die TBL, ens.) vir gepaste TBL aanneming en volhoubare besigheidsukses. Die analisering van die relevansie van volhoubare ontwikkeling en TBL beginsels en riglyne vir die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie, en die interverwantskap tussen besigheid, die regering en die sosiale dimensie, het bygedra tot "n verbeterde begrip van die sosiale dimensie van die korporatiewe TBL en die implementering daarvan binne die perspektief van volhoubare ontwikkeling, en daardeur ook tot die fasilitering van die bereiking van die doelwit van die studie. Die mees uitstaande gevolgtrekkings van die studie fokus op die belangrikheid van die aanspreek van die korporatiewe sosiale dimensie op "n geïntegreerde wyse binne die perspektief van volhoubare ontwikkeling en deur middel van die TBL, ten spyte van die skynbaar ontwykende aard van die sosiale dimensie en die vele debatte en oogpunte met betrekking tot die konsep. Gebaseer op die gevolgtrekkings van die studie is "n aantal aanbevelings gemaak met betrekking tot die proses van die hefboming van die konteks-spesifieke en dinamiese aard van korporatiewe sosiale definisies en oogpunte, die bevordering van besigheidstoepassing, en die bevordering van teorie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/50127
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