The diversity of the practice of corporate sustainability An exploratory study in the South African business sector, Lorren Haywood, Douglas Trotter, Kristy Faccer and Alan Brent
Lorren Kirsty Haywood
Natural Resources and the Environment, CSIR, Stellenbosch
Douglas Hartley Trotter
Natural Resources and the Environment, CSIR, Durban
Natural Resources and the Environment, CSIR, Johannesburg
Alan Colin Brent
Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies
University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the diversity of the practice of corporate sustainability, in terms of its drivers, where it features in the organisation structure, and how it is communicated. The authors suggest that what may be failing the global objective of sustainability is its diversification in meaning, purpose and practice.
Design/methodology/approach: Data was gathered through a semi‐structured interview process with 11 medium‐to‐large South African organisations. The organisations represented the financial services sector, the mining and industrial sector, and the food and beverage retail sector. The issues questioned included: perspectives on the sustainability concept, the drivers of sustainability actions, internal and external sustainability communications, profiles, and performance and strategies. The questions involved self‐ranking, but also provided for open‐ended and explanatory responses.
Findings: The results emphasise that corporate sustainability remains focussed on how organisations manage reputation risk, generate cost savings, and ensure long‐term profitability and competitive advantage. The results imply that corporate sustainability is merely a business agenda to protect organisation profits and economic growth in a manner that is seen to be environmentally and socially responsible.
Originality/value: The results lead to the conclusion that the diversification of corporate sustainability purposes and practices solidifies the self‐interest justification upon which it is based and its largely market‐oriented terms and conditions, leaving enormous potential for unsustainability.
Keywords: Corporate sustainability; Sustainability drivers; Sustainability practices; Sustainability reporting; Organizations; South Africa.
Citation: Kirsty Haywood, L., Hartley Trotter, D., Faccer, K. and Colin Brent, A. (2013), "The diversity of the practice of corporate sustainability: An exploratory study in the South African business sector", World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 9 No. 2/3, pp. 111-125. https://doi.org/10.1108/WJEMSD-01-2013-0013