Chapter 1 – Responsible Management – history and roots

Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success. (Bill Ford) (William Clay Ford Jr.)

Humans have wandered the Earth for thousands of years but never has our capacity to alter the Earth’s ecosystem at a larger scale been more prominent than it is today (Kat Lahr)


Learning Objectives

In this chapter you will accomplish the following learning objectives

  • you will understand the historical underpinnings to the principles of responsible management
  • you will untangle the terminology and definitions associated with responsible management

Example: Fort Mckay First Nation’s Involvement in Reclamation Of Alberta’s Oil Sands Development


This conservation resource was created by Tyler Doucet; Hailey Woo; Maija Wootton; Shuomin Zhang;. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.

Located within the boreal forest of northern Alberta, the Cree, Dene and Me´tis community of Fort McKay lies at the center of a large-scale oil sands extraction area. In the past decade, the influence of oil sands development to Fort Mckay on land, water, air, and health aspects and the communities’ legal and political has led to their participation in the oil sands development. However it has still sparked many concerns, with the Fort McKay community concerned about quality of the reclaimed land and its plants and animals, as well as the loss of “spirit” in the land (related to their spiritual beliefs) which leads to the loss in effectiveness of the plants used as medicines, etc. There are concerns of a rise in VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels in the air surrounding the oil sands and affecting the local residents of the first nations people. There are large impacts that the oil sands have on the traditional practices of the first nations community and the disturbance of the land they hold with great value. This has become not only an ecological problem but social and cultural as well.


In the northeastern part of Alberta, Canada, the Athabasca oil sands surround Fort McKay, a small community a five hours’ drive north of Edmonton. It is home to Cree, Dene and Métis First Nations communities, housing a total of 862 permanent inhabitants(1).



The disruption from the oil sands on the natural land surrounding Fort McKay is an ongoing issue, with no end in sight, and a mixed understanding of success upon completion. With some mines opening over 40 years ago, the current predicted completion date falling in 2060, and an additional 10-20 years of observation beyond that to become fully certified as reclaimed, there are many uncertainties(1). Most current mines have varying timelines as well; one being open for over a 30-year period with only 10% of disturbed land restored, compared to another where the disturbed land is equal to the amount of reclaimed land on a year-to-year basis(1). With so many contributing factors, it is hard to give a firm durational period, however it is likely it will exceed 100 years.


Negative Impacts

The most significant impact for the First Nations people has been the cultural loss they’ve experienced with the limited access to the land. Previously, the communities have used the land for hunting, trapping, fishing, and growing and collecting plants for medicinal purposes (1). With the interfering oil sands, many of these are now unachievable and have caused a dispersal of wildlife and environmental changes that are preventing proper growth of plants (1). As much as you can reclaim and replace the land, you can’t replace the ‘spirit’, according to the residents, which in turn will lessen the effectiveness of the collected medicinal resources (1).

In addition, the residents have expressed concern on what and how the land will be reclaimed, mainly regarding the quality, mimicry and sustainability. With such chemically dense procedures occurring within the oil sands, environmental concerns include; contaminated reclaimed land (specifically oil sand tailings), water salinity levels, and insufficient topsoil (1). Oil sand tailings are physically and chemically different than tailings from other mining practices and tend to remain in contaminated liquids for longer, prolonging full reclamation(1). Water salinity is a significant concern as residence see it as equally important as land reclamation. Insufficient topsoil prevents the successful growth of plants, disallowing locals to have full abilities of gardening on the land (1). Muskeg is another significant concern. Alternatively known as organic wetland, there is currently no successful recreation attempt of these lands, meaning restoration to initial land capabilities, the standard asked by the community, is unachievable (1). With such diverse native wildlife and spiritual importance in these areas, they are very valuable to the First Nations ecologically and spiritually.



The restorative efforts of the First Nations people with the Athabasca oil sands is an ongoing issue and will be for many years to come. The policy of the issue is multilateral, including First Nations, various oil companies and the Government of Alberta, all with different motives and practices in the matter. With varying definitions of restored and other issues of incompletion, such as observation and maintenance, it is hard to predict at this time what the final outcome of the situation will be. A co-management approach to the oil sands developed is the preferred option for this particular instance. By allowing the community, and the First Nations peoples of Fort McKay stakeholder status in the project so that oil companies may accommodate the land and its inhabitants, as they see so fit. The development has granted the community huge financial and economic success that was relatively previously unforeseen, so it is in the First Nations best interests to continue to move forward in cooperation with the other actors. However, it would be the most beneficial for the First Nations to delay their involvement until technology has progressed in a way that development would no longer be a tradeoff between economic and environmental prosperity and the impacts are at a minimum. All efforts should not solely be exhausted on the current situation, but rather, formulating means to continue the work in a way that does not impede, the environment, the people or the culture of the land.


(1) Buffalo, K., Jones, C.E., Errington, J.C., MacLean, M.I.A. (2011). Fort McKay First Nation’s Involvement in Reclamation of Alberta’s Oil Sands Development. British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium. Retrieved from:


Before diving into the principles of responsible management, it is important to situate the historical context and foundations that lead to the application of responsible management. As you can read from the example given above, the responsible management of organizations and their subsequent corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a multi-faceted and multi-level concept. The interests of stakeholders (such as indigenous people and extractive industries, their employees and other stakeholders) have to be balanced with responsibilities towards sustainability along societal, environmental, and economic constraints. These are not responsibilities to be ignored as the impact of humans on our globe are now so significant that we are considered to be living in the age of ‘anthropocene’.

Anthropocene is defined by the National Geographic organization as “the most recent period in Earth’s history wehn human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems” (1). The anthropogenic age has caused visible and radical changes to our planet. There are many reasons for these changes to have occurred on a massive scale not the least of which is humankind’s ability to scale. See Figure 1 for a graphic illustration of wildfires prevalent in Australia but also found in Canada and other parts of the world.

At the agricultural level, landscapes have been changed to address the needs of people for food, and for crops.

Figure 1. Anthropogenic Disturbance-Australian Wildfire -Photo by Matt Palmer on -Unsplash


At the extractive level, the need for precious metals and elements to provide fuel for ever-growing energy requirements for urban development, technological development, and just to maintain the status quo has resulted in drilling for petroleum and its byproducts in all types of landscapes and conditions, open pit scarring of land for coal, copper; deep drilling for ore and precious metal deposit (see Figure 2 for an overview of strip mining and its scarring of the landscape). Ask yourself where does the cobalt used as a raw material in your hand-held device or the lithium used in the manufacture of electric batteries come from?  Then dig deeper and look at the impact on surrounding communities and stakeholders – then you will be challenged in reconciling the need for sustainability from the viewpoint of effluents from technology with the harm in the supply chain of raw materials to create this technology.

Figure 2. Open-pit Mining – Photo by Adam Rhodes on – Unsplash

At the urbanization level, the constant search and acquisition of land has changed landscapes, reclaimed land from the ocean, held back flooding and inundation, and concentrated human cohabitation in dense clusters to that the energy used to light our cities can be seen from space. Figure 3 illustrates the impact of human development as the light emitted from centers of human population, as viewed from space.


Figure 3. Earth (as seen from space) – Photo by NASA on Unsplash –

Humanity’s ability to scale is fueled by the generation of profits from human activities which has led to disparities in economic conditions and societal living standards.  Environmental conditions have also been so drastically affected that climate change has become an inescapable fact.

However, societal pressures and awareness of inequalities and disparities is causing the pendulum of social consciousness to swing back.  Our greater awareness promoted through the ubiquity of the internet, social media, and virtually universal access to information is driving a movement that is known in a variety of ways.  One term that is widely used in the structured corporate world is that of corporate social responsibility (CSR) which emerged after the second world war and is still used today (2). It implies an integration of an organization’s strategic plan with a consideration of what has been described as the triple bottom line by Elkington in his 1997 book Cannibals with forks: the triple bottom line of 21st century business (3). The triple bottom line integrates a consideration of the planet, with people, and a consideration for profit in a holistic model.  However, society has also adopted sustainability as a term to denote a concern for development that bridges multiple dimensions.  Many practitioners revert back to the definition by the UN Brundtland Commission as “meeting the needs present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (4).  Other terms include that of flourishing organizations (5),  and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics as used by the finance and investment community to apply analytic measures to organizational performance (6).

In this book, we will refer to terminology such as CSR, sustainability, and flourishing as relevant terms that denote a societal concern and awareness of the linkages between the processes and outcomes that involve the environment, human welfare, and organizational economics. From an organizational perspective, these terms could be described as the principles for responsible management with an understanding that management is a human endeavour and that responsibility implies environmental, societal, and economic factors.

The Western societal perspective found in North American and European centric organizations can be summarized as exhibiting a neocolonial perspective to responsible management.  In this perspective, CSR is viewed as centered around an organizational responsibility dependent on current societal needs and opinions.  Many of the drivers for sustainability originate from a subjective viewpoint of current events and conditions – communications, brands, ecological sustainability, growing affluence (compressing of the pyramid structure described by Prahalad in his contrasting of Western economies and the potential growth of emerging economies (7)).

Although a positivistic view may be applied to moral and ethical reasons for integrating responsible management into daily living; the social constructivist view of business ethics driven by Carroll’s pyramid is not just taught academically but is then carried through into organizations.  Carroll revisited his conception of the pyramid and although reaffirming the framework as an appropriate lens, does concede that the relationships are not necessarily linear and are also contextually dependent (8).

This textbook adopts a Canadian perspective on social responsibility which is coloured by the recognition of the importance of indigenous perspectives – often deemed as a First Nations, Inuit and Metis perspective. In addition, the Canadian perspective is further affected by the diaspora of cultures that have made their homes in this relatively young country (nationhood happening only in 1867). In the following sections, some of the additional perspectives that are implicitly accepted by Canadians as part of their heritage and sometimes explicitly manifested will be described.  This is important in the context and philosophy that people construct their own reality in the middle of everyone’s other realities – and that societal expectations does require us to respect each other’s viewpoint to maintain a modicum of civilization in our dealings with each other.

There is an indigenous perspective, that exists outside of the neocolonial perspective but needs to exist within that framework as societal conditions dictate both an overlap of perspectives and some integration of one with each other. In this indigenous perspective, the relationship between the land, people, and knowledge systems is a holistic one (9). In addition, Zidny, Sjöström, and Eilks in 2021 (10) described sustainability from various indigenous perspectives as normative rather than prescriptive. The variety of indigenous perspectives often draw in a sacred element to sustainability based on the indigenous knowledge and adaptation to changing natural resources (11). Additionally, according to Merio and Gustafson in a research article from 2021, indigenous people often assume a role of environmental stewardship (12).

In Canada, a reconciliation process was established that recognizes indigenous claims of colonialism and prescribes steps for reparation and understanding of past wrongs and traumas (13). In this way, Canadian society is taking initial steps to achieve a reconciliation between ‘Western’ viewpoints and indigenous viewpoints described to a certain extent in the reports from the Truth and Reconciliation task forces and committees.  There is a fundamental commitment to the land, to ancestors and to future generations.  This can be described as the seventh generation perspective (14).

In the broader picture, there is a global perspective that is negotiated at global platforms such as the United Nations (15). This global perspective is a negotiated framework arrived as a result of consensus among the UN signatories and is exhibited through the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda(16). Although the UN describes these goals as representative of the aspirations for all nations, it is important to remember about the plurality and complexity of representation at the UN itself. In many cases, the representatives of the nation states have been elected (but sometimes do not necessarily represent the majority of the population that elected them); they may have self-appointed themselves as representatives of their own nation states (without representation from their population); they are autocratic regimes; or they are duly appointed representatives but yet must deal with democratic constraints in extending UN decisions to their own communities.

In spite of these restrictions, the UN initiated altruistic goals – the Millenium Development Goals in an effort to break the cycle of poverty and need.  The narrative behind the creation of the Millenium Goals and the path to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was described by Sachs in The Lancet in 2012  (17). The intention has always been to address fundamental rights and conditions.  A combination of anthropogenic events and the realization that clearer targets needed to be drawn; and the leadership at the UN and with member states  evolved into the structuration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  The SDGs were composed of 17 goals, many that were inter-related; 169 targets that defined the goals, and more than 230 indicators that were to be used by nation states to measure their progress (18).  In essence, these aspirational goals were to be individually monitored by nation states and implemented through organizational actions, guided by voluntary standards or regulated by laws and regulations.

In the nature of their structure, the UN SDGs were to represent the various perspectives of the nation-states but unfortunately their perspective also became a neocolonial perspective that may not necessarily reflect the views of disenfranchised communities, indigenous communities, or populations not otherwise represented in the UN.

It is up to you to remain critical of the positive and negative attributes of individual and collective actions.


Key Takeaways

Your key takeaways may be that:

  • there are now multiple ways of describing our human responsibilities defined by responsible management such as CSR and sustainability;
  • the consideration of responsible management includes a mindfulness about many different stakeholders that may be directly or directly impacted by individual or organizational actions.

If you are interested about how Carroll  (2015) viewed the CSR pyramid decades after he presented it, you may want to read the following article:


Carroll, A. B. (2015). Corporate social responsibility: The centerpiece of competing and complementary frameworks. Organizational Dynamics, 44(2).
There is a fascinating discussion on the history of the theories around CSR provided by Ming-Dong Paul Lee (2008):
Lee, M.-D. P. (2008). A review of the theories of corporate social responsibility: Its evolutionary path and the road ahead. International Journal of Management Reviews, 10(1), 53–73.
There is a lot of discussion about how words mean certain things, and so Bansal song (2017) provides a great article on the evolution of terminology and concepts that resulted in terms like ‘corporate sustainability’ and ‘corporate responsibility’:
Bansal, P., & Song, H. C. (2017). Similar but not the same: Differentiating corporate sustainability from corporate responsibility. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1), 105–149.
How do you tie the past, the present and the future in the context of CSR? Schrempf-Stirling, Palazzo, and Phillips (2017) provide a really interesting discussion and perspective that is increasingly important in our age of greater awareness of responsibilities by firms:
Schrempf-Stirling, J., Palazzo, G., & Phillips, R. A. (2016). Historic corporate social responsibility. In Academy of Management Review (Vol. 41, Issue 4, pp. 700–719). Academy of Management.


Reflective questions

Take some time to reflect on how you would answer the following questions:

  1. How might the ubiquity of the “internet, social media, and virtually universal access to information” impose certain pressures on perpetrators of anthropogenic climate change?
  2. How can individuals contribute to mitigating the radical changes to our planet? How can corporations?
  3. Think of anthropogenic disturbances that have immediate consequences for the Earth’s health is the short-term. How might this contribute to consequences for businesses in the medium to long-term?
  4. How could the voluntary monitoring of the SDGs impact or hinder the process of achieving the goals? Is there a non-prescriptive approach that would help with sustainable development (instead of the SDGs)??
  5. What are the consequences of not reflecting certain perspectives (communities, groups, populations) within the aspiration goals of the SDGs?
  6. Does a negative impact on climate change remain an inescapable fact for companies that have no legal obligation to mitigate or disclose environmental degradation?
  7. Why is there a concern for responsible management now? What is the driving force behind “un-responsible management” that prioritizes the profit motive over other motivations?

References used in the text – you are encouraged to consult these references through your institutional library services or through the internet


(2) Carroll, A. B. (2015). Corporate social responsibility: the centerpiece of competing and complementary frameworks. Organizational Dynamics, 44(2), 87-96.

(3) Elkington, J. (1997). Cannibals with forks: the triple bottom line of 21st century business. Wiley.

(4) Brundtland, G., Khalid, M., Agnelli, S., Al-Athel, S., Chidzero, B., Fadika, L., Hau_, V., Lang, I., Shijun, M., Morino de Botero, M., Singh, M., Okita, S., and Others, A. (1987). Our Common Future (‘Brundtland report’). Oxford Paperback Reference. Oxford University Press, USA.

(5) Cooperrider, D., & Fry, R. (2012). Mirror flourishing and the positive psychology of sustainability. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 46, 3–12.

(6) Miralles‐Quirós, M. M., Miralles‐Quirós, J. L., & Redondo‐Hernández, J. (2019). The impact of environmental, social, and governance performance on stock prices: Evidence from the banking industry. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management26(6), 1446–1456.

(7) Prahalad, C. K. (2004). The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits. Prentice Hall.

(8) Carroll, A. B. (2016). Carroll’s pyramid of CSR: taking another look. International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility, 1(1), 3.

(9) Throsby, D., & Petetskaya, E. (2016). Sustainability Concepts in Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Cultures. International Journal of Cultural Property, 23(2), 119–140.

(10) Zidny, R., Sjöström, J., & Eilks, I. (2020). A Multi-Perspective Reflection on How Indigenous Knowledge and Related Ideas Can Improve Science Education for Sustainability. Science & Education29(1), 145–185.

(11) Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, K., & Giardina, C. P. (2015). Embracing the sacred: an indigenous framework for tomorrow’s sustainability science. Sustainability Science11(1), 57–67.

(12) Merino, R., & Gustafsson, M. T. (2021). Localizing the indigenous environmental steward norm: The making of conservation and territorial rights in Peru. Environmental Science and Policy, 124, 627–634.

(13) For reports on Truth and Reconciliation including the TRC reports and findings go to the landing page for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at

(14) Clarkson, L., Morrissette, V., Regallet, G., & International Institute for Sustainable Development. (1992). Our responsibility to the seventh generation: Indigenous people and sustainable development. Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development



(17) Sachs, J. D. (2012). From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals. The Lancet379(9832), 2206–2211.