“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them”.
– Albert Einstein
Introducing The Integration of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability into Responsible Management
I wrote, curated and compiled the material in this book to capture and describe the current state of responsibile management and corporate social responsibility. This book will also satisfy some of the frustrations that my students were experiencing as they sat through my offering of a 3rd year undergraduate course on Corporate Social Responsibility. I wanted to address these frustrations in the context of the vision of our institution “to improve lives” and that of our business school “to be recognized locally and globally for our commitment to developing future leaders for a more sustainable world”.
There are excellent published textbooks that provide many of the fundamentals of Corporate Social Responsibility such as Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: sustainable value creation by David Chandler, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: tools & theories for responsible management by Debbie Hask-Leventhal, The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business by Wayne Visser, and Corporate Social Responsibility by Christopher Wickert and David Risi. All of them can be used as foundational books but they still did not fully address the following frustrations.
There is not enough Canadian (and thus, relevant) content.
Many textbooks take a neocolonial viewpoint based on typically North American or European views of responsible management and CSR. However, there is a lack of Canadian experiences or context to complement the narratives and cases. This is particularly important when considering some of the sustainable and existential issues in our current existential environment. Extractive industries are a key part of the Canadian economy, agriculture was and is fundamental to the growth and expansion of the Canadian provinces, fishing and living off the resources from the sea were and are critical to Canadians living off our three oceans. Canadians are also basically a mosaic of immigration from countries that over the past century have been less and less from neocolonial Westernized countries and more often from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The end of the last century and for most of this 21st century, Canadians are dealing with the acknowledgment of past colonial wrongs to its indigenous people – recognized as Indians in federal legislation but more formally known as First Nations, Metis, and Inuits. This narrative has largely been ignored in textbooks so it will be included in this one along the multiple dimensions encompassing responsible management and CSR.
There is too much of a focus on for-profit businesses.
We are a business school and we teach the fundamentals of management, accounting, marketing, economics, and other aspects of business on the assumption that most students will work in a for-profit business. But the reality is that today’s societal environment and institutional environments are more holistic. The students that are exclusively in our business schools may end up working in social entrepreneurship ventures that are both socially and profit oriented, or in social entreprises that are purely socially oriented, or in government or non-governmental bodies setting policies and regulations for societies, or in not-for profit entreprises dedicated to the arts, to the environment, to community or other causes. In addition, the course that I teach is now a required course for students who minor in business from faculties as varied as environmental governance, international development, landscape architecture, geography, sociology, criminal justice, engineering, information technology and many of the other applied and pure science disciplines. Our fundamental vision of developing leadership skills and responsible management has to be expanded into more than just CSR but on the broader aspect of sustainability defined through supra-national institutions such as the United Nations as peace, prosperity, people, planet, and partnerships. Many textbooks address some of these elements by discussing impact investing, addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, addressing the base of the pyramid of the less advantaged global economies. In this textbook, we specifically steer away from making the focus – that of the for-profit business but lean more on responsible management for organizations in general.
There is too much reading of additional academic articles in addition to the required textbook.
It would be easy to dismiss frustrations about excessive reading to a typical student complaint but on reflection, there is a balance that is needed between too many readings and just enough to allow the students to accomplish their learning outcomes in an impactul way. However, there is a balance of reading that has to be considered in the current situation where students are not only balancing a full course load but may also be balancing other social responsibilities such as caring for siblings, parents, or children, working to pay for schooling and balancing health and mental fitness. Consequently, I have structured this textbook to focus on what I curated to be the important points of responsible management and I have provided a list of references and additional readings that can be consulted if a student feels particularly inspired or interested. Instructors who use this textbook can choose one, two, three, or no additional reading based on how they conduct their course and accomplish their required learning outcomes.
The textbook material can be inaccessible to some students due to invidual financial situations.
Costs for academic textbooks whether they are new or used continue to increase. Electronic versions of academic textbooks are available for limited or life-time use but may still be out of reach for students who are experiencing financial challenges for many reasons including relocation (international or national), equity, diversity, inclusivity or accessibility issues. I am providing this open access textbook to allow for accessibility to most students. Instructors teaching a course on responsible management and social responsibility (including corporate and non-corporate social responsibility), business ethics, and sustainability can use this textbook with the awareness that the material will be accessible to most students.
The format of this book is designed to be taught over a semester (8 to 12 weeks) and so the 11 chapters in their four sections (Starting the Journey; Societal integration of responsible management; Responsible management and business considerations; Sustainability and sustainable development) can be parsed out according to the instructor focus. Every chapter begins with the learning outcomes for the chapter, followed with a case example – mostly drawn from current Canadian experiences, the conceptual text with theories, frameworks, and explanations, a list of suggested take-aways and some reflective questions that can be answered individually or form part of weekly assignments. The reference section is also a source of possible additional readings.
I hope that ultimately everyone of us embraces responsible management and contribute to improving lives in whatever organization we belong.
I acknowledge and thank all of the students in all of the classes on this subject that I have taught who have contributed to the content of this book in their comments throughout and after their semesters, to my teaching assistants, and to my research assistants who contributed to assembling this book. In particular, I wish to acknowledge and thank Alicia Chandrathasan and Adam Dencsak who spent countless hours assembling the required academic literature, images, examples and editing of the book itself. My colleagues have contributed through their comments at various stages of the development of this textbook and the Library staff at the University of Guelph led by Ali Versluis provided the logistic support and coordinated the funding that allowed this effort to result in this book.
Any errors in grammar, formatting, referencing or other omissions are my own. However, as this is an open access book, I will continue to edit the content based on input from students as my audience and from the relevant literature.
Ruben Burga, Ph.D., Gordon S. Lang School of Business & Economics, University of Guelph