Tag Archives: environment

Modern Slavery and Climate Change – Towards an Integrated Approach

Climate change has made millions vulnerable to modern slavery. Displacement and migration because of climate change creates a nexus of harm that pushes people to accept work that actively contributes to environmental destruction of forests, fisheries, waterways and land. Weak regulation and enforcement, corruption, a lack of political will and the lure of profits combined with vulnerability of people creates a vicious circle of opportunity for forced labour, child labour, debt bondage and slavery. In this webinar, speakers explored how an integrated approach to addressing modern slavery, climate change and environmental destruction can lead to impactful interventions by governments, communities, workers and business.

Hosted by: Jenny Stanger, Anti-slavery Taskforce, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

Facilitated by: Dr Martijn Boersma, Associate Professor of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking at University of Notre Dame Australia

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2SER Radio Interview – The Myth of the Social License to Operate

In this radio interview on 2SER, I discuss the chapter published in the “Research Handbook on the Sociology of Organizations” on “Organizational Legitimacy and Legitimizing Myths.”  It suggests that companies, as an influential and dominant group, want to maintain how they are held to account for their social and environmental impacts, which is through market forces. The research contends that the social license to operate and other concepts such as corporate purpose are hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths that uphold this status quo in favour of companies, at the detriment of society.

The Myth of the Social License to Operate

Over the last two decades many of the world’s largest companies have been involved in scandals, misconduct and dubious ethics. Rather than relying on interventions by public authorities, the dominant governing rationality is informed by the belief that the market is able to balance social, environmental, and financial interests. However, the vast majority of companies that have been involved in ethical transgressions have survived – and have even thrived. Potential damage to the reputation of companies, or threats to their ‘social license to operate’, seems to have had a limited effect. There is therefore reason to believe that market forces are not adequate by themselves to correct corporate misbehaviour.

This chapter from the upcoming ‘Research Handbook on the Sociology of Organizations’ explores the reliance on market forces to correct corporate actions that are not aligned with the common good. It examines to what extent legitimacy theory adequately explains the dynamics around organizational legitimacy, and it proposes an expansion of legitimacy theory to increase its explanatory power: the use of social dominance theory and legitimizing myths expands (organizational) legitimacy as a theoretical construct. In explaining why antagonistic stakeholders continue to rely on market-based approaches, this research suggests that they have either bought into the hierarchy-enhancing myths, or they have not yet developed compelling hierarchy-attenuating myths to challenge the status quo. The chapter concludes with the suggestion that the ‘social license to operate’ and ‘corporate purpose’ are legitimizing myths that uphold the idea that the market can balance social, environmental, and financial interests.

Boersma - Organizational legitimacy and legitimizing myths

Political investorism: Conceptualising the political participation of shareholders and investors

This article establishes a new basis for examining the participation, mobilisation and impact of investors at a time when market-based activism for social change is rising in prominence. Existing terminology describing the expression of political values through investment decisions lacks conceptual clarity. Political participation by shareholders and other investors is variously described as shareholder activism or socially responsible investment, and currently conceptualised under the banner of political consumerism. However, this term fails to capture the unique political role and diverse actions of investors. We put forward ‘political investorism’ as a cohering term for investment-based political participation to remedy existing conceptual confusion, to distinguish between investors and consumers as political actors and to set an agenda for the future study of market-based activism. This article defines and develops the concept of political investorism, drawing upon illustrative cases from Australia to identify hallmarks, actors and tactics of this form of political participation.

O’Brien et al. - 2022 - Political investorism Conceptualising the politic

The reasoning behind conscious consumption

The Twitterverse was recently asked “Morally, is it worse to get something from Amazon, or Harvey Norman?”

The question solicited many responses: some described the character of the CEOs, others mentioned the wages and taxes paid (or not paid) by each company, while yet other Twitter users cited the labour conditions experienced by workers at these companies.

These factors may or may not influence whether you buy from Harvey Norman or Amazon, but they aren’t issues that help to answer the moral question. As a matter of fact, the question whether to buy from Harvey Norman or Amazon arguably isn’t a moral one at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important that people ask themselves questions such as these, but this specific question is a not a moral one: rather, it is an ethical question, the answer to which is informed by your values.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, let me explain.

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No Absolution Through Conscious Consumption

Evolving consumer ethics will see a dramatic shift in the way Australian companies do business, with an emphasis on aligning to their shoppers’ values.

Businesses will have to change their operations to keep up with consumer standards, from seemingly superficial things like packaging, to core operations such as worker treatment.

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What Gives Multistakeholder Initiatives Legitimacy?

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Multistakeholder initiatives are often heralded as a solution to many social and environmental issues. Yet, due to their composition, these initiatives are not without tensions and challenges. This paper examines which factors determine the (il)legitimacy of multistakeholder initiatives in the context of efforts to remediate child labor.

Abstract

Child labor in global supply chains is increasingly addressed through multistakeholder initiatives. However, the participation of stakeholders with distinct views and interests can generate tensions. Based on interviews with civil society actors, this research finds that tensions exist between the normative‐ethical and political‐strategic dimensions of multistakeholder initiatives, which are manifest in the existence of international and national norms and their contextual application, in definitions of child labor, risk and responsibility, and in doubts about corporate incentives to join multistakeholder initiatives. In addition, tensions exist concerning the effectiveness of supply chain auditing, enabling broader labor rights as a means to remediate child labor, and whether standards need to be mandatory or self‐regulation suffices. The success of collaboration depends on the effective navigation of these tensions. Failure to do so can undermine the legitimacy of multistakeholder initiatives from the perspective of civil society actors. The research finds that due diligence, in the shape of human rights risk assessments, is not subject to normative‐ethical/political‐strategic tensions, and can play a key role in the success of multistakeholder initiatives and the fight against child labor.

Download the full paper.

How can a Bank Win a Sustainability Award While Funding a Coalmine?

Westpac was named the most sustainable company in the world in 2014, and the most sustainable bank in the world for the 10th time in 2017, an honour previously bestowed on ANZ six times in seven years.

Commonwealth Bank and NAB have likewise been recognised as the most sustainable business in Australia and a global industry leader in sustainability respectively.

Glossy sustainability reports with images of hands cradlings sprouting plants illustrate this carefully cultivated image of responsible corporate citizenship.

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The Bystander Effect: Why Boards Are Failing At Corporate Social Responsibility

Einstein Bystander Effect

Why are boards standing by and watching as the companies they govern take our environment to hell in a handbasket? The banks are a case in point, as researcher Martijn Boersma from Catalyst Australia, recently wrote: “While banks frequently mention risk assessments, they nevertheless continue to finance unsustainable activities.” Since 2008, banks collectively have invested tens of billions into the carbon-rich fossil fuel sector, but do not include these details in their CSR reports.

Read more: Company Director Magazine – The Bystander Effect

The Sustainability Record of Australia’s Big Banks

sustainable banking australia catalyst report

Australian companies will soon be publishing financial results, as well as information about sustainability efforts. Corporate social responsibility of the big four banks – Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac is a continuing topic of debate following recent scandals and reports of unsustainable activities. Yet according to ANZ chairman, David Gonski, Australians ought to “stop bashing the banks” for being large and profitable. This comment should put civil society on guard.

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