Corporate environmental responsibility

Dummett, K 2008, Corporate environmental responsibility, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Corporate environmental responsibility
Author(s) Dummett, K
Year 2008
Abstract This thesis uses document analysis and semi-structured personal interviews to look at current strategies and policies of major companies to manage the life cycle environmental risks associated with their products and processes, which I refer to as corporate environmental responsibility (CER); The thesis also explores what some national governments are and could be doing to encourage greater environmental responsibility from companies.

As environmentalists and climate scientists have been warning for decades, and now world leaders are coming to realise, the world faces serious environmental challenges, none more urgent than climate change. A failure to act to mitigate the risks associated with this one challenge, as Stern (2006, pii) asserts �could create risks of major disruptions to economic and social activity�.

A major proportion of the world�s environmental problems can be attributed directly to production, use and disposal of products (Tukker & Jansen, 2006), and as this thesis will argue, national government policies to encourage or force greater environmental responsibility from producers are required to reduce risks and mitigate impacts. In recent decades national governments have been reluctant to intervene in the market place, preferring to rely on voluntary mechanisms, but as will be discussed in greater detail, there is now an increasingly critical voice (Zarsky, Roht-Ariaza & Brottem, 2002; Hirschland, 2003; Archer & Piper, 2003; Vogel 2005; Hay et al, 2005) that questions the effectiveness of voluntary corporate responsibility as it is currently practiced, which subsequently raises the question: what role national governments, and international governance should take?

The primary data sources for this thesis are personal interviews with senior business leaders from 25 major companies, recorded public speeches, both web and non-web based corporate public relations material, and personal interviews with key academics in the field, environmentalists and corporate analysts, conducted mainly between 2002 and 2004. The analysis of this data has sought to investigate the attitudes of major companies to: - corporate environmental responsibility, though some interrelated aspects of social responsibility are also considered; - what drives them to take greater responsibility to reduce their environmental risks; - government policies, especially possible legislation to encourage and/or force CER.

In addition through case studies of: - one industry sector - two major companies, and - one industry sector pilot study;

as well as secondary research on several other companies, this thesis investigates what some companies are saying and doing about corporate environmental responsibility. This will lead to a short discussion of the degree to which these companies� rhetoric of responsibility matches their actions � that is how much they are �walking the talk�.

The thesis also looks at the current potential of national governments in encouraging and/or forcing greater CER, then contrasts the development and implementation of national policies for CER in Australia with those in Europe, focussing on CER as it relates to products in the electrical and electronics industry.

The thesis concludes with some observations and suggestions on policies of major companies and of national governments, as well as international governance, to encourage greater CER.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Industrial management - Environmental aspects
Social responsibility of business - Environmental aspects
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