Mind the Gap: Making Sense of Sustainability from a Business Manager’s Perspective
Sharon Jackson is deeply committed to improving the lot of individuals, and to sustainable development. For more than a decade, Sharon has been working with organisations and individual managers to help them improve their environmental and social performance. Always wanting to develop her own understanding of Corporate Responsibility(CR)and sustainability, Sharon recently undertook a masters’ programme at Cranfield. This was so successful that she was encouraged to build on the masters and study for her doctorate.This occasional paper is based on the research for the MSc. The Doughty Centre is delighted to publish this paper as part of our wider inquiry into the obstacles that stop companies from making more progress to embed CR; and the critical role that individuals at different levels of an organisation play in embedding CR. Personally, I am not sure that the references to Enron are necessary, as the main question that Sharon poses is about why managers don’t follow through when there is a genuine corporate commitment to CR. The case of Enron is somewhat different – a superficial commitment to some of the outer attributes of CR – but where the core ethics and mindset of the company at senior levels was not responsible.
That quibble notwithstanding, Sharon’s research raises important points about the need for organisations to think very carefully about how they communicate and educate employees – particularly the crucial middle management – about what the commitment to CR and sustainability means. In particular, the importance of not relying on intranets and written communications,but of creating multiple opportunities for managers and then employees generally to test out their understanding of the organisation’s commitment –and what it means for their part of the business and their own jobs and how they carry out their jobs. Sharon’s short final section on implications for companies is particularly important and helpful.
The Doughty Centre has a number of projects now to explore how companies can better engage employees on CR, and we will continue to share emergent findings over the coming months.