Can corporate social responsibility resolve the sanitation question in developing Asian countries?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Ecological Economics, 2007, 62 (1), pp. 174 - 183
Issue Date:
2007-04-01
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The existing state of sanitation in developing Asian countries fails to deliver a level of service that is adequate for meeting the human right to a standard of living consistent with dignity and health, or for sustaining the capacity for future generations to have access to clean water resources and healthy ecosystems. We argue that translating the current neo-centralised technologies and institutional arrangements mainstreamed by industrialised countries would not resolve the problem in the context of developing countries. Instead it is necessary to 'leap frog' to the emerging technological and institutional arrangements that are responsive to current needs and contexts and to potential risks. The sustainability focus and often decentralised technologies of this emergent stage in sanitation present many opportunities for new actors to enter the urban sanitation industry. At the same time, there are many barriers to entry, particularly from the perspective of conventional business management focused on increasing shareholder value. We propose that perspectives from the corporate social responsibility discourse have the potential to provide both the 'pull' for seizing the business opportunity for profit while serving social needs, and the 'push' to overcome the barriers in order to serve a wider social purpose for corporations. The wealth of nations, at least as reported in ubiquitous GDP terms, has greatly increased through the activities of corporations driven by a profit motive; but the increased poverty, injustice and ecosystem degradation that have resulted from economic activity suggest that corporations perhaps ought to have regard for broader concerns beyond shareholder value. We explore how the alternative relational view of a corporation, as a metaphorical person within society who adopts a moral code consistent with both Buddhist economics and Adam Smith's philosophy, may facilitate profitable corporations that provide better economic, ecological and social outcomes in serving the need for sustainable sanitation services in developing Asian countries. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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