Sustainability science is the study of sustainability. This starts with defining sustainability, and then figuring out how to apply this concept to different types of human activity. My research falls into sustainability science is that it is related to the issue of water management. Water is a critical resource for survival, and it is important that we find ways to manage the supply of water better in order to ensure survival. There are many people in Africa who do not have clean drinking water (most people, actually) so this is a very important issue.
I see sustainability as an interdisciplinary science. Transdisciplinary goes beyond interdisciplinary, where researchers work outside their own specialty to tackle holistic problems. Sustainability certainly qualifies as holistic but it is a massive issue that affects all life on earth, so it is not something that a scientist, politician or any other single entity can tackle in its entirety. The interdisciplinary approach is the best approach, because it allows people to specialize in areas where they have strength. That said, a common goal does need to be defined for the interdisciplinary approach to work properly.
I am not sure about the question of epistemology/ontology. After consulting the definitions of these terms, they still don't mean anything to me. I am not particularly concerned for a philosophical meditation of sustainability, but rather hands-on, attainable solutions to defined problems.
Phase 1, Discussion Board 3
Different definitions of the role of corporations are critical to understanding the role that corporations play in sustainability. The firm is either understood to only produce a set of economic benefits or it is expected to produce a wide range of benefits. There are specific public policy implications for these different definitions of the role of the corporation. Under the former understanding, the corporation cannot be expected to pursue sustainability other than for monetary gain; thus, sustainable actions must be legislated by strong governmental actors. Under the latter understanding the firm can be allowed to take more responsibility for its actions. Even with this, it is folly to understand the firm as an entity capable of sentient thought -- it isn't. It is run by humans, and those humans must accept that they have a responsibility to steward the assets of the firm in a manner that achieves sustainability. In a world where different people have different views of the firm, strong regulation seems the only real answer -- firms will not always police themselves with respect to sustainability, especially when sustainability conflicts with their financial interest.
CSR and corporate sustainability are wishy-washy ideas that even most businesses do not take seriously. This is a shame, because corporations control a substantial percentage of this planet's assets and resources. Corporations, therefore, are very important to overall sustainability -- it would be impossible to impose true sustainability without fully and completely changing the way that many corporations do business. The research agenda of sustainability science should be substantially concerned with the actions, motivations and behaviors of corporations, especially in light of the flimsy lip service corporations pay to genuine sustainability.
Why do companies act on ESS issues? One is to save money. A second is to provide the impression that they care about sustainability -- in today's world there is the perception that they are supposed to attempt some sort of CSR so they do for appearances. The third is that some corporations are run by people who genuinely care about sustainability, and they pursue sustainability initiatives as a matter of philosophical choice.
Phase 1 Individual Project
My project is about water, which is a key issue for sustainability. Maintaining a supply of clean drinking water is critical to sustaining life, therefore my study is important in the field of sustainability.
I feel that it is an interesting point to note that most organizations have little interest in sustainability. In part, this is because they have bigger concerns, at least in theory. Paying the bills is considered more important than sustainability, as the latter is viewed as a luxury in which to indulge only when the organization can afford to. That perspective is, unfortunately, common. Organizations minimize their sustainability initiatives in favor of focus on short-term objectives, whatever those might be. Even healthy companies will find a way to justify that short-term goals are more important than the long-term sustainability of our planet.
We know that sustainability is a critical issue, but one that manifests largely in the long-run. The current model of corporations is inherently oriented towards the short-run, to the point where a large company might only exist for a handful of years before it is merged out of existence. While corporations control an incredible amount of the world's resources, and produce all of the products that compromise the genuine sustainability of humanity, sustainability often seems to run counter to their short-term needs.
Sustainability then becomes an indulgence. This attitude poses one of the most significant sustainability challenges. So while sustainability is not relevant to my project, this lack of relevance is actually very important to the study of sustainability and our quest to achieve a sustainable world.
Corporations do not presently control a lot of water, most of which is found in natural sources. In sub-Saharan Africa, water resources are sometimes developed by government, sometimes at the local level, and sometimes there are NGOs involved. There have been discussions at times about getting corporations more involved. The corporate organizational form is usually not that strong in the areas where my research is focused, however. There are significant ethical concerns about increasing corporate involvement in these areas, especially with respect to a resource critical to life such as water.
If we are talking about water, then that is the issue of my research as relates to sustainability. This is not a corporate issue per se -- though corporations like Nestle are becoming involved in attempts to monetize water, and there are massive ethical and sustainability implications for this. Such companies are involved to some degree in the water situation in Africa, but also elsewhere around the world. There are suggestions that converting water to an economic model would encourage corporations to invest in water where governments are unwilling or unable to. There are certain fallacies involved with this model, of course. Some of the economic principles at work are not explored in this argument beyond the level of Econ 101, first class. Corporate involvement in water has nothing to do with encouraging sustainability and everything to do with profit-making. The problem with profit-making is that it is not compatible with sustainability in terms of water. You might find that some discretionary water use in the developed world is reduced if water is charged at profit-taking rates. But in Africa, where I am investigating, there is not much discretionary water use -- people don't have cars to wash, lawns, golf courses and those sorts of things. Water is used for crops, drinking, cooking and cleaning. Reducing that sort of consumption through profit-taking will have significant negative social connotations, reducing the quality of life. So what if a corporation can reduce water usage -- the objective both social and environmental of water management in Africa is to increase usage to allow people to have better lives and to some extent also to combat desertification. So corporate involvement is an important part of the study, but the idea that corporations involved in water are doing so to improve sustainability or social outcomes is nonsensical if you analyze it with anything approaching a critical mind. This will be discussed in the survey.
Otherwise, it is silly to attempt to shoehorn the issue of corporate social responsibility into a discussion about the sustainability of freshwater supplies in sub-Saharan Africa. Let the discussion about water flow naturally, without trying to impose random tangential concepts into the study.
But for my study, there is an interesting thread with respect to sustainability science. Improving access to water only really works from a sustainability standpoint if the water supplies themselves are sustainable. From a human, social perspective, improving water access is obviously a positive step, but if this water is coming from wells and aquifers that will eventually run dry (as we see in places like Dubai) then the water resource is not sustainable. Making use of rain water and other sustainable sources is the sustainable pathway to water development, so the degree to which some nations can even develop sustainable water supplies is an issue -- some nations in Africa have meager rainfall and may not be able to provide sustainable sources of water for their populations -- which are much larger than they were in the old days when maybe the water supply was sufficient. Balancing human needs, geopolitical considerations and the constraints on freshwater that occur in nature are all a part of the sustainability dialogue with respect to water in sub-Saharan Africa.
Phase 1, Discussion Board 2
Leadership is the process of guiding human resources…