New Perspectives in Research on Corporate Sustainability series
Edited by Sanjay Sharma and Mark Starik
Chapter 6: Who Speaks for the Trees? Invoking an Ethic of Care to Give Voice to the Silent Stakeholder
Linda M. Sama, Stephanie A. Welcomer and Virginia W. Gerde INTRODUCTION In response to the accelerating degradation of global ecological and attendant social systems, theorists, practitioners and communities have called for sustainable approaches to human and non-human modes of organizing. Most visible among these approaches is the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (WCED) deﬁnition of sustainable development as, ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (1987, p. 8). To embody this powerful and potentially far-reaching organizing principle, the task for societies is to migrate sustainable development from the abstract meta-level to levels of practice. As DiMaggio and Powell (1983) note, organizations are the dominant institutions of our time, and therefore play an especially important role in the furtherance of such initiatives as sustainable development. Intrinsic to this furtherance is the integration of sustainable concepts into ﬁrms’ ethos. The authors suggest that this integration is a natural extension of stakeholder theory, contingent upon development of a normative core giving voice and legitimacy to the natural environment. To develop this approach, stakeholder management is explicated as normatively grounded in an ethic of care, thereby shifting the nature of stakeholder identiﬁcation and salience (Mitchell, Agle and Wood, 1997) from adversarial to dialogic. For purposes of this chapter, the ‘natural environment’ is referred to as the ecological system in which organizations (or networks of organizations) operate, from which they derive resources, for which they bear certain responsibilities, and...
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