Ascertaining Corporate Sustainability from 'below': The Case of the Ghanaian Rural Mining Communities
In Creating Corporate Sustainability. Gender as an Agent for Change, Beate Sjåfjell and Irene Lynch Fannon (eds), Cambridge University Press, 2018
Posted: 16 May 2018 Last revised: 29 May 2018
Date Written: May 16, 2018
This paper examines a unique bottom-up perspective of corporate sustainability in context. The role of corporate sustainability in driving for improvements in environmental and social performance of large companies in the extractive industry has been both topical and controversial. Often involving issues of company, environmental and torts law amongst others, it has resulted in several cases of extra-territorial litigation with the most notable culminating in the US Supreme Court in 2013. It has drawn attention to the issue of corporate legitimacy and the ‘social licence to operate’, yet these issues are often examined from a top-down perspective, that is, changes that companies can make environmentally and socially to affect communities.The word ‘below’ is used in the De Sousa Santos sense, which identifies subaltern cosmopolitan studies of global concepts. In this paper, it will refer to changes in women’s environmental consciousness and responses from within the mining communities as expressions affecting corporate sustainability too. This offers huge potential for such communities to contribute to the corporate sustainability agenda and to shape it in novel ways.The paper introduces corporate sustainability as perceived and influenced from ‘below’ and utilises the Ghanaian empirical example to focus on women at the grassroots level. It highlights fresh research about the environmental challenges in the extractive industry in Ghana and considers the responses from women in rural communities. These are responses, which challenge preconceived and accepted social roles, especially those of gender. It considers the potential of this spontaneous non-institutionalised dimension of the local environmental movement in Ghana, in contributing to a rethink of the discourse in this area of corporate sustainability.
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