My study is concerned with stakeholder responsibility in corporate governance for sustainability in Stellenbosch (Western Cape, South Africa). Stellenbosch is a sought after international brand to the global players it hosts in the business, agriculture and academic fraternity. This mutual beneficial partnership testifies of a cultivated relationship over decades in some cases, and still pursued, enjoyed and favoured by existing and new entry high profile companies locally and internationally. Stellenbosch is also a town where the divide in the community between the very rich and the very poor is one of the highest in the world (as reflected by the Gini Co-efficient). Housing, food security, the demand and threats on available resources (land, water), health care, economy and employment, capacity building and infrastructure and services is a red flag concern, particularly for the poor. This resonates with the increasing worldwide alarm about the adverse impact of globalisation, the protection of the global markets in expense of sustainability and the unequal distribution of power that is reinforcing the growing gap between rich and poor globally. How do we respond to that?
My project will engage in an exploratory discourse with the corporate executive committees and top level decision makers, and policy makers and community leaders, to gain a deep understanding of the concepts sustainability and responsibility in economy, society and corporate governance in Stellenbosch. I propose to investigate moral interpretation (social) and strategic relevance (economy) of business responsibility and ethics. Ethical philosophy is explored from the theological tradition, and provides a familiar context to deliberate the vision of what a good society, action and people, is. It provides a means to reflect on the meaning of responsibility, its implications for vision, values and actions, to contribute to a better quality of life in its individual and public dimensions. The role executive management and decision makers play in their individual, institutional and strategic agency capacities, and their impact on the various role-players in the economic and public life, is an important interpretation. Sustainability is explored in light of challenges, opportunities and development for economic growth against the various global trends, national historical and local prevailing challenges in Stellenbosch.
The complex nature of the research project employs a mixed-method case study approach as the most suitable to understand the complex interconnections of the socio-economic system against a theological-ethical background. The use of theory and complimentary qualitative, participatory methodologies (PAR) will assist to transcend the disciplinary boundaries, so as to access knowledge that leads to a more holistic understanding of the problem. The meaning of responsibility and sustainability is a critical understanding, to find a thick description or definition (against the realm of economy and theology) as to how corporate governance might more strategically contribute. The concept of the “responsible society” is proposed as a framework to search for new solutions, and as criterion by which to judge all existing systems. My research aims towards a framework for assessing and applying strategy for sustainability in partnership with the various role-players in Stellenbosch. The national economic development initiatives can benefit from the outcome of this explorative discourse, which can provide a learning experience benchmark to continue this discourse in a global setting, starting with South Africa and Africa.
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