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Sustainable business and the role of the Dutch Embassy : a comparison between Dutch and South African companies in South Africa

Pross, E.M. (Emiel) (2010) Sustainable business and the role of the Dutch Embassy : a comparison between Dutch and South African companies in South Africa.

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Abstract:While companies were denying in the 1960s and 1970s their impact on the environment, an environmental revolution for the last three decades has made today‟s companies take their responsibilities in this respect. Sustainable business is a way of doing business that has no negative impact on the global or local environment, on community, society, or economy; a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) (Cooney, 2009). The Royal Embassy of the Netherlands in Pretoria plays an important role in the development of sustainable business by Dutch companies in South Africa. In order to do so, the Embassy tries to set an example for these companies. Besides promoting sustainable business, they highlight its benefits and monitor companies on their actions. The relevance of sustainable business is unquestionable, since political and scientific consensus worldwide has confirmed the immense scale of environmental challenges governments, businesses and individuals are facing. This project has resulted in an in-depth understanding of the differences and similarities between South African and Dutch companies in doing „sustainable business‟ in the logistics sector, specifically regarding the different views on „sustainable business‟, differences in practices, and the perceived impact on business performance. This project has enhanced the Dutch Embassy‟s knowledge regarding the current state of play and how it can support Dutch companies in increasing their sustainability, becoming forerunners, and staying ahead of the „sustainable‟ competitors. The following research question was answered in this study: “What are the differences and similarities in doing sustainable business between South African and Dutch companies in the logistics sector and in which way can the Dutch Embassy support Dutch companies in South Africa in doing sustainable business?” Both theory and results have confirmed that sustainable business is a very broad definition. In this respect 55% of the companies focused on the environment and 46% on the economical aspects. With regard to the P‟s, 55% focused on the people aspect, 46% on the profit aspect, and 18% on the planet or environmental aspect. It was concluded from this that the environmental aspect is probably a higher or strategic goal to strive for, but that in practice they try to reach this goal by means of the people and profit aspects. The results have shown that especially the larger companies focus on the environmental aspects, while the smaller companies focus more on the social aspects. The medium companies use a mix of environmental, social and economical aspects. The sample consisted for the larger part of smaller and larger companies, so the results apply more to these than to medium sized companies, which focus on a mix of factors. This is also consistent with several respects of this research, since the larger and smaller companies use only several of the component of VI TBL and strive for one or maybe two higher goals, while medium sized companies use a mix of components and strive often also for a mix of higher goals. Striving for certain aspects of TBL does not guarantee that companies practice this in reality. The results have shown that especially smaller companies do not always pursue sustainable business. The reasons for not pursuing sustainability differed. On a larger scale it could be the case that the smaller companies do not have the means to pursue sustainability; therefore they focus more on aspects they find more important. If they do not pursue sustainability, they will also not develop an awareness of hampering factors. Larger and medium sized companies showed more awareness in this respect. A large group of the sample also focused on technological aspect, as a consequence of an increasing attention for sustainable business and brand value. The research model has shown that characteristics of the Netherlands and South Africa will influence sustainable business in logistics, and that commercial diplomacy also would be able to exert influence. The results have shown that sustainable business is not always pursued in South African companies, especially in smaller ones, even when the focus is on one of the TBL factors. In general, the focus and implementation of sustainability issues in South African companies is much less than in Dutch companies. There are differences in Dutch and South African companies in logistics, so it seems that characteristics of a country can influence sustainable business in logistics. Also, the embassy has several resources to support sustainable business, which also seem to be able to exert influence, like a big network, consulates, information on the country, which can give them a competitive advantage and money in terms of funding projects. This research was done in times of economical crisis, so companies are spending not much money on sustainability, especially when it is not available in huge amounts. When the economy is becoming stable again, new research can give different results with regards to the sustainability issue. Also, the research was done in eleven companies, with a mix of small, medium and large companies. The sample was small, so future research should be done with larger samples to either confirm or deny the results. Furthermore, the changing of personnel every four years in the Embassy can be a cause for the low support in practice; also a factor that can be explored in future research. Finally, another factor for future research is the amount of knowledge a company has on the elements of TLB, namely people, profit and planet. It should be made clear how a company defines these concepts and the concept of sustainability to be able to make reliable comparisons.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Koninkrijk der Nederlanden
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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