sustainability was propagated by Brundtland (1987) cited in Sneddon et al.
(2006), governments and business communities worldwide have struggled with
working out modalities for policy implementation in this regard (Barkemeyer, et
al., 2014). In some cases there have been arguments against the conception of
sustainability, due to apprehensions that policy implementation will stifle
businesses. Though researchers like Kolk (2016) believe that the negative
feeling about sustainability is based on a parochial view of the subject. They
argue that looking at the sustainability with a broader mind-set will help
appreciate its importance, as well as set realistic sustainable development
goals such as “what should be developed and what is to be sustained, for how
long, and for the benefit of whom”. By
so doing, business decision makers can come to see sustainable development as
source of success, innovation, and profitability for companies as discussed by
Agreeing to a
global or industry-wide framework on sustainable development is another major
challenge for businesses and governments, due to divergent worldview about the
use of resources from one country to the other because of cultural differences (Geissdoerfer
et al., 2017). Availability of resources and their economic importance to
nations is another vital factor which complicates reaching a global consensus
on sustainable development (Kates et al., 2005).
the emergence of Asian economies such as China (Barkemeyer et al., 2014), who
researchers like Iqbal and Pierson (2017) have opined pay lip service to
sustainable development, as Chinese State-owned Enterprises continue to engage in
sharp practices such as Child Labour. These practices which gives China a trade
advantage, puts pressure on rival businesses in the Western Nations whose
governments have embraced policies that encourage sustainable development.
Although it is moot whether China is taking concrete steps to make businesses
more sustainable or not, still, Sneddon et al. (2006) acknowledged that the
issue of reaching a consensus by developed and developing countries is a major
challenge for drafting workable policies on sustainable development. Despite
this, it still remains often arguable whether companies that adopts sustainable
practices actually benefit from competitive advantage (Adams and Zutshi, 2004).
according to Lopez et al. (2007), some successful businesses are beginning to classify
their concepts and strategy(s) with terminologies which are inclined towards
sustainability. Nowadays, it is common for business to link its operations with
terms like talent management, waste reduction, customer loyalty, brand
reputation, environmental management, quality management, and corporate ethics.
And these concepts constitute some common practices of sustainable development.
These are considered good strategies that could lead to better corporate
management and eventually brilliant performance. The perspective of
sustainability provides a framework upon which we can study the practices
adopted and how it creates value. It is against this background that the
proposed study will take place.
Development of the research problem
times, sustainability has become central to most discussions worldwide, thanks
to increased awareness of the danger of depleting natural resources Bocken et
al. (2014), The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) has
defined “sustainability” as “economic developments that meet the
requirements of the present generation without endangering future generations
from meeting their own needs.” The clamour
for more sustainable use of resources is
however very crucial now, because of the ever growing global population;
depleting natural resources; as well as
scarcity of resources which are all as a result of increased use of raw
materials in the production and service-generating sector (Kolk, 2016).
consciousness though has increased efforts for more renewable sources of
energy; and quest for organic and biodegradable products (Adeola, 2000), since
it is now apparently clear that doing business, as usual, is detrimental.
Nonetheless, many organisations still struggle with working out sustainable
development initiatives that will ultimately make significant positive impact
without stifling their businesses (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017).
research work aims to identify the ideal operational sustainable development
activities suitable for an organization to qualify as a viable entity, and how
this can lead to the achievement of better business performance and value
creation for the shareholders. Furthermore,
this research will highlight how embedding the concept of sustainability in the
process and operation of an entity can help to gain competitive advantage with
the hope that its findings; as well as eventual recommendations will be
insightful, thus serving as a precedence for organisations to replicate
partially or wholly in their operations. To do these, there are specific questions that this research
aims to answers, which are:
are the qualities of a sustainable company amidst the present economic and
b) What are the
practical measures to be implemented towards achieving the status of a
What is the model for measuring business performance
of a sustainable business?
during this study the actions, operations and results that signify steps
towards achieving sustainability will be documented, patterned and linked to
the overall business performance of an organization. Bearing in mind that, a
sustainable business would not only pay attention to its activities, but also
that of its entire supply chain (Casagrande, 1999 cited in Barkemeyer et al., 2014).
This is a study of sustainable development
frame-work adopted by FMCG organisations in Nigeria. It aims to unravel the
appropriate systematic approach to classify business performance that delivers
sustainability, and the inadequacy of the present practices, based on the
peculiarities of Nigeria business environment. The following theoretical
framework will be used to guide this research.
Stakeholders Theory and
Sustainable Development (SD)
Baumgartner (2014), “bringing sustainability issues into the boardroom of
companies is a central and important issue for a successful development of
sustainable societies”. Baumgartner (2014), also advocates that the boardroom
is just the start of the SD discussion; being that stakeholders to any
business, encompass a host of others who are not often present in the
boardroom, such as advocacy groups, consumers, vendors to the business, as well
as shareholders; whose understanding of
the business’ position on sustainability would help to get their buy-in and appreciation
of how SD affects their interest in the organization, as well as manage the changes that will ensue (Henisz et
Besides, Bocken et al. (2014), suggest that a sustainable
business combines a Triple Bottom Line approach and an extensive range of
stakeholder interests, involving environment and society which are significant
and influential in driving corporate innovation and business purpose forward.
Although Steurer (2005), proclaims that when scholars try to gain a better
understanding of corporate sustainability, they leave corporations and their
performance on the side-lines, nonetheless, stakeholder’s theory will be used in
this research to investigate how SD initiatives impacts changes in business
activities; as well as in determining areas of convergence of diverse
Business Environment and Sustainable Development (SD)
Narula and Dunning (2000) acknowledged
that every country still has its uniqueness even though globalization has
increased social, cultural, political, and economic interdependence that has
resulted in several changes in business environments of countries.
organisations need to be aware of the wider issues that affect their management
activities (Gomez-Mejia and Balkin,1992,p.34). Sneddon et al. (2006) also agree
with this view, saying that sustainability cannot be analysed in isolation
because its effectiveness depends on its responsiveness to the internal and
external factor impacting the organisation. Although Kolk (2016) admits that
analysing and choosing an appropriate sustainable development frame-work becomes
‘much more complex and difficult’ for multinational corporations operating
Sneddon et al. (2006) noted that two decades after the publication of Our
Common Future by Bruntland, the World’s political and environmental landscape
has changed significantly. However, most of the research has focused on
organisations operating in developed economies, while considerations of the
cultural differences of developing countries like Nigeria have been a secondary
factor (Jackson, 2004). Therefore
understanding the peculiarities of the environment businesses operate in
developing countries like Nigeria, will be useful in this research work.
c) Business Performance from Accounting Perspective
performance can be measured from the marketing, operations and accounting
perspective (Otley, 1999). The accounting perspective is the traditional form
of measurement, as managers’ focus was chiefly on the profit maximisation,
while other non-financial benefits were discounted, (Norreklit, 2000). Although
this approach helped to maintain a good cash flow operating profit as well as
asset values, however overtime deficiencies in other parts of the business such
as marketing and operations has been noticed to negatively affect profits
awareness of the inadequacies of analysing business performance from the
accounting perspectives, this research work will still embark on review of the
financial records of FMCG companies in Nigeria. Doing this is vital to this
research, bearing in mind the negative bias of SD by business owners and
shareholders, who also are stakeholders; that businesses profit is secondary in
SD discussions, as identified by Boele et al. (2001,p.122). Additionally, the
socio-economic environment of developing countries like Nigeria which can make
people such as shareholders value financial rewards more than other extrinsic
reward ( Budhwar and Debrah, 2001,p.201). Although
investors recognise that investing according to sustainable principles has the
capacity to yield long term value (Lopez et al., 2007). Thus, employing the
accounting perspective will be important to establish a positive correlation
between SD and profit in order to uncover that the anxiety is not an issue in
the long-run for FMCG companies in Nigeria
numerous research on sustainable development and corporate sustainability,
researchers have defined corporate sustainability in various ways. For example,
Francesco & Antonio (2006) opined that a sustainability-oriented company is
one that takes time to evolve by factoring the state of the company’s economic,
social and environmental dimensions, as well as of its processes and
performance. They however, linked to financial and competitive success, social
legitimacy and efficient use of natural resources which are intertwined towards
the company’s aims and objectives.
and Ebner (2010) on other hand, simply say Sustainable Development when
incorporated by the organization is called corporate sustainability and it
contains, like sustainable development, all three pillars: economic, ecological
and social. In line with this view, Baedeker et al. (2002) espouse that economic
sustainability embraces general aspects of an organization that have to be
respected – next to environmental and social aspects – in order to remain in
the market for a long time.
Despite recent researchers emphasis on the economic
aspect of Sustainable Development, sceptics contend that this notion of
”sustainable growth” is intentionally ambiguous, and an attempt to divert
attention from imminent environmental limits to economic growth (Daly, 1996),
which is what they believe Brundtland promulgated in 1987.
Additionally, some researchers like Steurer et al.
(2005) suggest that, while
Sustainable Development policies come from governments and often imply some
sort of regulatory force, management systems are applied more or less
voluntarily by a company’s management. This view was however refuted by Boele
et al. (2001, p. 122) who argued
that companies are ”confronted by the
growing power of key stakeholder groups and the multifarious relations between
them, which represent pseudo mandatory aspect of corporate sustainability that
puts pressure on businesses; especially in the liberal economies.
Henisz et al. (2014) argue that efforts to win the
cooperation of and reduce the conflict with external stakeholders, rather than
merely altering the distribution of rents among direct factors of production,
can be conceived as investments in political and social capital.
Although previous researchers have argued that
managers’ focus on any engagement with third parties on behalf of the
organization other than for the purpose of profit maximization for shareholders
is subversive and counterproductive (Barett et al.,2016). However, recent
occurrences in the business world suggest to the contrary, as Bal et al. (2013) noted that many business endeavours
have failed because of failure to properly engage with stakeholders. Moreover,
global trends in the past decades have indicated that the corporate world is
changing, and so is its mandate, thus the sole focus on profit maximization is
no longer in the best interest of organisations (Magner, 2008, p.128).
Additionally, the Brent spar case involving Shell and
Greenpeace which gave bad publicity to Shell, when in fact Greenpeace
overestimated the remaining oil in Shell’s old storage facility which was to be
disposed at sea, is also a case that shows that better co-operation with
stakeholders to a business could have prevented the crisis that ensued which
was not envisaged by shell (Bennie, 1998). Therefore identification is a
critical component of the initial scoping phase, and should occur before an
engagement plan is formulated and consultations begin (Bal et al., 2013).
Although in practice stakeholder identification and engagement is a tedious
process, as each stakeholder usually has their own interest in the project
which may cause different priorities, conflicts and dramatically increase the
complexity of the situation (Henisz et al., 2014). Nonetheless appreciating the
stakeholders’ variance is also important in prioritizing those that are more
powerful. As stakeholder’s interest are greatly influenced by the
socio-political, economic, and cultural peculiarities of a country such as
Nigeria, that business operators need to factor into their decisions.
This research intends to make use of chiefly
Qualitative approach for data gathering, as this method provides ‘the detail
and depth of observation’ (Bryman, 2006, p.99). Besides, the qualitative
approach to data gathering is useful when conducting exploratory and
explanatory study in order to measure data that seem immeasurable, such as
opinion, values, and judgment (Saunders et al., 2007,p.315), which I presume
this research will entail a lot of. Furthermore qualitative data-gathering
forms a part of many Business Management research enquiries (Anderson, 2009,
Despite the choice of qualitative method of data
gathering, the research is however open to the use of a mix of quantitative and
qualitative approach where deemed necessary
to analyse numerical data; as Quantitative method is useful in
clarifying dependent and independent variables under investigation (Anderson,
2009,p.204), given certain matrices on business performance measurements.
Moreover the use of both qualitative and Quantitative method for data gathering
helps to have a more balanced view, and provide better validity and reliable
data to answer the research questions (Bryman, 2006).
One-on-one Interviews with senior managers such as the
chief executive officer, who are eligible to comment on strategic decisions
will also be conducted, with the purpose of understanding how corporate
sustainability is perceived by different functional managers in the chosen
Although it is envisaged there might be power issues
in favour of the interviewees for the reason that the interviews will be
conducted in their offices. Nonetheless, the interviews will be conducted
there, being that their offices is the most likely environment to get the
interviewees to relax and provide insightful answers to the interview
These interviews will be tape-recorded, and notes will
also be taken, however the information to be obtained and how it will be
recorded will be clarified to limit interviewees’ bias (Anderson, 2009,p.204).
Additionally, the interview questions will be
semi-structured and open ended, to enable follow-ups on the interviewee’s
responses, with probing questions as recommended by Saunders et al.
(2007,p.312) in order to appropriately capture their views and perceptions.
Although interview session runs the risk of the winding on to irrelevant issues
when using semi-structure interview unlike structured interviews, however efforts
will be made to control such situations by subtly redirecting of the
conversation back to the topic of discussion as recommended by Morgan
To enhance the quality of this research work,
Qualitative questionnaires will also be administered randomly to identify
stakeholders from Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector businesses operating in
Nigeria to also gather their opinion about corporate sustainability. This sample
size is selected bearing in mind the 1-10% ‘magic sampling fraction’ (Dornyei, 2003)
in order to accurately get their opinions, since it is not possible to
interview all of the stakeholders to Businesses in Nigeria. Although the
research will bear in mind that questionnaires run the risk of not being
properly completed, or returned, therefore to increase and encourage objective
responses, the questionnaires will contain unambiguous questions and
administered at social events, sales outlets and distribution channels of these
businesses in Nigeria; where a cluster of respondents can be found, including
clear instructions on how to respond anonymously.
Other relevant literature will also be reviewed to
examine previous work done by other researchers to see point of divergence and
convergence with the findings of research of this research.
The notes taken during interviews will be looked at,
and data obtained from recorded interviews will be cautiously transcribed, and
analysed using Constant Comparison/Grounded Theory to look for indicators of
categories in events and behaviour, name them and code them on document
Data from the questionnaires will be analysed by
content analysis and interpretive phenomenological analysis (Smith and Osborn,
2003,p.52) to explore in detail how participants make sense of their personal
and social world in respect to sustainability as a whole and more importantly,
corporate sustainability. Numerical data that emanate from the research finding
will be analysed statistically using Microsoft excel.
After data analysis, the results obtained will be
interpreted and information will be put together to answer the research
This research is expected to
span through a period of approximately 3 years from start to submission. See
table below for the sequence of activities.