Social Media for Public Involvement and Sustainability in International Planning and Development

Social Media for Public Involvement and Sustainability in International Planning and Development

Laura G. Willems (Griffith University, Nathan, Australia) and Tooran Alizadeh (Griffith University, Nathan, Australia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2015100101
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Abstract

This paper explores social media's potential to improve public involvement and sustainable practices on an international scale across planning and development projects. Using a case-study approach, the international institutions of the World Bank, UN-Habitat, Unilever, and World Business Council for Sustainable Development are investigated. The relationships between public versus the institutions' demands for sustainability are examined through an analysis of their Facebook pages, official websites, and questionnaire data from the institutions' digital media administrators. Findings identify strong public demands for increased sustainability in international development, and great support for online efforts of public involvement. This paper offers a promising application to the planning profession via e-planning. This application could result in an alternative form of public engagement through social media that goes beyond the limiting borders of each local community, and assess planning and development projects for their broader environmental impacts on an international platform.
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Introduction To Organizational Sustainability

The most widely accepted definition of sustainable development/practice by Brundtland (1987) is development/practice that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This has traditionally been interpreted on a local level, by analyzing local impacts and intergenerational equality. However, the rapid onset of globalization via multilateral trade negotiations in the 1950s (World Bank Group, 2004) has brought about an unprecedented increase in the local consumption of globally sourced goods and services. This definition of sustainable development detaches local planning, development and resourcing, from the issues of international inequality.

It is argued that the progress towards sustainable practice at an international level has been infrequent and inconsistent (Dyllick and Hockerts, 2002). Marsden (2000) outlines the wide variation in progress may be attributed to three distinct attitudes towards organizational uptake of sustainable practices:

  • Denial: Placing responsibility on the government;

  • Reaction: Acceptance as a contributor to the problem and taking guidance on solutions; and

  • Autonomous action: Recognition of power and proactive, independent acts.

Organizations in the reaction or autonomous response categories often utilize new forms of business models that have hybridized corporate and organizational strategy with sustainability and gained a competitive advantage in the market. The traditional business models, on the other hand, were strongly ruled by the economic system with only minor tradeoffs for social or environmental capital gain (Stubbs and Cocklin, 2008). Two major concepts arose in the literature in response to balancing this. These approaches include ‘corporate social responsibility’ and ‘corporate environmental responsibility/corporate sustainability’ (Fernando, 2012; Montiel, 2008; Svensson and Wagner, 2010; Willard, 2009). In many cases though, the extent of these efforts are dictated by the organizations and vary greatly. Numerous international examples of over-consumption of local environmental resources, and social injustices (Cerro Santamaria, 2013; Huang and Hsu, 2003), suggest that a new tool is required to bring the local projects and issues onto a global stage in a push for sustainable practice.

This paper is an exploratory study into the potential of social media, as a new tool with the ability to give local level issues a global audience in short time periods (Willard, 2009), to enhance public involvement and sustainable practices on an international scale across planning and development projects. Using a comparative case-study approach, the supply-demand relationship for sustainable practice on social media is examined. Building upon the literature, the paper examines the quantitative and qualitative virtually sourced data to discover how internationally renowned development and manufacturing organizations react to, or align with public responses and demands for sustainable practice. The results could open the door for an alternative form of public engagement through social media that goes beyond the limiting borders of each local community, and assess planning and development projects for their broader environmental impacts on an international platform.

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