CSR and ICT: New Insights From the Shear Zones Perspective

CSR and ICT: New Insights From the Shear Zones Perspective

Chiara Meret (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy), Michela Iannotta (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) and Mauro Gatti (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3551-5.ch002


In line with the recent tendencies of limited natural resources, demographic development, dematerialization, and digitalization, this chapter underlines the necessity of deepening the role information and communication technologies (ICTs) play for corporate social responsibility (CSR) challenges. In fact, due to the diffuse integration of ICT into most of people's and firms' daily activities, companies cannot neglect the role of ICT in shaping CSR strategies. Hence, ICT has the potential to support the three main aspects of sustainable development—people, profit, and planet—which can be found in the so-called triple bottom line approach (TBL). However, the role of ICTs in supporting the shear zones between the abovementioned lines still counts a lack of contribution. Through a systematic analysis of the literature, the chapter affords insights for a further advance compared to the extant literature as the content analysis provides a description of how ICT support the sub-dimensions included in the three shear zones.
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The predominant perspective on sustainable business states that to be successful companies no longer relies on profitability alone, but social and environmental perspectives should also be considered (Elkington, 1997; Kotler, 2011). To that regard, the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach suggests to consider the financial, social and environmental dimensions of enterprises activity and performance, by looking at three Ps: people, planet and profit.

This comes from a core idea: sustainable development is when present decisions do not burden future generations (Brundtland Report, 1987; Brown et al., 1987). At the same time, the now increasingly widespread use of ICTs paves the way to think about its role for affecting environmental and socio-economic effects. Accordingly, Stiel and Teuteberg (2015) arise the question of how to achieve a sustainable consumption of ICT, and ICT will have an increasing role to play in global sustainability. In addition, the prevailing role played by the ICT industry is becoming critical from and environmental point of view. According to Patrignani et al. (2015), ICT contribute to climate change for the 3% to CO2 emissions and it will soon become a part of the global actors, with a considerable role in responsibility (Patrignani and De Marco, 2012). Moreover, consumers are also becoming more and more conscious about scarcity of resources and responsible consumption. Therefore, companies need to be aware of the relationship between ICT, people, and the environment.

Interestingly, the extant research has addressed the abovementioned issues by exploring how ICT may support sustainability practices, with regard to each of the TBL dimensions separately (e.g., Carrera Rivera and Kurnia, 2015). However, this kind of analysis might be not sufficient to face the emerging challenges offered by ICT. Indeed, the evolution of new technologies is leading to fuzzier boundaries between the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability. Accordingly, Elkington (1997) refers to the interactions between these three dimensions as “Shear Zones”. Indeed, while ICTs allow companies to combine economic returns with social and environmental benefits, they may have controversial effects on one or more of these dimensions. Hence, a more profound analysis of how ICTs can support sustainable practices in the fuzzier zones of the TBL approach is still needed. To fulfil this gap, this chapter presents an extensive review of the literature aimed at highlighting the key roles of ICT for integrating the economic, social, and environmental perspectives.

In line with the previous considerations, this chapter is structured as follow: the following section will focus on the theoretical background on CSR and its relations with ICT; in the third section the chapter exhibits the applied methodology; in the fourth section the triple-bottom line framework is contextualised with the ICT sector and results are discussed according to the aim of the chapter; conclusions and further insights are presented at the end.

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