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Creating fragile dependencies: corporate social responsibility in Canada and Ecuador Open Access


Other title
fragile dependencies
Indigenous peoples
EnCana Corporation
corporate social responsibility
Dene Tha' First Nation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Lock, Ineke Catharina
Supervisor and department
Laxer, Gordon (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Turner, Terisa E. (Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph)
Ikeda, Satoshi (Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University)
Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
Judson, C.F. (Political Science)
Department of Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Discussion around the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) re-intensified in the 1990s as a response to the increasing power of large corporations, the regulatory vacuum left by neoliberal market deregulation and the changing nature of the state in the context of globalization. This dissertation analyzes the constitution of CSR, grounded in political economy and situated in the context of globalization, and identifies CSR as a constitutive element of global governance. Claims made about the potential business contribution to social and economic development in developing regions are largely unsubstantiated and little is known about the impact of CSR on the people it is supposed to benefit. Mainstream literature strips CSR from its context and assumes that practice can be standardized and the results quantified. The qualitative case study analyzes the contextual practice and impact of CSR activities by EnCana Corporation, Canada’s largest independent oil and gas company, on Indigenous peoples and settler communities in Ecuador, and on the Dene Tha’ First Nation in Canada. Analysis of EnCana’s definition and implementation of CSR reveals a conflicting narrative, attempting to reconcile competitive capitalism with broad moralistic principles and ethics. Corporate culture prioritized the business case and the assumption that triple bottom line goals are compatible and mutually reinforcing. Findings from the case study demonstrate that corporate ideology remained constant across the company’s operations in the two countries, allowing adaptation of its CSR practices only within a certain range of possibilities. The case study provides evidence that EnCana Corporation had to adapt its CSR practice in response to specific articulations of local social-economic and political contexts. Specifically, CSR practices responded first, to national development goals and state capacity; and second, to Indigenous and communal resources and strategies. The findings further suggest that CSR practice creates fragile dependencies, subjecting social, ecological and social justice objectives to economic imperatives. Two important processes contribute to the creation of fragile dependencies. First, at the business-society interface, citizens are conceptualized as stakeholders; second, participation in decision-making becomes institutionalized as a limited form of consultation, often delegated to project proponents, without sufficient involvement of the state.
License granted by Ineke Catharina Lock ( on 2011-04-13T15:44:25Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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