Creating fragile dependencies: corporate social responsibility in Canada and Ecuador

  • Author / Creator
    Lock, Ineke Catharina
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Sociology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Laxer, Gordon (Sociology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Ikeda, Satoshi (Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University)
    • Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
    • Turner, Terisa E. (Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph)
    • Judson, C.F. (Political Science)