From Stakeholder Engagement to the Collective-Impact Approach for Sustainability Paths in Complex Problems

  • Alessandra De Chiara
Keywords: sustainability, stakeholder engagement, social capital, collective impact, complex problems

Abstract

Purpose of the paper: Stakeholder engagement is becoming the preferred approach for implementing sustainability paths. However, it is not always sufficient to develop responsible behaviours. Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination and the commitment of a group of important actors (Kania and Kramer, 2011). Such change can be considered from the perspective of ‘collective impact’.

This paper analyses the case of an area named Agro Caleno, which belongs to the territory that has recently been dubbed ‘The Land of Fires’ in Campania, Italy. A succession of environmental and health crises have afflicted this area for the past eight years, creating serious difficulties for the structural stability of many businesses that produce protected designation of origin (PDO) food items, as well as the entire community.

Methodology: This research uses qualitative analysis. It employs documentary research and a direct survey of the businesses and local municipalities of the case-study area. In particular, this paper addresses the experience of some businesses that are implementing initiatives to adopt collaborative sustainable behaviours.

Findings: This research demonstrates the strong strategic importance of the decision to create a network to address the consequences of the environmental problems faced by businesses in Agro Caleno. However, while it was found that there is a good level of cooperation between business and local institutions, the network has not produced the estimated results.

Practical Implications: To produce consistent and effective results that will solve a complex problem such as environmental pollution, it is not only necessary to create cross-sector public and private partnerships, but also to initiate a systematic approach focused on the relationships between different stakeholders and a progression towards shared goals that maintain the perspective of collective impact.

Limitations: This research did not conduct exhaustive investigation of all categories of stakeholders.

Originality of the paper: This paper provides an in-depth examination of the importance of social capital in creating sustainable business behaviours and proposes the theoretical approach of collective impact for solving complex problems from the perspective of sustainability.

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Published
2019-04-29