The Dark Side: Critical: Cases on the Downside of Business – 2009

Author: Editors - E Raufflet & AJ Mills
Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK
Pages: 294 , HDBK
ISBN: 13:9781906093204

I often get asked, “What if we don’t consider sustainability/do environmental management/implement a safety program?” by company managers and owners. This book is a sober warning of what could happen if businesses cut corners on social, environmental, ethical and regulatory standards.

The book is split into four parts:- Part one covers “gray areas in the behaviour of businesses”; part two looks at “business and local communities”; Part three explores “creating (or managing) crises”; and Part four looks at “gray areas in the global context”.

The editors have chosen an eclectic selection of case studies ranging from entrepreneurship and sexism to the responsibilities of (South African) mining companies and informal settlements, sub-standard underground mine safety, and lead-tainted toys. All of the case studies pose questions which do not always have clearly defined solutions, but illustrate the importance of dialogue with stakeholders (whoever they may be).

The book also demonstrates the value of developing case studies as a means of identifying key management and communication strategies. So often, corporates will focus on a one way communication strategy which does not listen to responses and reactions. This often results in vital intelligence and status information being lost or not collected.

A fascinating case study included in the book relates to Google’s decision making on whether or not to enter the China market and locate a Chinese language version of the Google search engine on Chinese servers. The ethical questions raised here make absorbing reading. The Westray mine explosion case study was also a powerful tale of corporate deceit and irresponsibility.

This book has many useful and thought-provoking messages for Sustainability Managers and directors dealing with corporate social responsibility and ethics issues. It will not provide all the answers but it will indicate what and how things can go wrong and provides a powerful motivation to understand the dynamics in your organisation and ensure that stakeholder communication channels are open and two way.