Throughout this course, I have had the opportunity to examine the stakeholder’s role in confronting opportunities and challenges associated with sustainability in Chile. I have conducted individual research, collaborated with a team to create a presentation, and met with organizations and leaders while learning about the complex culture and values present in Chile. This paper will address the role of business, universities, non-governmental organizations, and the government in the sustainability movement as well as discuss some of the less successful sustainability strategies and initiatives in Chile and how they can improve. To do this, I will incorporate several lenses including the Triple Bottom Line, which measures a company’s social responsibility, environmental impact along with their economic profit, and the stakeholders’ perspective (Rogers & Hudson, 2011).
The role of business in the sustainability movement is mutually beneficial in that sustainability needs business and business needs sustainability. While in Chile, we met with several companies and two, in particular, Conecta and 3M embodied how businesses should and do work with sustainability. Conecta, a consulting firm in Chile’s aquaculture industry, helps the government and other stakeholders create incentives and practices by bringing more actors to the discussion table. One sustainability practice that they employ is the theoretical license to operate. The license to operate is the support or consent of the people and stakeholders of a corporation and their operations. In the United States (U.S.), companies often function without this theoretical permission because the government plays a greater role in regulations and protection of communities, whereas in Chile, government regulation is considerably looser. This lower level of regulation is apparent in the salmon industry where the government allows 1,350 commercial licenses granted to salmon production; if all of these licenses were in use, it would result in a natural disaster. Conecta functions in this niche market of regulation because people are shifting toward organic and environmentally safe products in which they “don’t want to buy a product, they want to buy a concept” (B. Contreras & C. Odebret, personal communication, January 12, 2017). Conecta helps salmon producers create this concept by providing companies with a better understanding of sustainability, how to share the value of water and how to mitigate the risks involved in this shared resource.
3M, an American multinational conglomerate corporation, similarly works with clients to create sustainable solutions. Wendy Benson, the Managing Director at 3M Chile, explained that at 3M they “use science to make people’s lives better” (W. Benson, personal communication, January 17, 2017). The company works in many markets around the world producing 60,000 products, making them one of the most diversified global companies. In Chile, however, they only market and sell 5,000 of these goods; they do this to be sustainable from both a people and a profit perspective. As one of the most ethical and respected companies in the world, 3M works under the mindset that “if I cut down a tree, I have to grow a tree for the future” (W. Benson, personal communication, January 17, 2017). This outlook makes the company environmentally sustainable so that 3M Chile covers all three lines of the Triple Bottom Line perspective.
Similarly to businesses mutually beneficial relationship with sustainability, the role of universities in the sustainability movement is two-sided because the University benefits by gaining knowledge and examples from other stakeholders about sustainability. This input supports the University's efforts in teaching students about the concepts of sustainability and also about best practices of companies. At the Universidad Aldolpho Ibanez’s (UAI’s) Center for Business Sustainability, the University works with both private and public stakeholders to create real solutions to today’s challenges with sustainability. Not only does UAI help develop solutions and spread the knowledge, but they also help manage these results so that they also meet the needs of the organizations. The University also works together with national business leaders, from different sectors and convenes annually to pinpoint their sustainability challenges as a contribution to research and to decide on business models and tactical decisions based on financial, ecological and societal concerns (“Escuela de Negocios Lanza el centre for business sustainability (CBS),” 2014).
Compared to UAI’s research and education tactics, Universidad Catolica takes a more hands-on approach. While they only employ seven people in their Center for Business Sustainability, this is considered a relatively large department dedicated to sustainability, and they have already implemented many projects. One of these projects is Punto Limpio recycling containers where people can not only sort garbage into trash and recyclables but also based on subcategories like boxes, newspapers, bottles, cans and juice boxes. The University also deployed solar panels to heat their pool and created a sustainable garden on campus. This garden is worked by volunteers and provides produce for free to the school and those who have helped cultivate the plants.
The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) similarly takes a hands-on approach but as a bridge between larger players instead of working with the resources themselves. The approaches to social responsibility can be broken down into four categories proactive: corporations working for what is best for our future, accommodative: organizations that adapt to what is required, defensive: those organizations that are trying to protect their industry by avoiding changes that would be positive for environment, and obstructionist: organizations who are going against the law (B. Contreras & C. Odebret, personal communication, January 12, 2017). NGOs use a proactive approach to social responsibility in that they operate without financial incentives, are led by a mission, initiate change not react to change, and create shared value.
Tompkins Conservation, one of the NGOs that we met with in Puerto Varas, works to make national parks, protect endangered animals, employ sustainable agriculture techniques, support activism, and support prosperous communities. Tompkins Conservation works in both the public and private corporation spaces in Chile and Argentina. They operate on the concept that every human has the same right to live on this planet, driving their desire to preserve as much as possible. Despite the low appreciation of national parks in Chile, Tompkins Conservation does not believe in privatizing the park land. This belief stems from a different conception that the government is a positive entity; it just does not have the funds to create these parks on its own. This situation makes the business unstable economically, but stable ecologically.
Casa de la Paz also does public and private corporation work in Chile, but unlike Tompkins Conservation, Casa de la Paz focuses on social sustainability over environmental sustainability. Casa de la Paz works as an intermediary between the government and large enterprises and views sustainability as an environmental, social, and economic agreement. This perspective likely arises from the political situation occurring at the time of the organization’s creation. Casa de la Paz, meaning house of peace, took shape in 1983 during the cold war and military dictatorship and lasted through the government evolution to democracy. For this reason, the organization created six principles that help them work with and not for the community. By using this type of system, Casa de la Paz can determine what the group needs instead of what they believe they want.
The role of government in the sustainability movement focuses more on the creation of policy and regulation than as a mediator. Chile has 23 government ministries with the Ministry of the Environment playing the principal role in the sustainability movement. The Ministry of the Environment’s goal is to achieve sustainable development for the country with the aim of improving the quality of life for Chileans both of this generation and the future, by leading sustainable development through the generation of efficient public policies and regulations promoting good practices and improving citizen environmental education. While this may appear to be a worthy goal, it is easier said than done. With non-renewable resources accounting for a majority of Chile’s energy, wood burning as a primary source of heat, and only 15% of their garbage recycled, compared to 60% for the US, it may be necessary to create more achievable goals as steps toward this lofty goal.
Puerto Valparaiso, while not a ministry, functions as a private company owned by the government. The port focuses more on economic sustainability than environmental but still places some emphasis on social sustainability. Puerto Valparaiso acts as a port for many products including fruit, wine, industrial production, food, and copper. While the harbor ships to many areas, they have created deals with some places where, if they transport their goods there before a certain time, they do not have to pay taxes. One of these locations is California which removes taxes, which function as a barrier to entry into the market, if they get the shipment there before April seventh. This action is both sustainable economically for the port and socially for California because it brings in agricultural goods that are not yet in season while simultaneously protecting the agricultural industry from foreign competition. Because the port is government owned, the profit from the port goes to the Chilean government and not the city. This situation creates some social tension between the harbor and citizens of Valparaiso, so the port is implementing some programs to give back to the people such as an area for the public to have water access.
While these universities, businesses, NGOs, and government organizations were predominately representative of positive roles on sustainability, there were also many instances of less successful strategies and initiatives. One example of a less successful business was the KDM landfill we visited, which positioned itself as a progressive, sustainable force. While the landfill provides solar energy to power 1500 homes and produces biogas to create energy, this is only a fragment of what is needed to support the population of Chile. The landfill is environmentally unsustainable in the fact that they only recycle 15% of the garbage and they produce a residual liquid from the waste which they cannot get rid of because they cannot afford the technology to clean it. Further, the landfill itself is socially unsustainable because only two of its 3,000 workers are women.
Another observable example of negative sustainability manifests in the government’s owning of businesses. The Chilean government owns Minister Alice, the largest copper mine in Chile, and 20% of Chile’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from copper. This situation is both economically and socially unsustainable because it places too much importance on the price of copper because even a small change in price could dramatically affect the economy, and socially unsustainable because it creates a conflict of interests between people and profit.
This course allowed me the opportunity to examine the role of the stakeholder in confronting opportunities and challenges associated with sustainability in Chile. I have discovered that while business, universities, non-governmental organizations, and the government have diverse roles in sustainability, they can all have a positive impact on the movement. Through my individual research, collaboration as a team, and meetings with organizations and leaders I have gained a greater understanding of Chile’s multifaceted culture and values as they relate to sustainability.