Portrayal of sustainability principles in the mission statements and on home pages of the world's largest organizations

Stephen T. Garnett, Michael J. Lawes, Robyn James, Kristen Bigland, Kerstin K. Zander

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Conservation can be achieved only if sustainability is embraced as core to organizational cultures. To test the extent to which the related concepts of sustainability, conservation, response to climate change, poverty alleviation, and gender equity have been incorporated into organizational culture, we compared mission statements published from 1990 to 2000 with those published in 2014 for 150 organzations, including conservation nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), aid NGOs, government development agencies, resource extraction companies, and retailers (30 in each category). We also analyzed the 2014 home web pages of each organization. Relative to the earlier period, the frequency with which mission statements mentioned poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation, and a range of sustainable practices increased only slightly by 2014, particularly among resource extractors and retail companies. Few organizations in any sector had embedded either climate change or gender equity into their mission statements. In addition, the proportional intensity with which any of the aspirations were expressed did not change between periods. For current home pages, conservation NGOs, resource extractors, and government agencies were significantly more likely to acknowledge the importance of matters that were not part of their core business, but few aid agencies or retail companies promoted goals beyond alleviation of crises and profit maximization, respectively. Overall, there has been some progress in recognizing poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable practices, but gender equity and a determination to reduce impacts on climate change are still rarely promoted as central institutional concerns. Sustainability in general, and biodiversity conservation in particular, will not be achieved unless their importance is more widely apparent in core communication products of organizations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)297-307
    Number of pages11
    JournalConservation Biology
    Volume30
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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