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4709 - Can Corporate Social Responsibility serve as a tool for sustainable tourism?

In many critical academic circles, in rich and developing countries alike, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices are often seen simply as attempts to make minor or cosmetic changes to legitimizing the existing corporate power of the rich countries. On the other hand, introducing values other than profit-making onto the corporate agenda may also partially politicize social relations that in the dominant understandings of the “economy” are too often regarded as non-political. This political agenda of CSR is still quite a neglected idea in the academic discussions: until very recently, CSR was mainly addressed in studies of business ethics, and, obviously, by economists. From the social science point of view, it is, anyhow, important to emphasize that CRS also creates new kinds of political spaces. CSR could also be a tool for conflict resolution if taken seriously and as a new “culture”, as a way of avoiding cultural stereotypes and as an instrument to a genuine understanding of the values of different actors. This is interesting for interdisciplinary tourism studies. Social responsibility has become also a competitive advantage for tourism industry: while optimizing their profitability, companies face increasing pressure to act responsibly towards their stakeholders in both their home and host countries. In such processes CSR meets new challenges such as the unequal global development of laws and regulations, formal and informal institutions and networks, and the influence of national cultures and manifold stakeholder pressures. The companies have to balance between multiple stakeholder demands and act according to responsible business practices both locally and globally. Business’ enthusiasm for CSR programs has often met with cynicism. Many firms adopt CSR language, but their attitudes towards the environment and society are essentially unchanged. Companies do “greenwashing”, while they do actually very little or continue causing harm. For instance, the “ecotourism” often creates even anti-ecological and absurd practices, such as totally worthless recycling systems in places where there is no kind of final recycling system for recycled materials. This paper analysis this kind of problems in Central America and tries to open CSR concepts for an interdisciplinary analysis.

Author: Pakkasvirta, Jussi (University of Helsinki, Pol & Econ Studies, Finland / Finnland)

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