University of Tasmania
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The incorporation of corporate social performance in Brazilian ports management

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posted on 2023-05-28, 11:57 authored by Eduardo BatalhaEduardo Batalha
Corporate Social Performance (CSP) is defined as a business organisation's configuration of social responsibility principles, its social responsiveness processes, and the social outcomes related to that organisation's actions in the social dimension. When evaluating an organisation's CSP, one must examine the three elements together measuring the degree to which principles of social responsibility motivate actions taken by the organisation, the degree the organisations use socially responsive processes and the social outcomes produced to manage the relationship with society. Although sustainability has become an essential consideration in modern business management, there remains an imbalance in the way it is evaluated, with much more attention given over to economic and environmental sustainability, and a lack of clear focus on corporate performance and sustainability in the social dimension. At the same time, it is widely recognised that business organisations do have social impacts, and this is particularly true for large sectors of the economy such as ports. The extensive infrastructure and operations of ports have significant impacts upon the communities and peoples around them, yet there remains a dearth of research into how CSP in ports is measured and managed. The overall objective of this study is to explore the conceptualisation and incorporation of CSP within the Brazilian port sector through the perspectives of managers working in the industry. With a more detailed approach, the study explores meanings attributed to CSP by port managers, the identification of social roles played by ports and rationales for adopting them, the management of social impacts for stakeholders, and the evaluation processes and potential indicators for accurately measuring the CSP of port organisations. The study uses a sequential mixed-methods strategy to collect and analyse data from interviews and surveys with top-level managers working in Brazilian ports. In Phase 1 of the study, qualitative data from twenty-eight (28) telephone interviews was analysed using the conventional content analysis technique. The objective of Phase 1 was to identify themes which could then be used to develop a web-survey questionnaire which was deployed in Phase 2 of the study. In Phase 2, quantitative data from seventy-six (76) responses to the web-survey was analysed using descriptive statistics to find out if themes derived from Phase 1 interviews were representative of a larger sample of port managers in Brazil. An Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) was also employed to identify underlying factors linked to the measurement of CSP. Results suggest that the port managers who participated in this study do understand that their organisations are theoretically accountable for actions in the social dimension. However, results also suggest that understandings of CSP could be enhanced and better incorporated into management processes to improve the overall performance and sustainability of port operations. Although exploratory, results from this study suggest that port organisations in Brazil are perhaps prone to consider their CSP only when an issue in the social dimension threatens their operational continuity. It is suggested that sustainability and productivity may benefit from a more proactive approach to CSP, involving an organisation's leadership team as well as the range of different stakeholders and community groups who may be affected. Moreover, results suggest that stakeholders need to be included at all the major phases of CSP implementation if it is to be truly effective, from the assessment of social context to outcomes production and performance evaluation. Based on the findings of the study, it is suggested that the promotion of a formal systematic evaluation of CSP should be adopted to present the performance of ports in a broader sustainability context. Formal evaluation adoption is suggested in order to build upon the understandings of port managers who already consider a range of CSP indicators within their management strategies ‚Äö- even if they do not always know it. The port managers who participated in this study demonstrated that they already adopt CSP evaluation in terms of managing the natural environment, suppliers, communities, human rights, regulatory compliance, and corporate social behaviour. Notwithstanding the considerable number of indicators perceived as incorporated, participants still expressed a need for better understanding of their organisation's role in the social context, and a need to improve their own knowledge about CSP management. At the conceptual level, this study contributes to the literature on CSP management in the context of ports and adds knowledge about how the sector understands its social roles and responsibilities from a managerial perspective. Results also add to literature concerning the management of stakeholders and social impacts, focusing on the processes perceived as adequate for their identification and prioritisation in the resource-limited context of Brazilian port organisations. There is also theoretical value added by the study, which proposes different social performance indicators that can use qualitative and quantitative data to evaluate CSP in ports. In addition, the theoretical findings of this study may be used to identify areas of improvement necessary for the achievement of sustainability objectives. The knowledge constructed through this study is also valuable for future research investigating the incorporation of CSP in ports, in other social contexts, and in other sectors of the modern economy. The research outcomes from this study may provide managers with an insight into what they and their peers understand CSP to be, and an opportunity to compare their collective view with the theory presented in the literature. Results may also help managers expand their conceptualisations of CSP management, offering a more comprehensive view oriented towards stakeholders' expectations in their relationships with corporations. Examining both benefits and problems associated with CSP adoption, this study offers managers and scholars an opportunity to think more strategically about what their organisations should aim to achieve in the realm of organisational sustainability. Furthermore, this study suggests a systematic evaluation CSP with key indicators that may be helpful for port organisations to improve current management practices in the social dimension.


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