The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Context of Today’s World Risk Society: An Analysis and Evaluation of Current Sustainability Management in the Sportswear Industry

Ramona Heim

Student thesis: Master thesis


Post-modern businesses are operating predominantly under economic premises, however, recent catastrophes have emphasized the importance of environmentally and socially sustainable business conduct. Claims to equally focus on all three aspects “people, planet, profit” have been promoted in scientific and public debates for the past 40 years. This Master’s thesis connects Ulrich Beck’s theory of the post-modern World Risk Society with the current literary claims for more sustainable business practices. Beck’s theory is extended to attribute major responsibilities and power to corporations for the mitigation of the negative effects that are threatening today’s world risk society. Accentuating especially the implementation of effective sustainability management, social accounting is identified as a practical tool that can assist companies to account for their exposure to imminent social, environmental and economic risks. A qualitative analysis of the corporate social reporting of the three leading companies in the sportswear industry is conducted to analyze their proficiency as best practice examples of sustainability reporting and management. Even though the case companies exemplarily report on their environmental and social compliance, it is found that more meaningful quantitative social performance indicators will have to be incorporated to complement the qualitative descriptions of their social sustainability performance. Having assured the case companies’ eligibility as best practice examples, the case analysis also investigates how social accounting is currently deployed in their internal controlling processes. Several examples are identified that illustrate how social accounting helps to capture and assess the global risks, and how it facilitates sustainability management. The analysis unfolds that collaboration with stakeholders will help companies to better manage the threats that result from unbalanced economic growth aspirations and the competitive pressures of globalization. Particularly the engagement with suppliers and involvement of factory workers in operational optimization projects is stressed as essential to strengthen companies’ social sustainability and to improve working conditions in developing countries. Finally, this Master’s thesis concludes that a systemic approach will be crucial to comprehensively entrench sustainability in business, governance and society.

EducationsMSc in Auditing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages96