Mitigating the environmental and social footprint of brownfields: The case for a peripheral CSR approach

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Abstract

Industrial plant closures create a largely unexplored challenge for corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Such plant closures lead to brownfield sites: economic assets and large pieces of land that often cannot be redeployed for alternative purposes, except by incurring significant costs. The direct effects of plant closures typically include a rise in unemployment and value chain disturbance (or dismantling), but brownfields are usually also associated with additional social effects and environmental pollution. Here, a proactive CSR strategy means reducing or mitigating the joint, negative social and environmental footprint of industrial plant closures beyond what is mandated by law (which has tended primarily to address direct effects). We assess the various strategies firms can pursue to mitigate negative, post-closure footprints and we distinguish between two alternative strategic options beyond the ‘legal obligations’ approach, namely the ‘core business related’ (core) CSR approach, and the ‘peripheral CSR’ approach. We explore the case of a plant closure by Bekaert S.A., a large, Belgian industrial firm, which adopted a peripheral CSR approach to manage and redevelop a brownfield site. In this context, we identify four enabling conditions for peripheral CSR to be implemented effectively.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalEuropean Management Journal
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Plant closure
  • internalizing externalities
  • corporate social responsibility
  • brownfield
  • mitigating environmental footprints
  • core CSR
  • peripheral CSR

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