The main objective of my MobilityDK was the initiation of new Thematic Network: Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable Arctic natural resource development , and the sub-objective: Exploration of joint research opportunities and opportunities for inter-institutional teaching on CSR as governance modality towards sustainable natural resource management, exploitation and capacity building in the Arctic.
The mobility exchange took place 20-30 May (including travel) coinciding with the ICASS VIII conference which was held at the University of Northern British Columbia (Prince George), Canada, where I was hosted for purposes of the MobilityDK activities by Professor Paul Bowles. Being present at the ICASS VIII conference, which had the topic ‘Northern Sustainabilities’ and offered several sessions on issues related to CSR, sustainable Arctic development and Arctic governance, allowed me to network with colleagues and establish contact with colleagues from institutions that are UArctic members and who would be interested in joining the proposed network. In addition, I was able to further network and explore interests in the Thematic Network and teaching collaboration by attending a Northern Regions Mining Summit, which took place in Vancouver on 28-30 May.
I had been made aware of MobilityDK through a post in the internal newsletter of Roskilde University in December 2013.
I have been a scholar of CSR for many years, and in recent years have noticed that issues that used to be associated with CSR in the Global South, especially related to the extractives industries and its impact on local communities, the natural environment and public governance issues, appear to be increasingly also emerging in relation to the Arctic. With a background in law and a particular interest in the sociology of law and law’s interaction with other fields of social science I have been fascinated by the way in which CSR and law interact in numerous ways, not least in relation to governance issues and the potential of CSR to respond to public policy needs and objectives, such as capacity building, participatory development, and of course labour rights and human rights in a broad sense (including social and economic rights, such as work related rights and needs, health services, education, culture etc.). Thus, the CSR concept potentially has much to contribute to the development of sustainable resource extraction and management as well as meeting public policy objectives of sustainable human and environmental development in the Arctic.
I felt that a Thematic Network on CSR and related issues under UArctic might offer a way to share experience across the Arctic of diverse and emerging approaches and issues in the field through research as well as potentially teaching. Some Arctic states have extensive experience in CSR, for example in the mining industry. Others are more recent actors in the field. Across the region, experiences are diverse, as is the political and economic background for CSR expectations raised by populations and other stakeholders, such as governments as well as business partners and investors from within as well as outside the Arctic.
The exchange and outcomes: With this in mind I went to the Canada to explore opportunities for a UArctic CSR Network. During networking, particularly after academic sessions at both the ICASS VIII conference and the Northern Regions Mining Summit in which I had an opportunity to share some of my thoughts on CSR in the Arctic as an opportunity to connect public policy objectives with sustainability needs encountered by the population and the natural environment through the activities of the private sector, it was confirmed that there is an interest in such a network and potential participants among both UArctic members and non-members. As a result, I am currently working on forming a core group to proceed with the idea, with participation from UArctic institutions in Canada (University of British Columbia and possibly University of Western Ontario), Russia (one or two member institutions in Siberia), Denmark (Roskilde University and possibly Copenhagen Business School) and Greenland (Ilisimatusarfik). The core group will collaborate with colleagues at the University of Lapland and the International Institute for Environment and Development, who are involved in a complementary network on Arctic Extractives. The Network might comprise research collaboration, collaboration on research funding applications, a joint PhD school, and/or a summer school on Arctic CSR and sustainability, which participants’ institutions could take turns hosting. The
Following the exchange, in communication with potentially interested colleagues/ potential members of the proposed Network is has become clear that it may be preferable to broaden the title and scope of the Network beyond CSR to explicitly include sustainable development and public-private collaboration. The reason for this is the fact that CSR is a broad concept with many sub-concepts associated, and in some UArctic states is mainly seen as an issue related to the Global South. By contrast, in Denmark and Greenland as well as Norway and possibly with some Russian extractives organizations, the concept has already become associated with issues of the Arctic, even if elaboration of the implications are recognized. This too confirms the need for academic work and for teaching on the issue.
In addition to confirmation of the interest to proceed with the potential new Thematic Network, which was the highlight of the exchange, the exchange provided new professional insight and awareness, which has furthered my insight into the relevance as well as complexities of working with CSR as public-private governance modality in the Arctic. It has sharpened my appreciation of the complexities that follow from working in an academic context with a concept such as CSR that has no universally agreed meaning and is subject to social, economic and political pre-conceptions that differ between regions. Overall, my interest in pursuing academic work on CSR in the Arctic as well as exploring teaching opportunities in collaboration with other institutions has been confirmed.