Talking across Boundaries: Business and NGO Perspectives on CSR, Sustainable Development and Partnership

Helen Wadham, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, UK
The scale of global challenges including poverty and climate change suggests the need for alternative approaches to business and development. Business–NGO partnerships might facilitate the emergence of such approaches. However, the two sectors adhere to competing world-views, with business rooted in the paradigm of economic growth and NGOs in the paradigm of sustainability. This inhibits agreement on the nature of the challenges themselves as well as potential courses of action. Consequently, this article suggests that existing work on partnership as strategy should be complemented by research on strategy as process, through which actors negotiate and reconcile their competing world-views. Through an ethnographic study of Gambia is Good, the article draws on Habermas’s theory of communicative action to explore how partnership may generate alternative approaches, effectively blurring the boundaries between sectors. However, further research is required to understand whether this may in turn challenge our understanding of the relationship between business and society.
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