1.0 Details of my indented area of research
1.1 Research background
Over the last few decades, social engagement and sustainability of businesses in developing countries have gained considerable research interest among business and environment researchers because of the increasing shift towards stakeholders and community expectation concerns (Jenkins and Yakovleva 2016). Social engagement and sustainability deal with the organization’s voluntary activities such as a public image with regard to environmental, community, employee, and consumer issues (Gray et al. 2014). Organizations arguably need to manage their stakeholders and social and environmental responsibility practice along with other activities within the enterprise (Waddock 2016). Blacconiere and Patten (2014) reported that environmental disclosures are a positive sign of the firm for managing its exposure to future regulatory costs. Several studies in recent years have attempted to explore the managerial views of social engagement and sustainability utilizing both quantitative and qualitative research approaches (Qian et al., 2015). However, the majority of previous studies on social engagement and sustainability focus on developed countries (Mathews, 2013). There is still a scarcity of social engagement and sustainability research in developing countries including Bangladesh (Belal and Owen 2017).
The socio-economic realities of emerging and developing countries such as Bangladesh are different from developed countries because of climate change, poverty, human rights violations, child labor, corruption and other social exploitations (Freeman, 2014). Previous studies of social engagement and sustainability in Bangladesh are predominantly descriptive in nature; mainly concentrated on measuring the volume of disclosures using secondary data such as those from annual reports (Imam, 2014). Social and environmental research using annual reports through content analyses might not capture all salience social and environmental issues, although internet reporting is becoming a very common practice (Unerman et al. 2015). However, the context of a developed and developing country is not the same, given the social-economic difference (Xiao et al. 2015) and technological development (Williams and Pei, 2013). Therefore, it has been an issue of more direct engagement-based study in the field of social and environmental accounting in the case of developing countries like Bangladesh (Parker, 2015).
1.2 Research problems and rationales
The current social and environmental problems such as poverty, environmental degradation, child labor, and poor working conditions in the workplace create international attention to the developing countries including Bangladesh. Although there has been continuous improvement in poverty alleviation in Bangladesh, the majority of the population (56 million people) is still living under the poverty line like many other developing countries (World Bank, 2015). Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries due to the impacts of global climate change. This is compounded by unorganized corporate manufacturing plants situated on the river banks. According to recent reports by the Economist Intelligence Unit (2012), Dhaka, the capital city is ranked as one of the most unlivable cities in the world. The Bangladesh Ministry of Environment requires every factory (those having chemical wastage) to have Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP); but in reality, factories are disposing of their untreated wastage directly into the rivers. The discharged pollutants are mainly mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic and iron. Inhabitants living along these rivers are sufferings from various types of diseases. Thousands of tanneries and textile mills are located on the banks of the Burigongga River (the main river surrounding the capital city, Dhaka), which produces a larger amount of wastage. Similarly, hospitals and chemical industries also dispose of their waste directly into the river. Industrial pollution is considered one of the key environmental problems (Belal, 2017), with concerns expressed that if nothing is done to check it Bangladesh runs the risk of facing an “ecological catastrophe” (Imam 2014). Hence, Bangladesh is beginning to establish sustainable development strategic policies and plans.
Another key issue is child labor in the clothing and textile industry in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the second-largest ready-made garment producer in the world. Child labor, equal opportunity, and workplace health and safety in Bangladesh have drawn international and local attention among stakeholders such as International Labour Organization (ILO), Bangladesh government, local and international NGOs, human rights groups. The main beneficiary of child labor is the corporate sectors that are earning massive export revenues but paying them low wages (Belal and Owen report, 2017). However, it is not possible to remove child labor completely from the workforce without ensuring proper alternative arrangements for them because of the socioeconomic factors present in Bangladesh. In addition, labor and environmental problems that corruption and violation of consumers’ rights are of grave concern in Bangladesh. The implementation of laws is very ineffective and corruption is a normal matter in Bangladesh (Belal and Owen report, 2017).
However, there are huge research gaps in these areas (social engagement and sustainability of businesses) of Bangladesh and how to overcome challenges faced in years. This study attempts to address this by undertaking a constructivist approach. The primary motivation for considering Bangladesh is due to a relative lack of engagement-based research via primary data that investigates social and environmental reporting. In addition, Bangladesh has been the subject of extreme international scrutiny, particularly in terms of perceived cheap labor, hazardous and poor working conditions, human rights violations and vulnerable ecological conditions due to global climate change (Islam 2016). It is expected that the findings will provide useful information for social and environmental researchers, corporate bodies and regulators in developing strategic policies that will improve accountability………………………..