The Great Vessel Rarely Completes: Translating Corporate Sustainability
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
It contains sensitive information; and I intend to publish papers out of it.
This thesis contributes to our understanding of Corporate Sustainability (CS) in Multinational Corporations (MNCs) by offering a non-western perspective. A review of the extant literature reveals CS-related studies are mainly based on theories and implications in and for western contexts. It leads us to question the definitions of CS that have been taken for granted in current management and organisation studies. This thesis argues CS should be considered as a non-fixed, contextual and culturally-sensitive notion. When the ideas of CS travel from western scholarship to Chinese organisation practices, the meanings are forever constructed, altered, and mobilised. This is beyond linguistic translation, and functions as a continuous stream of temporary hermeneutic processes of translating. This research explores how CS has been translated in a Japanese MNC in China (the organisation is called ‘OMG’ in the research). The ethnographic enquiry provides a visual and narrative representation of corporate culture as promoted in OMG; ‘Communal Vessel’ evolves as a translational construct symbolising the culturally-derived meanings of CS. The intrinsically oxymoronic meanings of ‘Communal Vessel’ can be drawn from classical Chinese philosophies, which could have implications for understanding contemporary organising practices in China, and globally. In summary, this thesis problematises the construction of CS, and contributes an indigenous, non-western way of understanding CS via an ethnographic representation focusing on processes of translating. The implications are summarised through an analysis of the classical phrase ‘The Great Vessel Rarely Completes’.
PhD in Leadership Studies