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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | MSc Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability | 2016
Thesis number: 14368
The societal impact of governmental voluntary sustainable development programs: Case "the Commitment 2050"
Author: Grönfors, Johan Henry
Title: The societal impact of governmental voluntary sustainable development programs: Case "the Commitment 2050"
Year: 2016  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: MSc Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability
Index terms: kestävä kehitys; sustainable development; julkinen sektori; public sector; yhteiskuntavastuu; corporate responsibility; tehokkuus; effectiveness; arviointi; evaluation
Pages: 99
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Key terms: governmental voluntary programs, voluntary programs, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, impact evaluation
This thesis aims at understanding the content and potential societal impact of governmental voluntary sustainable development program through a case entity "The Finland we want by 2050 - Society's commitment to sustainable development", focusing on business participants. Existing literature has focused mostly on evaluating issue or industry specific voluntary environmental or social programs. However, all-encompassing governmental voluntary programs that are open for all societal actors and cover all sustainability aspects are a new phenomenon that set a new ground for research.

The research is an evaluative single case study that combines both qualitative and quantitative data and analysis methods. The primary data is collected from the program's database containing 170 individual commitments out of which 42 were company commitments. The research is complemented by official documents and interviews with three company representatives, two representatives of the FNCSD and one third party representative. Individual operative commitments were analysed using an evaluation matrix.

The findings in the study points out that the program is most likely to cause positive impact on society. However, due to insufficient information provided by the participants, the absolute impact couldn't be measured. Majority of the participants used internally measurable indicators that could not be used for evaluating societal impact. This lead to suggestion that voluntary programs should have better indicators in order to measure societal impact.

The study also showed that one third of the commitments did not have any impact through the program. This was caused by two types of commitments: those that existed before the participant joined the program and those that pledged to carry on business-as-usual activities as their commitment. In addition, the participants interpreted some of the program criteria and objectives differently. This caused variation in quality and difficulties for evaluating the impact of the program. The suggestion is that criteria for participants should be clearer in order to avoid openness for interpretation.

The commitment 2050 proved capabilities in attracting SMEs to take public CSR actions instead of only including large companies that are traditionally more visible in CSR. Nevertheless, the commitment program attracted mostly companies that were already active in the field of CSR or sustainable development.
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