Kylie McKenna was awarded her PhD in October 2012 for a sweeping work entitled “Interdependent Engagement: Corporate Social Responsibility in Bougainville and Papua”.
Her PhD was the result of a journey through nine countries, witnessing and documenting the lessons of eighty diverse stakeholders, ranging from multinational resource company executives to local landowners, about how businesses can amend their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices to facilitate peaceful development. The thesis makes deft use of case studies of Bougainville and Papua to analyse the effectiveness of CSR responses amongst major resource companies to respond to threats to peace that arise from the issues of most concern to locals. The analysis reveals that despite a commitment to CSR (or one of its synonyms), Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), Freeport and BP (British Petroleum) failed to resolve local grievances related to their business practices in Bougainville and Papua. Often, they made things worse. In response, the great contribution of the thesis is to develop a framework of ‘Interdependent Engagement’.
Interdependent Engagement addresses the limitations of CSR to resolve conflict flashpoints associated with extraction of natural resources. Based on principles of mutuality, reflexivity, engagement and flexibility, Interdependent Engagement is a model of CSR transformed. It is a sophisticated alternative CSR less likely to aggravate conflict, more likely to facilitate peaceful development of natural resources. The model will be of practical use in assisting corporations to be more responsive to the consequences of their business practices and relationships on the societies and environments in which they operate.
Since submitting her PhD, Kylie has been teaching the Sociology of Third World Development at the ANU and working with Prof. Neil Gunningham on the “Energy Governance and Climate Change: Towards a Low Carbon Economy” project at RegNet. She has been much loved in RegNet and we look forward to her future achievements.