“Most people give a firm handshake or sign on a dotted line in an attempt to prove they’ll keep their word in an agreement,” says Summer Scholar and SJU junior Cameron Kenworthy. “But how are businesses really held accountable?” Cameron is spending the summer trying to answer this question.
Her research focuses on the impact of a plant operated by Nestle Waters, producer of the brand Arrowhead, that is located on a reservation in Southern California. Despite operating under a mission of environmental and social responsibility, the plant has been under scrutiny for the amount of water they have used amid severe droughts in the region over the last four years.
“Indigenous people who reside on the reservation, as well as those across the world are being affected by this,” says Cameron, a psychology major with a minor in Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Sustainability (LEO) from Hagerston, Maryland.
“I am investigating the inconsistencies between the company’s promise and its action,” says Cameron, “as well as the trying to identify ‘greenwashing’ practices.” Greenwashing occurs when a company spends time and money in an attempt to present an environmentally responsible image to consumers, often deceivingly.
Cameron’s mentor for the project, João Neiva de Figueiredo, Ph.D., associate professor of international business and LEO, was one of the first to encourage her to explore her interest in issues of corporate social responsibility.
“Dr. Neiva’s passion for the topics he teaches sparked my interest in the business world,” says Cameron. “He strives for each of his students to acquire passion for learning and a higher understanding of what interests them. He’s the best mentor I could ask for.”
“Cameron is a very dedicated student and summer scholar,” says Dr. Neiva. “She is a hard worker and is genuinely interested in researching differences between companies’ corporate social (and environmental) responsibility stated intentions and observed actions.”
“As consumers become increasingly focused on sustainability, it is in companies’ interest to project a socially and environmentally responsible image. The important question is what corporations do when there are conflicting incentives among the people, planet, and profit dimensions,” he says.
“I chose this topic because I think all too often people tend to accept big business for what it is, without questioning how the business interacts with the communities it may be affecting,” says Cameron. She hopes that the people who read her work will become just as passionate about these issues.
“[Through the Summer Scholars Program] I have learned more about the research process,” she says. “Like most summer scholars, I’ve never done anything like this before, and I have been eager to learn.”
— Colleen Sabatino ’11 (M.A.)
Office of University Communications
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Summer Scholars Project Title: “An Investigation of Corporate Social Responsibility in Relation to Rights and Resources of Native Americans”
Mentor: João Neiva de Figueiredo, Ph.D., associate professor of international business and LEO