chapter  5
25 Pages

Decision Making as Sustainable Leadership

The Garbage Can Revisited
WithDianne Bolton, Terry Landells

This chapter explores decision making in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA)—environments against which corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and sustainability agendas take shape. It highlights under-acknowledged aspects of responsible leadership concerning decision-making practices that engage stakeholders by focusing on institutional, organizational, and individual practice. The garbage can model (GCM) of decision making proposed by Cohen, March, and Olsen is revised and used as a lens to recognize temporal, or time-bound and emergent knowledge influenced by histories, processes, preferences, and agendas of decision makers, as well as power dynamics in the decision-making process. The GCM of decision making is a starting point in recognizing key dimensions of complexity, dynamism, and uncertainty that impact decision-making processes. Literature around CSR and sustainable business practice highlights how emergent understanding of business's broader responsibilities to society requires decision making based on ambiguous and shifting information, often challenging core business values and norms of diverse stakeholders.