Design thinking for corporate sustainability: A case study on the contribution of design thinking in corporate social responsibility

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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During the last decade, Design Thinking (DT) has emerged as a management concept inspired by design to achieve innovation. As it is considered a methodology (or mindset) for problem-solving processes, the scope of the application field has been broadened. In this respect, this study started from a question of the effectiveness of using DT in designing and executing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is becoming a crucial strategy, as it is directly connected companies’ sustained growth. Thus, there has been an increasing demand for practical methods to use CSR for the sustainable development of corporations. In this regard, this thesis aims to identify what benefits can be expected when the CSR principle, and its execution, are initiated by DT. First, the effectiveness of using DT in the implementation of CSR in a corporation was addressed, based on a theoretical understanding of CSR and DT, achieved in the literature review. Following this, a multiple case study of five Finnish companies was conducted to look at the real management processes and actions pertaining to CSR. As a result, it was discovered that DT was not actively utilized by the companies for their CSR. In addition, a discussion was difficult because the companies have had few or no perceptions of DT. The findings from the multiple-case study showed the potential to utilize DT as a strategic method for CSR. In order to see the evidence of DT’s contributions to CSR performance, a single case study of a leading Finnish company that effectively utilizes DT was carried out. The generated advantages and evidences of using DT in this case were represented by a proposed framework, inspired by a Triple Bottom Line by Design (TBLD) model. In this case, it was observed that DT could play a role in offering holistic and systematic direction for CSR execution in order to achieve sustainable business development. This thesis investigated DT’s potential to become an effective method in designing CSR programs by studying one case that shows the practical use of DT for CSR. Based on these findings from the multiple-case study and single case study, the thesis suggested what could be expected if DT is utilized in CSR execution, in respect of a business’s management.
Person, Oscar
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design thinking, corporate social responsibility, corporate sustainability, triple bottom line, strategic design
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