Managing the Commons- The Tragedy of the Commons

Beril Toktay
Beril Toktay
Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, Faculty Co-Executive Director
Professor of Operations Management, Scheller College of Business; Faculty Director, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business

How would you describe this BIG IDEA?

The ‘tragedy of the commons’ refers to individual actors (from individuals to small businesses to large corporations) over-consuming or over-polluting natural resources in the quest to maximize their own, often short-term, benefit. Solutions include privatization, regulation and the formation of institutions that are collectively designed, monitored, and enforced. Due to resource pressures on the one hand, and increasing consumer awareness on the other, industry has become much more involved in these institutions. Strategies include industry self-regulation, corporate social responsibility and shared value creation.

How does this BIG IDEA about sustainable communities play out in your work?​

Many corporations now scrutinize their suppliers' production processes including their pollution emissions, their sourcing strategies or human rights records. They are aided in this information gathering schemes like the Carbon Disclosure Project, labeling schemes like Fair Trade and organics, and sustainable sourcing schemes like Marine Stewardship Council Certification and Forest Stewardship Council certification. Many of these standards and certifications involve participation from affected communities in the design phase and establish best practices related to rights of indigenous peoples and affirmation of human rights.

Learn more:

The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility (Oxford Handbooks)

Capitalism at the Crossroads: Next Generation Business Strategies for a Post-Crisis World, Stuart Hart