Friday, September 20, 2019
Professional Ethics in Construction Industry | Proposal
Professional Ethics in Construction Industry | Proposal Background In the complex and hectic world of work, it is becoming harder to live and work by values and behaviors based on integrity and principles. Pressures are placed upon professionals of the construction industry, where they do not always act the way they should, and matters are seldom black and white. Even though professionals are trying to the right thing most of the time, grey areas do exist. With ongoing ethical misconducts blasted daily in the media, especially within construction industry, construction players must acknowledge that the need for professional ethics is increasingly obvious. Negligence, conflict of interest, fraud, unfair conduct, confidentiality, bribery, and violation of environmental ethics are among the commonly unethical conducts in the construction industry. The practice of profession poses challenging ethical questions for which a working knowledge of ethics and professionalism is critical to the construction players. Professionals have the fundamental right to perform with responsibility and accountability in their line of work. Professional ethics should be driven by personal ethics, where a balance of both the requirements of the client and the impact on the society should be maintained by the professionals when making decisions. It has been suggested, however, that professionals in general tend to believe that their obligations to their client far outweigh their responsibility to others, such as the public (Johnson, 1991, p. 28). Problem Statement Construction players may refer to standards such as the professional code of ethics; however, the cases are not intended to provide absolute answers nor are they resolution, standard operating procedure, or policy for ethical problems. The purpose of a code of ethics or set of ethical principles is to define a standard of conduct that reflects the values of the organization or profession. They are designed to guide about ones personal reaction to ethical dilemmas. But when it comes to ethical dilemmas, construction players may not have the skills or competencies. Individual implicit ethical knowledge and practice need to be amplified into the profession, turning implicit ethical knowledge into explicit that leads towards the development of ethical professional ethics. However, it seems doubtful that professionals can always rely on own personal ethics as they find themselves working with diverse cultures, values and expectations. Professionals are often left to make tough decisions in the face of extremely chaotic and complicated ethical dilemmas. Scholarly publications have offered little help in terms of offering solutions to ethical dilemmas whereas practitioner publication have been ineffective for helping professionals reinforce their moral character. There will always be cases when professionals struggle between what they assume the profession expects and what the moral character tells. Even though majority of organization have their own ethical codes of conduct, the curbing of unethical conduct is difficult. Despite having professional code of ethics in the organization, professionals of the construction industry had directly or indirectly experiences some degree of unethical conduct. Aim Dignify and elevate the professional ethics among professionals in construction industry. Objectives To determine the factors affecting participants behaviours in professional ethics To identify the impacts of unethical behaviours on the project cost, safety and quality of work To evaluate the awareness on the importance of professional ethics in construction industry. Research Question What are the significant barriers that limit professional and ethical behavior? Why ethical issues occur in the construction industry practice? What should be done differently to improve professional and ethical behavior? How do ethical principles apply to the current construction industry? Scope of Research The scope of the research will be focus on assessing the professional ethics in construction industry. Prime attention is taken on the consultant firms at Klang Valley area only due to time and cost factor. The targeted respondents for this research will concentrate on the consultant quantity surveyors as observed from the working title, within the areas selected for the study. Research Methodology A literature review was undertaken to study the current issues of professional ethics in the construction industry, types of ethical misconducts and impacts of unethical conducts to the consultant quantity surveyors. Questionnaire survey will be directed towards consultant quantity surveyors concerning their views and experiences on a range of ethical issues surrounding construction industry activities. The survey will be conducted through postal mail and personal interviews. Case study of ethical issues in the construction industry will be set up. Significance of Implications of Study The outcomes of adhering to the professional ethics among professionals are highlighted in this research. These outcomes will be cornerstone for encouraging the professionals to comply with the principles of ethics, so that their works meet the clients expectations and that their obligations will be carried out in professional manner in the future. It is important for professionals to practice the knowledge of ethics using applicable codes or standards. The more the professionals practice their responses to ethical dilemmas, the more likely it is to make the right decision when the pressure is on. What is more, implementing the ethical conducts gain professionals significant credibility and respect from the clients and these professionals will win further in the long run. This study also suggests that professionals better understand why professional ethics is critical to be successful in the field. Corporate Social Responsibility: Marketing Strategy Corporate Social Responsibility: Marketing Strategy 1. INTRODUCTION Companies and their managers find themselves in an uncertain environment. This happens of the ever changing conditions that occur on the global economic market. Due to the changes and improvements of the new information and communication technologies, the companies and their managers find it harder and harder to reach an convince their clients or consumers. It is mandatory that these managers use all the potential promoting techniques in order to attract the consumers. It is no longer just about the usage of standard advertising techniques, the marketing specialists must take into account several other methods of advertising like online social networks, viral marketing, corporate social responsibility etc. In our paper we are underlining the importance of the Corporate Social Responsibility from the marketing point of view and especially of using this tool as a brand notoriety increasing factor. We live a world of continuous change, were mankinds influence on the environment is large r and larger. But Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not just about the environment like many people think. The organizations of the entire world become more and more preoccupied by the necessity and the benefits of a responsible approach to society. 2. THE CONCEPT OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has first appeared in business for the first time in the second part of the 18th Century in the USA as a form of philanthropy, or donating to organizations / individuals in need (Sethi, 1977, in Bronn and Vrioni, 2001). From a historical point of view, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has become an important field of study, associated with management, in the 1950s. One important aspect to this development of CSR, was presented by Frank Adams in 1951, when he wrote in a Harvard Business Review about the importance of good citizens that should become professionals of the top management level (Banerjee, 2007, p. 5). Other authors state that CSR is concerned with treating the stakeholders of the firm ethically or in a socially responsible manner. Stakeholders exist both within a firm and outside. Consequently, behaving socially responsibly will increase the human development of stakeholders both within and outside the corporation. (Hopkins M. 1998) The performance of each organization, no matter its type (private, public, economical or NGO), is linked to the degree of development of their communities and in their social environment. Also the impact of such organizations on the environment has become an vital aspect which reflects the human interest for preserving the natural ecosystems and the pollution. This first aspect is joined by other elements of interests like: social equality and good governance. In 2001, the European Commission has defined CSR as: a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis (EU Commission, 2001) Over the years, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has become more present in the everyday life of corporations and even public administration institutions. There were numerous efforts to define this concept, but often no clear definition is given, making theoretical development and measurement difficult. Mallen Baker (2004) states that CSR is about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development considers corporate Social Responsibility as the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large (Baker, 2004). Also in 2001 (McWilliams and Siege, 2006), CSR is defined as: situations where the firm goes beyond compliance and engages in actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility usually refers to a couple of important elements like: (1) a collection of policies and practices linked to relationship with key stakeholders, values, compliance with legal requirements, and respect for people, communities and the environment; (2) the commitment of business to contribute to sustainable development, commonly understood as sustainable development is the ability of the current generation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs objectives. (ECRC, accessed in October 2012). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the way a corporation achieves a balance among its economic, social, and environmental responsibilities in its operations so as to address shareholder and other stakeholder expectations. It is known by many names, including corporate responsibility, corporate accountability, corporate ethics, corporate citizenship, sustainability, stewardship, and triple-E bottom line (economical, ethical, and environmental;) (. After a careful analysis of the above mentioned concepts we can underline several important aspects of the CSR concept: Companies and organizations in general must act responsibly with regard to their environment; The concept of corporate social responsibility must integrate social, environmental and education aspects in their day to day activities; The usage of corporate social responsibility in ones company must have a positive impact on the organization and on society; All the activities integrated in the CSR scope must have an ethical aspect which must not by crossed. Following the 2001, EU Commission definition, the European Commission has defined the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility as the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society (EU Commission, 2011). The same paper underline that enterprises should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical, human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders, with the aim of: (1) Maximizing the creation of shared value for their owners/shareholders and for their other stakeholders and society at large; (2) Identifying, preventing and mitigating their possible adverse impacts. 3. PRINCIPLES OF IMPLENETING A CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY STRATEGY FOR MARKETING PURPOSES In order to create a proper Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy, and to use this important tool in the marketing aspect of the organization, companies must adhere to several important principles that we consider to be of great importance of the companies (ISQ, 2012): Ethics and transparency accordance to the principles of ethics, honesty, mutual respect, trust between the parties, integrity and transparency in business, combat the traffic of influence, offering or receiving bribes and corruption in the public and private stakeholders and influence in this fight, as well how to promote fair trade practices. Fundamental Human Rights fully respect the protection of fundamental human rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and incorporating into their practices, the principles of fundamental United Nations and International Labor Organization Conventions. Recognize the right of all workers to form trade unions and representative bodies of workers and to comply with these organizations and respect the effective right to collective bargaining. Good governance Organizational commitment to the practices integrated into the social, environmental and economic leadership to the organization, seeking to reduce exposure to risks of economic, environmental and social activities, implementing requirements, standards and documents, to ensure its continuity. Dialogue with stakeholders Rely on dialogue as the only legitimate means of achieving persuasion, resolving disagreements and conflict resolution. Ensure an open, transparent and trust relation with the various stakeholders, establish channels of consultation with stakeholders and incorporate their concerns, and report a credible and objective performance in its economic, environmental and social. Value Creation Promote management of high quality products/services and processes by integrating environmental and social aspects in planning and decision making. Promote investment in research and development and incorporating innovation in your products/services and processes. Diversity and equality Respect and value differences as a fundamental condition for the existence of an ethical development of humanity and seek to encourage the promotion of cultural diversity, social and ethnic difference as a positive development of the organizations mission, not tolerating discrimination under any pretext. Environmental Protection and Management Promote projects, initiatives and good practices that contribute to the preservation of the environment. Investing in sustainable technologies and products and enhance the ecological dimension and eco-efficiency. Development of local communities Support initiatives to promote social, economic and cultural, based on transparent criteria for evaluation of relevance to the community. Promote the participation and involvement in volunteer work. Responsible Marketing Lead the marketing and communication policy of respect for truth, transparency, consistency and integrity of assertions, reflecting the organizations values. Encourage ethical and responsible behavior from the public to environmental, social and citizenship. 4. USING CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN MARKETING The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility as we can see it has a great impact on many of the organizations departments and functions. We can not discuss the concept of CSR without taking into consideration the environment, the ethical aspects of consumer communication, the implication in local community and many others. One of the most important aspects and activities that the Corporate Social Responsibility, is the promotion and advertising activities, that the companies undertake when developing CSR strategies and activities. Even when the company undertakes, environmental protection activities, charitable activities, the assurance of diversity and equality and the development of local communities the organizations use them as marketing and brand notoriety increasing agent. Corporate responsibility policies have been gaining increasing attention from senior executives as questions of sustainability and green agendas have come to permeate business the world over. The business and marketing environment have evolved greatly in the last 20 to 30 years. If we look back at the evolution of the economic world in the last century, we can clearly observe a clear development of this environment. Before we can start to understand the development of the corporate social responsibility as a marketing tool, we have to understand the evolution of the marketing concept in the last century. Philip Kotler has made a short presentation of the marketing concept evolution in his book Marketing 3.0 (2010): Evolution Marketing 1.0 product orientation Marketing 2.0 consumer orientation Marketing 3.0 value orientation Objective To sale goods To satisfy and keep clients To make the world a better place Potentiating factors Industrial revolution Information technology New technology wave The manner in which companies see the market Mass consumers with physical needs A smarter consumer A human being with heart and soul The marketing fundamental concept Product development Differentiation Values Marketing general directions for the company Product specification Company and product positioning The companies mission, vision and values Proposal value Functional Functional and emotional Functional, emotional and spiritual Interaction with the consumers Transaction between a company and several consumers An individualized relationship Cooperation between more companies and consumers Source: Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., Setiawan, I., Marketing 3.0 de la produs la consumator Ãâ¦Ã ¸i spiritul uman, Publica Publishing House, Bucharest, 2010, p. 20 As we can see for the above presented table, we find ourselves in the 3.0 marketing period which is considered to be the orientation of the entire marketing activity as an actor that create value for the consumer, the company and the society. So from what we can observe we can state that the two concepts have similar interests. Bur right now we find ourselves in the middle of an financial and economic crisis, this position has forced the companies to present themselves as trustworthy and responsible. The companies and their managers have pursued easy-win strategies or activities with direct commercial benefits, such as measuring and reducing their corporate carbon footprints. Such activities undoubtedly bring some value to businesses and society, but they fall far short of the mark (Bhattacharya, 2011). What we are slowly starting to see is a second wave of corporate responsibility behavior marked by a clearer focus on the total business value such policies can bring. To fully benefit from corporate responsibility, businesses must wake up to the fact that they need to take a more indirect route to creating value with it. They must start by seeing where and how key stakeholders react to a firms corporate responsibility initiatives. In order to have a successful marketing campaign using CSR strategies and activities there are several steps that have to be taken into consideration (Yohannan, 2012): Start Inside: Internal education and engagement is essential for the success of any CSR commitment and campaign. Defining CSR must work for the internal stakeholders based on the reality of business practices, their propensity for risk and desire for leadership. Brand or Bust: Branding provides a way to tie disparate assets together and provides a framework for key audiences such as employees to contribute and share the companys story. Industry Matters: Understanding the material issues of the company are critical. While many companies focus on environment, philanthropy and diversity and inclusion, they may be missing compliance issues or areas that may lead to brand differentiation or leadership. Efficiently Influence: Focusing on a handful of sustainability or key opinion leaders in the social space can elevate your companys profile dramatically. Gaining CSR notoriety can provide a halo for an improved reputation and drive core business objectives such as license to operate and sales. Measure Relentlessly: Know the end game. While CSR is a journey, it must deliver a spectrum of results every step of the way. Understand the urgency in the business and customize your marketing by audience and channel. Of course there are several advantages for using corporate social responsibility as a marketing tool. Among the most important ones we must consider the following ones (Corporate Social Responsibility, 2007): (1) Enhanced reputation and brand image Reputation is an important sustainable competitive advantage, because it is very hard to build and cannot be easily mimicked by competitors. A organisations reputation results from trust by its stakeholders. A strong reputation in ethical environmental and social responsibility can help a organisation build this trust; (2) Increased profit and customer loyalty Research has shown that there is a growing desire by consumers not only to buy good and safe products, but they also want to know that what they buy was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way such as sweatshop-free and child-labor-free clothing, smaller environmental impact; (3) Creating new business opportunities Experience gained through addressing CSR challe nges also provides opportunities for organizations to create new business opportunities. (4) Increased ability to attract and retain employees A organizations dedication to CSR can be an important aid to recruitment and retention compared with competitors. People want to work for a organization that is in accordance with their own values and beliefs; (5) Increased productivity and morale Committing CSR internally to improve working conditions, lessen environmental impacts can lead to increased productivity and staff morale where the workforce are more reliable, enthusiastic and efficient. (5) Innovation in market through cooperation with local communities CSR requires cooperation with the local communities and relationships can be improved. This can help organisations in tailoring products and services as well as more rapid acceptance to local markets. 5. CONCLUSIONS The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is in the same time a new and a old one. As we were able to see, CSR has developed in practice since the late 1800 as philanthropic activities. But today, this concept has evolved to take into account several other aspects like: (1) environmental protection; (2) implication in local communities; (3) involvement in social, educational activities and (4) internal and external business environment. In order for the managers and their companies to bee successful in their marketing campaigns they must use CSR as a marketing tool following and being aware of several important principles: Ethics and transparency; Fundamental Human Rights; Good governance; Dialogue with stakeholders; Value Creation; Environmental Protection and Management; Development of local communities; Responsible Marketing. Using all these principles and a responsible CSR activity towards society, the consumer and ethics in general, the companies will have successful market ing and profitable activities. Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles: Model of Chemical Cycling Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles: Model of Chemical Cycling The general model of nutrient cycling shows the main reservoirs relating to both the carbon and nitrogen cycles. Most nutrients accumulate in four reservoirs, each of which is defined by two attributes: whether it contains organic or inorganic matter and whether or not the matter is directly accessible for use by organisms. One section of organic materials is comprised of the living organisms themselves and detritus; these nutrients are available to other organisms when consumers feed and when detritivores (decomposers) consume non-living organic matter. The second organic section includes fossilised deposits of once-living organisms (i.e. fossil fuels, e.g. coal, oil, natural gas and peat), from which nutrients cannot be assimilated directly. Material moved from the living organic section to the fossilised organic compartment long ago, when organisms died and were buried by sedimentation over millions of years to become coal, oil, natural gas or peat. The Carbon Cycle. Biologically the transfer of carbon between living organisms and the non-living environment is The Carbon Cycle. In the atmosphere, carbon is covalently bonded to oxygen to form a gas; carbon dioxide (CO2). As a result of the process of photosynthesis (powered by light energy, usually from the Sun), CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere to make plant food from carbon. The process is called fixation; the integration of CO2 into the molecules of organisms. The majority of CO2 fixation is accomplished by photosynthesis, in which photosynthetic organisms form carbohydrates from CO2 and water (H2O), using light energy to drive the biochemical reactions involved. Photosynthetic organisms make use of carbohydrates to manufacture other organic molecules that make up their cells, e.g. cellulose, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Inorganic CO2 in the atmosphere is converted by photosynthetic organisms via the process of photosynthesis into simple carbohydrates. Carbon dioxide+water(+ light energy)glucose+oxygen 6CO2+6H2O(+ light energy)C6H12O6+6O2 Herbivores and omnivores obtain carbohydrates and other more complex substances by consuming photosynthetic organisms and metabolise (chemically break down) the carbohydrates and complex substances into useful constituents for their own bodies/cells/molecules. Carnivores obtain these useful substances by eating herbivores/omnivores. Carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere when organisms undergo the process of cellular respiration; small amounts of CO2 are released into the air by the decomposition of dead organisms by the action of certain bacteria and fungi (detritivores): the majority of this CO2 returns to the atmosphere to be available for re-use in further photosynthesis. Carbon-containing substances from photosynthetic organisms are required by animals and some microorganisms in order to produce energy and as a source of materials to drive many of their own biochemical reactions; this is essential to such organisms. Glucose+oxygenCarbon dioxide+water+ Energy (ATP + heat) C6H12O6+6O26CO2+6H2O+ Energy (ATP + heat) The reciprocal processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration are responsible for the major transformations and movements of carbon. On a global scale, the return of CO2 to the atmosphere by respiration is closely balanced by its removal by photosynthesis. However, the burning of wood and fossil fuels adds more CO2 to the atmosphere; as a result, the amount of atmospheric CO2 is steadily increasing. Humans have an impact on the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere with the use and burning of fossil fuels; these actions also release CO2 into the atmosphere. Not all carbon-based matter is immediately decomposed. Under certain conditions dead organic matter accumulates more rapidly than it is decomposed within an ecosystem. The remnants are locked away in subterranean deposits. Fossil fuels will be formed when deposits of sediment compress this matter; this process takes many millennia. Continuing geological processes may expose the carbon in these fuels to the environment after an extensive period of time, but mostly the carbon within the fossil fuels is liberated during human activities, e.g. use of fossil fuels for combustion. Carbon, in the form of CO2, is the major greenhouse gas released to the environment/atmosphere as a consequence of human activities. The continuing discharge of greenhouse gases (CO2 is just one greenhouse gas) is causing the temperature of the earth to rise, disrupting the climate and affecting sea-levels. Sometime around the middle of the 18th century the industrial revolution began. Since then the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by approximately 40% and will carry on increasing unless society reduces or eliminates the consumption of fossil fuels. The exploitation of fossil fuels for energy has resulted in the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Additionally over 30% of the CO2 rise over the last 150 years came from transformations in land use. These include deforestation and the cultivation of land for food production. The primary source of carbon/CO2 emissions from the Earth is as a result of tectonic or volcanic activity. Much of the CO2 released as a result of tectonic or volcanic activity is derived from the subduction of rocks including carbonate rocks. Much of the overall released CO2 was trapped when the Earth formed. Some discharged carbon remains as CO2 in the atmosphere; some is dissolved in the oceans; some is incorporated into organic molecules in living or dead/decomposing organisms, and some is trapped in carbonate rocks. Carbon is removed into long-term storage by burial of sedimentary strata (e.g. coal), that store organic carbon from un-decayed biomass and carbonate rocks e.g. limestone (calcium carbonate). The processes of tectonic movement and subduction release some of the CO2 through vents such as volcanoes (above and below ocean surfaces). The Nitrogen Cycle Although EarthÃ¢â¬â¢s atmosphere is almost 80% nitrogen, it is mostly in the form of nitrogen gas (N2), which is unavailable to plants and hence to consumers of plants. Green plants absorb nitrogen in the form of nitrates dissolved in the soil water. They use these nitrates to make proteins or nucleic acids; these proteins or nucleic acids are passed along the food chain as herbivores eat plants and are then themselves eaten by carnivores. In this way the nitrogen taken from the soil becomes incorporated into the bodies of all types of living organisms. The nitrates are returned to the soil in a number of ways. Urine contains urea, a breakdown product of proteins, and proteins are also passed out in the faeces, so the waste passed out of animals bodies contains many nitrogen-rich compounds. Similarly, when animals and plants die their bodies contain a large proportion of protein. Some of the detritivores that break down the waste products from animals and the bodies of animals and plants specifically digest the proteins. As detritivores break down the protein they excrete ammonium compounds. These ammonium compounds are then digested by nitrifying bacteria which excrete nitrates, which are returned to the soil to be absorbed by plants again. By the time the microbes and other animals that feed on decaying organic material (detritus feeders) have decomposed the waste products and the dead bodies of organisms in ecosystems, all the energy originally captured by the green plants in photosynthesis has been transferred to other organisms or back into the environment itself as heat or mineral compounds. A natural pathway for nitrogen to enter ecosystems is via nitrogen fixation. Only certain organisms (prokaryotes) can fix nitrogen, i.e. convert N2 to molecules that can be used to synthesise nitrogenous organic compounds e.g. amino acids. Prokaryotes are vital links at several points in the nitrogen cycle (see picture on next page). In terrestrial ecosystems nitrogen is fixed by free-living (non-symbiotic) soil bacteria as well as by symbiotic bacteria (Rhizobium) in the root nodules (also called nitrogen nodules) of legumes and certain other plants. Some cyanobacteria fix nitrogen in aquatic ecosystems. Organisms that fix nitrogen are fulfilling their own metabolic requirements, but the excess ammonia (NH3) they release becomes available to other organisms. A major contribution in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to the pool of nitrogenous minerals is the industrial fixation of nitrogen for fertiliser: this is in addition to the natural sources of usable nitrogen. The direct result of nitrogen fixation is ammonia (NH3). Since NH3 is a gas, it can evaporate back to the atmosphere. This local recycling of nitrogen by atmospheric deposition can be especially pronounced in agricultural areas where both nitrogen fertilisers and lime (a base that decreases soil acidity) are used extensively. Although plants can use ammonium (NH4+) directly, most of the ammonium in soil is utilised by particular aerobic bacteria as a source of energy; their activity oxidises ammonium to nitrite (NO2) and then to nitrate (NO3); the nitrification process. Nitrate released from these bacteria can then be assimilated by plants and converted to organic molecules e.g. amino acids and proteins. Animals can assimilate only organic nitrogen, and they do this by eating plants or other animals. Some bacteria utilise nitrates, under anaerobic conditions, to obtain the oxygen they need for metabolism from rather than from O2. As a consequence of the denitrification process, some nitrate is converted back to N2, returning to the atmosphere. The process called ammonification, mainly carried out by bacterial and fungal decomposers, is the decomposition of organic nitrogen back to ammonium: this process recycles large amounts of nitrogen to the soil. Overall, most of the nitrogen cycling in natural systems involves the nitrogenous compounds in soil and water, not atmospheric N2. Although nitrogen fixation is important in the build-up of a pool of available nitrogen, it contributes only a tiny fraction of the nitrogen assimilated annually by total vegetation. Nevertheless, many common species of plants depend on their association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to provide this essential nutrient in a form they can assimilate. The amount of N2 returned to the atmosphere by denitrification is also relatively small. The important point is that although nitrogen exchanges between soil and atmosphere are significant over the long term, in most ecosystems the majority of nitrogen is recycled locally by decomposition and re-assimilation.