Competing on sustainability - A study on stakeholder interaction, becoming truly sustainable and obtaining a sustained competitive advantage in an industry characterized by low sustainability maturity

University essay from Lunds universitet/Produktionsekonomi

Abstract: Although more and more companies are facing increasing pressure to take responsibility for their actions impacting sustainability, the pharmaceutical industry and in extension the cold chain solutions industry, have previously been exempted from scrutiny. Research on sustainability in the industry is lagging, why this master thesis aims to explore how sustainability can be incorporated into the business model while avoiding creating a disconnect between corporate strategy and actual sustainability impact. Conventional management theories and sustainability research have been combined with findings from interviews and document studies of a focal company in the industry, “The Company”. This master thesis concludes that there is a shift towards increasing sustainability focus in the industry and that The Company could benefit from a position as being the most environmentally friendly solution. By analyzing stakeholders’ influence, attention, as well as tradeoffs in relation to sustainability, and channeling this analysis into an organization’s business model, sustainability can provide a competitive advantage. Internal factors that could strengthen The Company’s position as sustainable are identified as organizational support and the development of unique sustainability actions. External factors such as regulations and government intervention to encourage meaningful collaboration and spur implementation of sustainability, will also play a pivotal role in the sustainability transformation of the industry. Further, the thesis highlights that becoming truly sustainable requires a holistic perspective on social, economic, and environmental sustainability, as well as expanding the focus from mitigating negative impact, to strive for positive impact.

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