Accelerating the Transition to Sustainability : Identifying Drivers and Barriers

University essay from KTH/Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.)

Abstract: As corporations have attained an increasing focus in the sustainability debate, so have the expectations of their sustainability performance. Rather than having a sole focus on an ad hoc mix of philanthropic actions, researchers now begin to call for businesses to recognize their role in broader societal sustainability challenges. This paper aims to explore the perceived drivers and barriers of corporate sustainability (CS) when a company seeks to take a societal perspective on its contributions to sustainable development. A case study has been conducted on a management consultancy firm to address this, with empirical data stemming from semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire. A systematic literature review was furthermore carried out to study the drivers and barriers identified in prior research, thus obtaining a methodological triangulation. The data was moreover analyzed with theoretical underpinnings from the field of transition management (TM). In doing so, it was possible to begin closing the gap between previous research on the drivers and barriers of CS and those that emerge when moving beyond traditional CS efforts. More specifically, a business transition management (BTM) framework was discussed in relation to the results from the case company, trying to assess whether the elements included align with the identified drivers; and to discuss whether the strategies within could combat the perceived barriers. When analyzing the empirical data and comparing it with the findings from the literature review, many similarities could be found. Client expectations, leadership, organizational culture, and communication were all essential aspects within the case company, and so were they in the literature review, thus, validating much of the findings in previous literature. A key difference, however, appears to be the complexities associated with these when taking a wider, societal perspective on sustainability. Relating this perspective to the activities carried out by employees is perceived to be difficult, and the business case is not fully recognized. It was suggested that aspects from the BTM framework could be utilized to combat the barriers associated with increasing complexities, such as the empowerment of visionary employees with a deeper insight into the complexities in question. The findings of this research endeavor have been complied in a proposed model to widening the perspective of CS efforts. Albeit not definite in its construct, it nonetheless begins to reflect on the interlinkages between TM and previous research on CS drivers and barriers. Additional drivers and barriers can be identified, and the differences between traditional CS initiatives and those that embrace a societal perspective should be further clarified. Still, this model provides a good starting point for further research on this phenomenon.

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