Overcoming organizational impediments to strong sustainability management
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by David RobinsonDavid Robinson, Mark BoulleMark Boulle
With frequent corporate collapses and global market failures, the financial and economic systems of the Western world are coming under ever increasing scrutiny. These events, and a deeper introspection, call into question the roles played by firms in embracing sustainability practices. A firm's resources are combined to apply its unique capabilities to the challenges of the external environment, industry forces and its competitors. In so doing firms must meet the twin strategic objectives of maximizing shareholder returns to create a sustainable future (for the firm) AND maintaining a responsible approach to sustainable development in areas impacted by the firm. Whereas resources may be classified as tangible or intangible, it is the intangible resources, including the firm's reputation, organizational effectiveness, and innovation propensity that comprise the foundation for sustainable competitive advantage. The development of business-level culture has been portrayed as a six-step journey (Robinson, 2007). Systemic constraints may inhibit the development of organizational culture just as personality disorders may afflict individuals. It is asserted that the so-called big five individual personality traits (McCrae and Costa, 2003) can be related to three categories of organizational pathology (Robinson, 2010), which in turn impede effective sustainability management practices. Additionally, it is proposed that sustainability practices in firms may take one of three forms, namely nonsustainability, weak sustainability, and strong sustainability. Whilst it is clear that all firms ultimately need to embrace a culture that supports and encourages strong sustainability, to date very few have managed to do so, being either unwilling or unable to go beyond the non-sustainable or weak sustainability levels.This paper relates the importance of organizational wellness as a prerequisite for strong sustainability. In so doing it forms a bridge across the fields of organizational psychology and business sustainability by relating the problems encountered in firms as they face the challenges of consistently having to align day-to-day managerial practices in such a way as to form business cultures that are congruent with strong sustainability. Inconsistency or mal-alignment of practices, over-emphasis on the negative aspects of management style, and/or an unwillingness to adapt are impediments to the adoption of an effective sustainability strategy.