Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09272018-174158

Type of thesis
E-mail address
Corporate sustainability: an analysis of organisational antecedents and pro-sustainability behaviour
Scientific disciplinary sector
relatore Prof. FREY, MARCO
  • corporate sustainability
  • employee engagement
  • pro-sustainability behaviour
  • responsible leadership
  • sustainable innovation
Exam session start date
As corporate sustainability (CS) continues to grow in importance within organisations, research on this topic continues to evolve in parallel, spanning diverse academic domains. Multi-level research focusing on leaders and employees remains comparatively rare, but it represents a significant research frontier that holds relevant theoretical and practical value for both individuals and organizations. Extant research has found positive relationship between engagement of organizational members in CS and the successful integration of the triple bottom line in business practice. In seeking to understand the mechanisms and factors affecting internal stakeholders&#39; perceptions of CS, scholars in this field started to gain significant knowledge about the role of CS in fulfilling individuals&#39; needs and in driving organisations to create sustainable value. Yet, still limited research has addressed the interaction between individual and contextual factors in understanding when or why engagement of internal stakeholders in CS is more effective. This research sought to address these gaps and contribute to CS research by conducting empirical research on how organizational practices and mechanisms can influence internal stakeholders at different organisational levels to adopt pro-sustainability behaviours that contribute to integrate CS effectively. <br><br>Chapter 1 presents a study that developed and empirically tested a model for examining the impact of different sustainable human resources (SHR) practices in encouraging employees to engage in pro-sustainability behaviour. We conceptualised employee pro-sustainability behaviour (ESB) as in-role and extra role behaviour that actively integrate environmental and social concerns in work activities. We then suggested that employee engagement in corporate sustainability (CS) was influenced by the individual sense of attachment and commitment to organizational change for sustainability, as perceived in the workplace. We argued that SHR practices played a key role in shaping those perceptions and triggering engagement in pro-sustainability behaviour. We analysed the effect of these practices on ESB and we found that when an organization signals its commitment to CS and when its leaders value and promote such commitment, employees are more willing to engage in both in-role and extra-role pro-sustainability behaviour. <br><br>Chapter 2 maps and investigates the interactions among contextual factors in leading organizations to adopt sustainable innovation (SI) to achieve corporate sustainability (CS). We found that stakeholder networks and sustainable intrapreneurship play a key role in catalysing virtuous empowerment cycles between external and internal contextual factors. These cycles support the gradual transformation of organizational structures and processes in ways that acknowledge and embrace the tensions related to the three pillars of sustainability, thus leading to the adoption of SI. Additionally, our result suggested that the adoption of SI is a dynamic process consisting of reactive, embedding and system changing approaches. The three approaches are defined according to the intensity of external, internal and interactive drivers and the evolution from one approach to the other is spurred by the virtuous empowerment cycles catalysed by stakeholder networks and sustainable intrapreneurship. Finally, we discuss sustainable intrapreneurship as an important type of pro-sustainability behavior for the development of an integrated logic of CS.<br><br>Chapter 3 examines how top executives engage in responsible leadership (RL) behaviour by looking at the socio-psychological mechanisms and the organisational practices that drive internalization of this type of pro-sustainability behaviour. We conceptualised RL behaviour as characterised by two distinct yet related types of behaviour: &#34;doing good&#34; and &#34;avoiding harm&#34; behaviours. We argued that RL behaviour is critical for achieving an integrated logic of corporate sustainability (CS) as it explicitly acknowledges and constantly addresses the tensions among environmental, social and economic issues in business decision-making with the primary objective of creating sustainable value and positive change. We then found that internalisation of RL behaviour is an evolutionary learning process triggered by value congruence and organisational identification. Finally, we found that four clusters of organisations practices support the internalisation of RL behaviour. Careful recruiting, constant training and engagement practices appeared to be key HR practices that in the first place ensure initial fit with organisational values and then provide learning opportunities for understanding and emotionally embracing those values. Inspiring communication practices emerged to guide and inspire top executives in exercising RL behaviour while promoting knowledge sharing within and across organisational boundaries that strengthen RL as a learning process. Knowledge sharing indeed fuelled internalisation of RL behaviour by providing updated data and external information on sustainability issues which support integrated decision-making. Finally, flat organisational structures determine learning spaces for top executives to manage genuine and informal relationships with their followers and with external stakeholders. This further activated the learning processes at the core of the internalisation of RL behaviour.