Implementing and managing economic, social and environmental efforts of business sustainability: propositions for measurement and structural models

Göran Svensson, Beverly Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract


Purpose
– Current research examines and reports how four companies – each committed to economic, social and environmental efforts of business sustainability – implement and manage their “sustainable business models” and application of sustainable business practices in the marketplace and society. “Business sustainability” is defined as a company’s economic, social and environmental efforts to implement and manage both its own and its business network’s impact on Earth’s life and ecosystems. The purpose of this paper is to describe constituents of business sustainability efforts within the economic, social and environmental categories.

Design/methodology/approach
– The current research is based upon a grounded methodology drawn from four in-depth case studies, spanning over five years in different countries and industries. Data were gathered from multiple sources, including secondary data, company records, internet information, face-to-face interviews and on-site observation. Transcriptions were thereafter returned to interviewees for clarification and accuracy, and for final proofreading and approval.

Findings
– The research identifies a set of business sustainability constituents within the economic, social and environmental categories of the triple bottom line (TBL) approach. It appears to be the first study over time and across contexts of the content of the TBL consisting of economic, social and environmental categories based upon empirical findings and propositions on how they can be assessed and related to each other.

Research limitations/implications
– The research provides a foundation of measurement and structural properties of business sustainability efforts. A cause-and-effect relationship between the TBL categories is a new and complementary approach to assess business sustainability that so far appears not to have been revealed in previous research and theory.

Practical implications
– The research furthers the understanding of implementing and managing economic, social and environmental efforts of business sustainability in a comprehensive, balanced and connected manner. The economic, social and environmental constituents of business sustainability need to be addressed in conjunction with one another, as they ultimately restrain the degrees of freedom in the context of the meta-constituent that frames them (i.e. the Planet Earth).

Originality/value
– The principal contribution is to demonstrate the breakdown of constituents into common denominators of economic, social and environmental categories, based upon empirical observations. The case studies reported generate a model that combines a conceptual and managerial framework aimed at implementing and managing sustainable business practices; they offer a contribution by shedding light on constituents that may be relevant and essential in framing economic, social and environmental efforts of business sustainability in the marketplace and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-213
Number of pages22
JournalManagement of Environmental Quality
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2015

Keywords

  • business sustainability
  • business sustainable practices
  • sustainability
  • environmental
  • economic
  • social
  • triple bottom line

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