Corporate Sustainability and the Individual: Understanding What Drives Sustainability Professionals as Change Agents
Cambridge University - Programme for Sustainability Leadership
York University - Schulich School of Business
February 25, 2010
In the face of overwhelming global challenges like climate change and persistent poverty, can individuals in organizations make a difference? This paper looks at what motivates sustainability managers to devote their time and energies to addressing social, environmental and ethical issues. It is rooted in the literature on the role of individuals as change agents for corporate sustainability, in particular in their capacity as environmental or social ‘champions’. The paper presents in-depth research among sustainability managers, providing a rich, nuanced understanding of different types of sustainability change agents. It identifies four such types – Experts, Facilitators, Catalysts and Activists – and uncovers the pivotal role of values, inspiration, expertise, empowerment, strategic thinking and social contribution as sources of meaning for these purpose-inspired managers. The findings deepen our understanding of the psychological dimensions of corporate sustainability management, and provide a useful tool for improving individual and team performance, enhancing recruitment and retention of sustainability talent, and developing more effective organisational leadership for sustainability.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, corporate sustainability, change agents, environmental champions, meaning in life, psychology, sustainability managers, valuesworking papers series
Date posted: February 27, 2010 ; Last revised: December 14, 2010
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