Sustainability Transition in Established Corporations: Role of Technological Innovation
6th Biennial Conference of the Indian Academy of Management (INDAM) – 2020, IIM-Tiruchirappalli, India
12 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2020 Last revised: 27 Aug 2020
Date Written: January 4, 2020
Sustainability transition theories analyze a systematic shift towards sustainability at micro (niche), meso (regime) and macro (landscape) level. The assessment of technological systems and structures at the firm level in sustainability transition literature is scant. The present study, taking the technological assessment perspective at the firm level, finds answers to questions like (a) how do established corporations move towards sustainable practices? (b) what role does technological innovation play in the firm’s transition towards sustainability? (c) what technological modes get adopted for sustainability transition? We find answers to these questions through an in-depth case analysis of two multi-national companies in the consumer goods industry. Internally developed and externally acquired technologies by firms in the last 15 years are plotted using qualitative and quantitative indicators on pre-designed templates. Technologies for all three sustainability dimensions, namely, environmental, social and economic, get mapped and the impact assessed. The analysis finds a sustainability transition landscape reflecting the use of protected (patents, trademarks, designs) and unprotected technologies (open innovation) to generate impacts like production efficiency, consumption reduction, emission reduction, reduce-recycle-reuse among others. Companies implementing sustainable technologies do observe positive impacts. Implementation of reduce-reuse- recycle (3R)-based technologies enhance the achievement of sustainable development targets. Furthermore, the use of trademarks seems common in differentiating their technologies and identities. The last section uses these and other results to comment on the role of managing intellectual property and harnessing the effect of technological innovations in sustainability transition.
Keywords: Sustainability transition, technological innovation, consumer goods industry, sustainability impacts
JEL Classification: Q01, Q55, O34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation