Moving Beyond the Why and What Question: How Corporations Achieve Sustainable Development



In today’s world sustainable development is considered to be an important driver for a corporation’s competitive advantage. Pursuing sustainable development provides corporations with a source of innovation, creates opportunities to improve their standing among a broad range of stakeholders, and allows them to strengthen their organizational resilience. While scholars have focused a lot on reasons why corporations would pursue sustainable development and what they could do to effectively deliver on their ambition to achieve sustainability, much remains unknown about the “how to” of sustainable development. To address this gap, this dissertation explores the role of sustainable intrapreneurs, senior managers, and organization design in effectuating a corporate transition toward sustainability. Besides highlighting the important role sustainable intrapreneurs play for corporations to achieve sustainable development, we propose that sustainable intrapreneurs distinctly advance innovation, alter resource allocation, and manage uncertainty when advancing entrepreneurial solutions to social and/or environmental problems compared to entrepreneurial actors in other contexts. We find that entrepreneurial employees may leverage emotions for such purpose. Critically, we also find that senior managers and organization design play an important in role synchronizing a firm’s desire for more focus on long-term economic, social, and environmental value with manager’s perspectives regarding the future (temporal orientations) and rules that shape the form and rhythm of work practices (temporal structures).