3644 Organizational culture an essential factor for sustainable industry management

Rupert J. Baumgartner , Institute of Systems Sciences, Innovation & Sustainability Research, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
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  • Organizational culture_paper GNI 2012_Rev01.pdf (352.9 kB)
  • Justification of the paper: Sustainable development and sustainability are widely discussed in society and business but rarely transferred to the reality of business activities. One reason is that the relationship between corporate sustainability and organizational culture seems to be underestimated within the discussion about Sustainable Development.

    Purpose: Organizational culture is an important factor in business organizations as it frames behaviors of individual members of the organization through shared norms, values and beliefs. Although the concept of organizational culture has become popular also in sustainability related literature there is little theoretical underpinning and understanding of the relationship between organizational culture, sustainability management and sustainability performance (Linnenluecke/Griffith 2009 (Corporate Sustainability and Organizational Culture. In: Journal of World Business, Vol. 45)).

    Theoretical framework: The starting point for this research is that ambitious corporate sustainability activities and strategies have to be embedded in the organizational culture in order to be successful. If aspects of Sustainable Development are not part of the mindset of leaders and members of the organization, corporate sustainability activities will not affect efficiently the core business and are more likely to fail. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the link between sustainability strategies and organizational culture on a detailed level.

    Results: Based on previous research (Baumgartner 2009 (Organizational Culture and Leadership: Preconditions for the Development of a Sustainable Corporation. In: Sustainable Development, Vol. 17, 102-113), Baumgartner/Zielwowski 2007(Analyzing zero emission strategies regarding impact on organizational culture and contribution to sustainable development. In: Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 15, No. 13-14, 1321-1327)) the role of different types of organizational cultures and their fit with sustainable corporate strategies is discussed. On this basis a generic framework to analyze the relationship between different types of organizational cultures and different types of sustainability strategies is developed. This framework can be used by organizations to identify possible gaps between their culture and strategies. It is supported by the discussion of cultural change processes organizations can use to reach the fit between desired strategies and their cultural conditions.

    Conclusions: Korhonen (Korhonen 2004 (Theory of industrial ecology. In: Progress in Industrial Ecology, Vol. 1, No. 1/2/3, 61-88)) distinguishes two levels of sustainability theory based on the model of strategic sustainable development (Robert et al. 2002 (Strategic sustainable development - selection, design and synergies of applied tools. In: Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 10, No. 3, 197-214)): the conceptual level of a favorable or successful outcome of planning and management toward the goal of Sustainable Development, and the level of concrete and practical actions and measures. This research refers to the conceptual level; organizational culture and corporate sustainability strategies are analyzed to identify interrelations between them as a basis for corporate decisions. The framework can then be used at the practical level and help organizations to analyze their specific situation regarding sustainability orientation and organizational culture.