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Open Access Employee roles in sustainability transformation processes: A move away from expertise and towards experience-driven sustainability management

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Corporate sustainability management usually relies on innovation experts ‐ that is, it relies on top-down and staff-unit approaches. Seeking out the involvement of employees from all company departments can substantially contribute to corporate greening. “Ordinary” employees are not trained as sustainability experts, yet it is precisely their experience within their own field and within the organisation that can give rise to knowledge that is essential for transforming the economy towards sustainability. Hence, employees need to be empowered by appropriate structures and organisational culture. Transferring practical experience to expertise can prove very helpful in assisting and stimulating sustainability transformations in various business fields.

Although ordinary employees are typically regarded as an important stakeholder group for enhancing corporate sustainability, they are seldom seriously addressed in business or research practice. To learn from the practical experience of what takes place at workplaces, we analysed four transdisciplinary research projects all aimed at initiating, accompanying and analysing processes of sustainability transformation within companies, but which focused on different sectors and organisational contexts. Based on the assumption that ordinary employees can hold three different roles in processes of sustainability transformations (implementers, ambassadors and recipients of corporate sustainability practices), we compared the findings from practices of employee involvement within the four projects. Based on these findings, we examined the implications for companies and highlighted future research needs.
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Keywords: corporate sustainability practices; employee roles; obstacles to sustainable economy; sustainability transformation; worker participation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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