Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 241-255

First online:

Instrumental and Integrative Logics in Business Sustainability

  • Jijun GaoAffiliated withDepartment of Business Administration, I. H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba Email author 
  • , Pratima BansalAffiliated withRichard Ivey School of Business, The University of Western Ontario

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Prior research on sustainability in business often assumes that decisions on social and environmental investments are made for instrumental reasons, which points to causal relationships between corporate financial performance and corporate social and environmental commitment. In other words, social or environmental commitment should predict higher financial performance. The theoretical premise of sustainability, however, is based on a systems perspective, which implies a tighter integration between corporate financial performance and corporate commitment to social and environmental issues. In this paper, we describe the important theoretical differences between an instrumental and integrative logic in managing business sustainability. We test the presence of each logic using data from 738 firms over 13 years and find evidence of integrative logic applied in business.


Business sustainability Corporate social commitment Corporate environmental commitment Instrumental approach Integrative approach Simultaneous decision-making