Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 150, Issue 4, pp 1071–1088 | Cite as

Corporate Sustainable Innovation and Employee Behavior

  • Magali A. DelmasEmail author
  • Sanja Pekovic


Corporate sustainable innovation is a major driver of institutional change, and its success can be largely attributed to employees. While some scholars have described the importance of intrinsic motivations and flexibility to facilitate innovation, others have argued that constraints and extrinsic motivations stimulate innovation. In the context of sustainable innovation, we explore which employee work practices are more conducive to firm-level innovation in corporate sustainability. Our results, based on a sample of 4640 French employees from 1764 firms, confirm the positive impact of intrinsic motivations (through employee social interactions), and the negative impact of job strain (through high imposed work pace), on corporate sustainable innovation. We also find that extrinsic rewards, through pay satisfaction, counteract the negative effect of job strain to promote sustainable innovation. This indicates that intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can work in tandem to facilitate sustainable innovation.


Corporate sustainability Innovation Job satisfaction Job strain Social interaction Work-related stress 


  1. Adler, P. S., & Kwon, S. W. (2002). Social capital: Prospects for a new concept. Academy of Management Review, 27(1), 17–40.Google Scholar
  2. Aldenderfer, M. S., & Blashfield, R. K. (1984). Cluster analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  3. Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  4. Amabile, T. M. (1997). Motivating creativity in organisations: On doing what you love and loving what you do. California Management Review, 40(1), 39–58.Google Scholar
  5. Amabile, T. M. (2000). Stimulate creativity by fueling passion. In E. Locke (Ed.), Handbook of principle of organizational behavior (pp. 331–341). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  6. Amabile, T. M., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., & Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the work environment for creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 39(5), 1154–1184.Google Scholar
  7. Amabile, T. M., Goldfarb, P., & Brackfield, S. C. (1990). Social influences on creativity: Evaluation, coaction, and surveillance. Creativity Research Journal, 3(1), 6–21.Google Scholar
  8. Amabile, T. M., Hadley, C. N., & Kramer, S. J. (2002). Creativity under the gun. Harvard Business Review, 80(8), 52–61.Google Scholar
  9. Ambrose, M. L., Arnaud, A., & Schminke, M. (2008). Individual moral development and ethical climate: The influence of person organization fit on job attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 77, 323–333.Google Scholar
  10. Anderson, N., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Nijstad, B. A. (2004). The routinization of innovation research: A constructively critical review of the state-of-the-science. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25(2), 147–173.Google Scholar
  11. Antonioli, D., Mancinelli, S., & Mazzanti, M. (2013). Is environmental innovation embedded within high-performance organisational changes? The role of human resource management and complementarity in green business strategies. Research Policy, 42(4), 975–988.Google Scholar
  12. Baer, M., & Oldham, G. (2006). The curvilinear relation between experienced creative time pressure and creativity: Moderating effects of openness to experience and support for creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 963–970.Google Scholar
  13. Banker, R. D., Field, J. M., Schroeder, R. G., & Sinha, K. K. (1996). Impact of work teams on manufacturing performance: A longitudinal study. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4), 867–890.Google Scholar
  14. Batt, R. (2004). Who benefits from teams? Comparing workers, supervisors and managers. Industrial Relations, 43(1), 183–212.Google Scholar
  15. Baucus, M. S., Norton, W. I., Baucus, D. A., & Human, S. E. (2008). Fostering creativity and innovation without encouraging unethical behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 97–115.Google Scholar
  16. Becker, G. S. (1964). Human capital. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Becker, B., & Gerhart, B. (1996). The impact of human resource management on organizational performance: Progress and prospects. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4), 779–801.Google Scholar
  18. Beehr, T. A. (1985). The role of social support in coping with organizational stress. In T. A. Beehr & R. S. Bhagat (Eds.), Human stress and cognitions in organization (pp. 375–398). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Beugelsdijk, S. (2008). Strategic human resource practices and product innovation. Organization Studies, 29(6), 821–847.Google Scholar
  20. Bocquet, R., Mothe, C., & Pinget, A. (2015). Barriers to environmental innovation in SMEs: Empirical evidence from French firms. Management, 18(2), 132–155.Google Scholar
  21. Boiral, O., & Paillé, P. (2012). Organizational citizenship behaviour for the environment: Measurement and validation. Journal of Business Ethics, 109(4), 431–445.Google Scholar
  22. Bunce, D., & West, M. (1994). Changing work environments, innovative coping responses to occupational stress. Work and Stress, 8(4), 319–331.Google Scholar
  23. Byron, K., Khazanchi, S., & Nazarian, D. (2010). The relationship between stressors and creativity: A meta-analysis examining competing theoretical models. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 201–212.Google Scholar
  24. Caliński, T. J., & Harabasz, J. (1974). A dendrite method for cluster analysis. Communication in Statistics, 3(1), 1–27.Google Scholar
  25. Cantor, D. E., Morrow, P. C., & Montabon, F. (2012). Engagement in environmental behaviors among supply chain management employees: An organizational support theoretical perspective. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 48, 33–51.Google Scholar
  26. Carlson, D. S., & Perrewé, P. L. (1999). The role of social support in the stressor-strain relationship: An examination of work-family conflict. Journal of Management, 25(4), 513.Google Scholar
  27. Caza, A., Barker, B. A., & Cameron, K. S. (2004). Ethics and ethos: The buffering and amplifying effects of ethical behavior and virtuousness. Journal of Business Ethics, 52, 169–178.Google Scholar
  28. Cohen, D., & Prusak, L. (2001). In good company: How social capital makes organizations work. Boston: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  29. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 310–357.Google Scholar
  30. Collins, C. J., & Smith, K. (2006). Knowledge exchange and combination: The role of human resource practices in the performance of high-technology firms. Academy of Management Journal, 49(3), 544–560.Google Scholar
  31. Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. O. (2010). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior with concept maps. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  32. Cowan, R., Sanditov, B., & Weehuizen, R. (2011). Productivity effects of innovation, stress and social relations. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 79(3), 165–182.Google Scholar
  33. Daily, B. F., & Huang, S. (2001). Achieving sustainability through attention to human resource factors in environmental management. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 21(12), 1539–1552.Google Scholar
  34. De Marchi, V. (2012). Environmental innovation and R&D cooperation: Empirical evidence from Spanish manufacturing firms. Research Policy, 41, 614–623.Google Scholar
  35. Delmas, M., Hoffmann, V. H., & Kuss, M. (2011). Under the tip of the iceberg: Absorptive capacity, environmental strategy, and competitive advantage. Business and Society, 50(1), 116–154.Google Scholar
  36. Delmas, M., & Pekovic, S. (2013). Environmental standards and labor productivity: Understanding the mechanisms that sustain sustainability. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(2), 230–252.Google Scholar
  37. Delmas, M., & Pekovic, S. (2015). Resource efficiency strategies and market conditions. Long Range Planning, 48(2), 80–94.Google Scholar
  38. Delmas, M., & Toffel, M. W. (2004). Stakeholders and environmental management practices: An institutional framework. Business Strategy and the Environment, 13(4), 209–222.Google Scholar
  39. Delmas, M., & Toffel, M. W. (2008). Organizational responses to environmental demands: Opening the black box. Strategic Management Journal, 29(10), 1027–1055.Google Scholar
  40. DeTienne, K., Agle, B., Phillips, J., & Ingerson, M. (2012). The impact of moral stress compared to other stressors on employee fatigue, job satisfaction, and turnover: An empirical investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 110, 377–391.Google Scholar
  41. Di Domenico, M., Tracey, P., & Haugh, H. (2009). The dialectic of social exchange: Theorizing corporate-social enterprise collaboration. Organization Studies, 30, 887–907.Google Scholar
  42. Dooley, D., Rook, K., & Catalano, R. (1987). Job and non-job stressors and their moderators. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 60, 115–132.Google Scholar
  43. European Commission. (2012). Eco-innovation: The key to Europe’s future competitiveness. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union. doi: 10.2779/68837.Google Scholar
  44. Farr, J. L., & Ford, C. M. (1990). Individual innovation. In M. A. West & J. L. Farr (Eds.), Innovation and creativity at work (pp. 63–80). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  45. Fisher, C. D. (1978). The effects of personal control, competence, and extrinsic reward systems on intrinsic motivation. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 21(3), 273–288.Google Scholar
  46. Fliaster, A., & Schloderer, F. (2010). Dyadic ties among employees: Empirical analysis of creative performance and efficiency. Human Relations, 63(10), 1513–1540.Google Scholar
  47. Ford, C. M. (1996). A theory of individual creative action in multiple social domains. Academy of Management Review, 21, 1112–1142.Google Scholar
  48. Foxon, T., & Pearson, P. (2008). Overcoming barriers to innovation and diffusion of cleaner technologies: Some features of a sustainable innovation policy regime. Journal of Cleaner Production, 16(1), S148–S161.Google Scholar
  49. Frey, B., & Oberholzer-Gee, F. (1997). The cost of price incentives: An empirical analysis of motivation crowding-out. American Economic Review, 87(4), 746–755.Google Scholar
  50. Gabbay, S. M., & Zuckerman, E. W. (1998). Social capital and opportunity in corporate R&D: The contingent effect of contact density on mobility expectations. Social Science Research, 27(2), 189–217.Google Scholar
  51. Ganster, D. C., & Fusilier, M. R. (1989). Control in the workplace. In C. L. Cooper & I. Robertson (Eds.), International review of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 235–280). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  52. Ganster, D. C., Fusilier, M. R., & Mayes, B. T. (1986). Role of social support in the experience of stress at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71(1), 102–110.Google Scholar
  53. George, J. M., Reed, T. F., Ballard, K. A., Colin, J., & Fielding, J. (1993). Contact with AIDS patients as a source of work-related distress: Effects of organizational and social support. Academy of Management Journal, 36(1), 157–171.Google Scholar
  54. Gneezy, U., Meier, S., & Rey-Biel, P. (2011). When and why incentives (don’t) work to modify behavior. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25(4), 191–209.Google Scholar
  55. Godard, J. (2001). High performance and the transformation of work? The implications of alternative work practices for the experience and outcomes of work. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54, 776–805.Google Scholar
  56. Greve, A., Benassi, M., & Sti, A. D. (2010). Exploring the contributions of human and social capital to performance. International Review of Sociology, 20(1), 35–58.Google Scholar
  57. Grolleau, G., Mzoughi, N., & Pekovic, S. (2013). Is there a relationship between workplace atmosphere and innovation activities? An empirical analysis among French firms. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 22(6), 566–580.Google Scholar
  58. Hallowell, E. M. (2005). Overloaded circuits. Why smart people underperform. Harvard Business Review, 83(1), 54–62.Google Scholar
  59. Hamilton, B. H., Nickerson, J. A., & Hideo, O. (2003). Team incentives and worker heterogeneity: An empirical analysis of the impact of teams on productivity and participation. Journal of Political Economy, 111(3), 465–497.Google Scholar
  60. Hellström, T. (2007). Dimensions of environmentally sustainable innovation: The structure of eco-innovation concepts. Sustainable Development, 15(3), 148–159.Google Scholar
  61. Hess, D., Rogovsky, N., & Dunfee, T. (2002). The next wave of corporate community involvement: Corporate social initiatives. California Management Review, 44(2), 110–125.Google Scholar
  62. Heyes, A., & Kapur, S. (2011). Regulatory attitudes and environmental innovation in a model combining internal and external R&D. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 61(3), 327–340.Google Scholar
  63. Hofmans, J., De Gieter, S., & Pepermans, R. (2013). Individual differences in the relationship between satisfaction with job rewards and job satisfaction. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 82(1), 1–9.Google Scholar
  64. Horbach, J. (2008). Determinants of environmental innovation—New evidence from German panel data sources. Research Policy, 37(1), 163–173.Google Scholar
  65. Horbach, J., Rammer, C., & Rennings, K. (2012). Determinants of eco-innovations by type of environmental impact—The role of regulatory push/pull, technology push and market pull. Ecological Economics, 78, 112–122.Google Scholar
  66. Huselid, M. A. (1995). The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity, and corporate financial performance. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 635–672.Google Scholar
  67. Ivancevich, M. J., & Donnelly, H. J. (1975). Relation of organizational structure to job satisfaction, anxiety-stress, and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 20(2), 272–280.Google Scholar
  68. Kalmi, P., & Kauhanen, A. (2008). Workplace innovations and employee outcomes: Evidence from Finland. Industrial Relations, 47, 430–459.Google Scholar
  69. Kaufman, G. H., & Beehr, T. A. (1989). Occupational stressors, individual strains and social supports among police officers. Human Relations, 42(2), 185–197.Google Scholar
  70. Ketchen, D. J., & Shook, C. L. (1996). The application of cluster analysis in strategic management research: An analysis and critique. Strategic Management Journal, 17(6), 441–458.Google Scholar
  71. Khazanchi, S., Lewis, M. W., & Boyer, K. K. (2007). Innovation-supportive culture: The impact of organizational values on process innovation. Journal of Operations Management, 25(4), 871–884.Google Scholar
  72. Kraatz, M. S. (1998). Learning by association? Inter organizational networks and adaptation to environmental change. Academy of Management Journal, 41(6), 621–643.Google Scholar
  73. Lanfranchi, J., & Pekovic, S. (2014). How green is my firm? Worker well-being and job involvement in environmentally related certified firms. Ecological Economics, 100, 16–29.Google Scholar
  74. Lau, C.-M., & Ngo, H.-Y. (2004). The HR system, organizational culture and product innovation. International Business Review, 13(6), 685–703.Google Scholar
  75. Manohar, S. S., & Pandit, S. R. (2014). Core values and beliefs: A study of leading innovative organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 125(4), 667–680.Google Scholar
  76. Margolis, R. M., & Kammen, D. M. (1999). Evidence of under-investment in energy R&D in the United States and the impact of federal policy. Energy Policy, 27(10), 575–584.Google Scholar
  77. McFarlin, D., & Sweeney, P. (1992). Distributive and procedural justice as predictors of satisfaction with personal and organizational outcomes. Academy of Management Journal, 35(3), 626–637.Google Scholar
  78. Mulki, J. P., Jaramillo, J. F., & Locander, W. B. (2008). Effect of ethical climate on turnover intention: Linking attitudinal- and stress theory. Journal of Business Ethics, 78, 559–574.Google Scholar
  79. Nahum-Shani, I., & Bamberger, P. A. (2011). The buffering effect of social support on stressor-strain relations: The conditioning effects of perceived reciprocity patterns. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 114, 49–63.Google Scholar
  80. Nicol, J. J., & Long, B. C. (1996). Creativity and perceived stress of female music therapists and hobbyists. Creativity Research Journal, 9(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  81. Obstfeld, D. (2005). Social networks, the tertius iungens orientation and involvement in innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50(1), 100–130.Google Scholar
  82. Paillé, P., Chen, Y., Boiral, O., & Jin, J. (2014). The impact of human resource management on environmental performance: An employee-level study. Journal of Business Ethics, 121(3), 451–466.Google Scholar
  83. Paillé, P., Meija-Morelos, J., Marché-Paillé, A., Chen, Y., & Chen, H.-H. (2015). Corporate greening, exchange process among co-workers, and ethics of care: An empirical study on the determinants of pro-environmental behaviors at coworkers-level. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-015-2537-0.Google Scholar
  84. Paillé, P., & Raineri, N. (2015). Linking perceived corporate environmental policies and employees eco-initiatives: The influence of perceived organizational support and psychological contract breach. Journal of Business Research, 68, 2404–2411.Google Scholar
  85. Perry-Smith, J. E. (2006). Social yet creative: The role of social relationships in facilitating individual creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 85–101.Google Scholar
  86. Perry-Smith, J. E., & Blum, T. C. (2000). Work-family human resource bundles and perceived organizational performance. Academy of Management Journal, 43(6), 1107–1117.Google Scholar
  87. Perry-Smith, J. E., & Shalley, C. E. (2003). The social side of creativity: A static and dynamic social network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 28(1), 89–106.Google Scholar
  88. Peterson, D. K. (2004). The relationship between perceptions of corporate citizenship and organizational commitment. Business and Society, 43(3), 296–319.Google Scholar
  89. Ramsay, H., Scholarios, D., & Harley, B. (2000). Employees and high-performance work systems: Testing inside the black box. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 38(4), 501–531.Google Scholar
  90. Ramus, C. A. (2001). Organizational support for employees: Encouraging creative ideas for environmental sustainability. California Management Review, 43(3), 85–105.Google Scholar
  91. Ramus, C. A., & Steger, U. (2000). The roles of supervisory support behaviors and environmental policy in employee “ecoinitiatives” at leading-edge European companies. The Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 605–626.Google Scholar
  92. Rennings, K. (2000). Redefining innovation—Eco-innovation research and the contribution from ecological economics. Ecological Economics, 32(2), 319–332.Google Scholar
  93. Rennings, K., Ziegler, A., Ankele, K., & Hoffmann, E. (2006). The influence of different characteristics of the EU environmental management and auditing scheme on technical environmental innovations and economic performance. Ecological Economics, 57(1), 45–59.Google Scholar
  94. Rennings, K., & Zwick, T. (2002). The employment impact of cleaner production on the firm level-empirical evidence from a survey in five European countries. International Journal of Innovation Management, 6(3), 319–342.Google Scholar
  95. Renwick, D. W. S., Redman, T., & Maguire, S. (2013). Green human resource management: A review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(1), 1–14.Google Scholar
  96. Rothenberg, S., & Zyglidopoulos, S. C. (2007). Determinants of environmental innovation adoption in the printing industry: The importance of task environment. Business Strategy and the Environment, 16(1), 39–49.Google Scholar
  97. Schiederig, T., Tietze, F., & Herstatt, C. (2012). Green innovation in technology and innovation management—An exploratory literature review. R & D Management, 42, 180–192.Google Scholar
  98. Smith, K., Guthrie, J., & Chen, M. (1989). Strategy, size and performance. Organization Studies, 10(1), 63–81.Google Scholar
  99. Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2007). The recovery experience questionnaire: Development and validation of a measure assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 204–221.Google Scholar
  100. Spanjol, J., Tam, L., & Tam, V. (2014). Employer–employee congruence in environmental values: An exploration of effects on job satisfaction and creativity. Journal of Business Ethics, 130, 117–130. doi: 10.1007/s10551-014-2208-6.Google Scholar
  101. Spector, P. E. (1994). Job satisfaction survey. JSS.
  102. Stamper, C. L., & Johlke, M. C. (2003). The impact of perceived organizational support on the relationship between boundary spanner role stress and work outcomes. Journal of Management, 29(4), 569–588.Google Scholar
  103. Steinley, D., & Brusco, M. J. (2008). Selection of variables in cluster analysis: An empirical comparison of eight procedures. Psychometrika, 73(1), 125–144.Google Scholar
  104. Sullivan, S. E., & Bhagat, R. S. (1992). Organizational stress, job satisfaction, and job performance: Where do we go from here? Journal of Management, 18(2), 353–374.Google Scholar
  105. Sutton, R. I. (2001). The weird rules of creativity. Harvard Business Review, 79(8), 94–103.Google Scholar
  106. Talbot, R., Cooper, C., & Barrow, S. (1992). Creativity and stress. Creativity and Innovation Management, 1(4), 183–193.Google Scholar
  107. Theyel, G. (2000). Management practices for environmental innovation and performance. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 20(2), 249–266.Google Scholar
  108. Van Hemel, C., & Cramer, J. (2002). Barriers and stimuli for eco design in SMEs. Journal of Cleaner Production, 10(5), 439–453.Google Scholar
  109. Van Yperen, N. W., & Hagedoorn, M. (2003). Do high job demands increase intrinsic motivation or fatigue or both? The role of job control and job social support. Academy of Management Journal, 46, 339–348.Google Scholar
  110. Wagner, M. (2007). On the relationship between environmental management, environmental innovation and patenting: Evidence from German manufacturing firms. Research Policy, 36(10), 1587–1602.Google Scholar
  111. West, M. A. (1990). The social psychology of innovation in groups. In M. A. West & J. L. Farr (Eds.), Innovation and creativity at work (pp. 309–335). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  112. Williams, M. L., McDaniel, M. A., & Nguyen, N. T. (2006). A meta-analysis of the antecedents and consequences of pay level satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(2), 392.Google Scholar
  113. Woodman, R., Sawyer, J., & Griffin, R. (1993). Toward a theory of organizational creativity. Academy of Management Review, 18(2), 293–321.Google Scholar
  114. Yalabik, B., & Fairchild, R. J. (2011). Customer, regulatory, and competitive pressure as drivers of environmental innovation. International Journal of Production Economics, 131(2), 519–527.Google Scholar
  115. Zhou, J., & George, J. M. (2001). When job dissatisfaction leads to creativity: Encouraging the expression of voice. Academy of Management Journal, 44(4), 682–696.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anderson School of ManagementInstitute of the Environment and SustainabilityLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.University Paris-DauphineParis Cedex 16France

Personalised recommendations