Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 143, Issue 1, pp 133–157 | Cite as

Corporate Sustainability: A View From the Top

  • Arménio RegoEmail author
  • Miguel Pina e Cunha
  • Daniel Polónia


Through a qualitative approach (via semi-structured interviewing), we explore the perspective of 72 CEOs of companies operating in Portugal about the definition of corporate sustainability (CS) and its facilitators, and obtain four main findings. First, most CEOs equate CS with the company’s continuity/viability. Second, the relevance ascribed to different stakeholders differs considerably: while more than 50 % of CEOs cited shareholders/profits, and more than 40 % mentioned the natural environment and employees, very few mentioned customers, society, suppliers, the State, or competitors. Third, the management practices considered as most important to develop CS are (a) the organization’s strategic alignment with a long-term orientation, and (b) developing and energizing people within a positive organizational climate characterized by trust and ethics. Fourth, the leadership characteristics and behaviors considered as most important to foster CS are scrutinizing the future and leading people through a mobilizing vision; energizing and developing employees; and leading by example. While the whole picture is largely consistent with the “sustainable strategic management” (SSM) approach suggested by Stead and Stead (2014) and with recent CS integrative approaches, the great majority of CEOs who participate in the study have not embraced such integrative and coevolutive perspectives.


Leadership Corporate sustainability Stakeholders CEOs 



We are grateful to Maria da Glória Ribeiro, Alexandra Ribas, and Ricardo Gonçalves, from AMROP Portugal, for their generous help with data collection. Miguel Cunha gratefully acknowledges support from Nova Forum. We are also grateful to the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and recommendations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arménio Rego
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Miguel Pina e Cunha
    • 3
  • Daniel Polónia
    • 4
  1. 1.Universidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Business Research Unit (UNIDE), Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL)LisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Nova School of Business and Economics, Universidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Economics, Management and Industrial EngineeringUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal

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