Corporate Sustainability: A View From the Top

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

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    http://www.dgo.pt/execucaoorcamental/Paginas/PagarATempoEHoras.aspx?Ano=2013&Trimestre=3.%c2%ba%20Trimestre.

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Acknowledgments

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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Rego, A., Cunha, M.P.e. & Polónia, D. Corporate Sustainability: A View From the Top. J Bus Ethics 143, 133–157 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2760-8

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Keywords

  • Leadership
  • Corporate sustainability
  • Stakeholders
  • CEOs