There is still no unilateral understanding of corporate sustainability and its practical implementation in firms (Hahn/Scheermesser 2006, Johnstone 2018). The corporate environmental management and the organizational culture are context-dependent; there are no general solutions that are applicable to every firm. Organizational culture is highly dependent on the organizational context, which consists of all internal and external factors, such as internal and external stakeholders, market environment or industry sector.
It is important to consider that the competing values framework itself does not promote a particular type of organizational sustainability culture. Nevertheless, each of the four culture types has distinct implications for the corporate environmental management:
Adhocracy cultures focus on innovation, experimentation, and also risk- taking to achieve corporate sustainability with an integrated, comprehensive corporate sustainability strategy. This, in turn, involves a process of organizational learning and change, which can improve the corporate environmental performance on multiple dimensions and may lead to a competitive advantage (Linnenluecke/Griffiths 2010). Adhocracy cultures break through existing norms, are suitable for dynamic business environments, and are more likely to promote corporate sustainability. They are suitable for start-ups and firms that operate in industrial sectors with dynamic market environments as they promote flexible processes, pioneering initiatives, and an innovative working atmosphere.
An organizational culture focused on sustainability can be a competitive advantage.
Bureaucracy cultures emphasize efficiency, for example elimination of waste and redundancies, and a simplification of products, services, and processes to reduce costs to achieve corporate sustainability. The sustainability strategy of bureaucracy cultures is compliance- and efficiency-driven; tasks and responsibilities are clearly defined and delegated top-down. Nevertheless, such narrow focus will only provide limited competitive advantage because the aforementioned efficiency measures can be easily copied by competitors. Moreover, that may delay the implementation of new technologies, changes or innovation that are necessary for the success of corporate environmental management initiatives (Cameron/Quinn 2011; Vodonick 2018).
"Every organization has its own combination of different values, beliefs, and rules and thus, a distinct organizational culture."
Nevertheless, companies that are already well established in their markets, have a slower pace of change pressure, and focus on stability, efficiency, and smooth-running processes should adopt a bureaucracy culture to be steered most efficiently into a sustainable business direction by adapting and expanding their organizational guidelines.
Clan cultures focus on social interaction, interpersonal relations, employee development, and learning and capacity building, such as corporate environmental health and safety initiatives, to facilitate corporate sustainability. However, group thinking may hinder innovation and novel ideas because a consensus among corporate staff is valued over unique ideas (Linnenluecke/Griffiths 2010).
Market cultures pursue cost reduction, process improvement, resource efficiency (minimizing input and maximizing output), and competitor orientation as their corporate sustainability strategy. However, such an approach is likely to be insufficient to achieve true sustainability because it does not explicitly emphasize the implementation of new technologies, innovation, or change and is primarily focused on meeting the legal environmental requirements and reacting to competitors (Linnenluecke/ Griffiths 2010).
"Organizational culture influences corporate practice and shapes the pattern of social life within the firm."
Studies have shown that clan and market cultures are not preferable to promote corporate sustainability (Vodonick 2018); depending on the market environment and internal and external stakeholders, firms should either adopt an adhocracy or a bureaucracy culture.