The rise of emergent corporate sustainability: a self-organised view
Publication of Business Innovation
W.R.J. Baets, | Article | Publication date: 13 May 2021
Escalating climate crisis activism highlights the potential of self-organised approaches in sustainability to address the disconnect between corporate sustainability activities and globally declining ecological systems. This paper argues that corporate sustainability is a co-evolutionary process of emergence which may enable organisations to address this disconnect by creating a context supportive of emergence within the organisation rather than reacting to pressures from outside. An exploratory mixed-methods case study was used to explore how corporate sustainability emerged in two financial services institutions. This article develops the idea of corporate sustainability as a co-evolutionary process of emergence and presents a framework to assist organisations to cultivate sustainability. It adopts a complexity view and posits that reductionism associated with Newtonian thinking has contributed to the sustainability issues faced by humanity. This study suggests that the paradigmatic assumptions that have contributed to the sustainability crisis must be interrogated to create an environment which is conducive to the emergence of corporate sustainability. Through examining corporate sustainability as an emergent process, this paper sheds light on how businesses can foster conditions in which a self-organised response to sustainability challenges is distributed across the organisation whilst being embedded in the containing system.