Section 5.3: Corporate culture and sustainability

Values form an integral part of shaping a corporate culture for sustainability. Professor Harry Triandis, a cross-cultural psychologist, has shown that four values are judged to be important across all countries and cultures, and are therefore universal, world-wide. These values include:

– Mental and physical health – in no culture is it desirable that people are sick
– Subjective well-being – happiness is a core desire of cultures
– Longevity – no culture values life being cut short
– Preservation of the natural environment – no culture wishes to see the destruction of its natural environment

Unlike societies, corporations do not always value these four criteria, and this can lead to a disconnect because when we forget to observe one of these universal values, we tend to head towards delinquency. Perhaps this explains why corporations often have a detrimental impact on the world, and are subject to much criticism from stakeholders.

For companies that do adopt and integrate these values into their business through sustainability strategy, can benefit enormously from a corporate culture perspective.

– First, sustainability is a cross-functional strategy, and as such results in better integration of all functions within the corporation (for example, marketing may have to work closely with production management).
– Second, sustainability strategies require companies to engage in dialogue with internal and external stakeholders, thereby promoting deeper engagement.
– Third, honest disclosure, measuring, and mitigation strategies are a necessary component, increasing the level of transparency of firms.
Fourth, sustainability requires a holistic and system-based approach, often relying on partnerships along the supply chain and with peers. As such, it promotes collaborative skill development of corporations.
– Fifth, organizations become more resilient when they undertake sustainability practices because they learn to respond to risks and adapt their strategies on a continual-improvement basis.
– Finally, sustainability encourages long-term strategic thinking because actions by companies have implications well beyond the next quarter. This helps to reduce corporate myopia, and also means companies can attract more long-term, stable investors.

Watch this video for a deeper insight into how corporate sustainability in big brand companies may assist in saving biodiversity

Supplementary Resources

Eccles, Ioannou, and Serafeim (2011) “The Impact of a Corporate Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behavior and Performance”

Bertels, Papania, and Papania (2010) “Embedding sustainability in organizational culture”

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