Corporate sustainability: An integrative definition and framework to evaluate corporate practice and guide academic research


The issues surrounding the concept of corporate sustainability are complex and far-reaching. We undertake a focused review of the sustainability literature that integrates a variety of perspectives. Based on this review, we elaborate an illustrative corporate sustainability framework consisting of elements that are easily understandable and interpretable with respect to tangible corporate sustainability activities and actions. Using this framework we develop a concrete, comprehensive and multidimensional definition of corporate sustainability. Some implications of the sustainability framework for practitioners include the effects of incorporating sustainability into corporate strategy and external communications to corporate stakeholders; the consequences of including an organization's supply chain in sustainability efforts; an illustration of the potential synergy between innovation and sustainability; the consequences of incorporating economic, ecological- environmental, and equity-social concerns in strategic decisions and design processes; and the ramifications of serving as an industry thought leader in shaping sustainability regulatory policies. The framework proposed here can assist in the evaluation of sustainability activities, as well as serve as a guide for an organization that aspires to increase the level and sophistication of its sustainability activities. An important next step for academic sustainability research is to empirically validate the framework proposed here using a variety of methodologies. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Journal of Cleaner Production