Identifying the root causes of tensions arising from business adoption of sustainability

Ambrosio, Natasja (2015-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: When business adopts sustainability, leaders, sustainability practitioners and employees experience tensions. Unless the root causes of such tensions are identified, understood and discussed, barriers that developed over time will significantly affect the rate of business transformation in building a sustainable future for both business and society at large. This thesis then aims to identify the root causes of tensions that arise in the process of sustainability adoption in business. The outcomes of the research highlight the process of organisational and systemic change required in business, and the need for organisational culture and values to align to the values of sustainability. The lack of adaptive leadership skills in business causes tension as a fundamental requirement of sustainability is transformation. Sustainability challenges the ethics of decisions made in business and thereby creates significant tension. Leaders and employees alike are faced with decisions that require careful consideration in order to ensure that the consequences of those decisions do not result in unintended consequences that impact negatively on society and the environment. Systemic complexity, where capitalism defines the rules within which businesses operate and are being measured, creates tension, as these rules often contradict the values of sustainability. Employees and leaders in business experience tension, as they have to face the dichotomy between values and profit imperatives. This results in an ethical dilemma for business. The current consumer culture, upon which retailers rely significantly for income, requires the extraction of raw materials and the use of energy, water, oil and chemicals for production purposes. This dependency is concerning, as price volatility as a result of the demand and supply fluctuations, affect the retailer price structures. If these resources were to be priced, based on the true cost to the environment, prices will increase, leaving retailers with no option but to increase sales prices. The scale and depth of change, as well as When business adopts sustainability, leaders, sustainability practitioners and employees experience tensions. Unless the root causes of such tensions are identified, understood and discussed, barriers that developed over time will significantly affect the rate of business transformation in building a sustainable future for both business and society at large. This thesis then aims to identify the root causes of tensions that arise in the process of sustainability adoption in business. The outcomes of the research highlight the process of organisational and systemic change required in business, and the need for organisational culture and values to align to the values of sustainability. The lack of adaptive leadership skills in business causes tension as a fundamental requirement of sustainability is transformation. Sustainability challenges the ethics of decisions made in business and thereby creates significant tension. Leaders and employees alike are faced with decisions that require careful consideration in order to ensure that the consequences of those decisions do not result in unintended consequences that impact negatively on society and the environment. Systemic complexity, where capitalism defines the rules within which businesses operate and are being measured, creates tension, as these rules often contradict the values of sustainability. Employees and leaders in business experience tension, as they have to face the dichotomy between values and profit imperatives. This results in an ethical dilemma for business. The current consumer culture, upon which retailers rely significantly for income, requires the extraction of raw materials and the use of energy, water, oil and chemicals for production purposes. This dependency is concerning, as price volatility as a result of the demand and supply fluctuations, affect the retailer price structures. If these resources were to be priced, based on the true cost to the environment, prices will increase, leaving retailers with no option but to increase sales prices. The scale and depth of change, as well asWhen business adopts sustainability, leaders, sustainability practitioners and employees experience tensions. Unless the root causes of such tensions are identified, understood and discussed, barriers that developed over time will significantly affect the rate of business transformation in building a sustainable future for both business and society at large. This thesis then aims to identify the root causes of tensions that arise in the process of sustainability adoption in business. The outcomes of the research highlight the process of organisational and systemic change required in business, and the need for organisational culture and values to align to the values of sustainability. The lack of adaptive leadership skills in business causes tension as a fundamental requirement of sustainability is transformation. Sustainability challenges the ethics of decisions made in business and thereby creates significant tension. Leaders and employees alike are faced with decisions that require careful consideration in order to ensure that the consequences of those decisions do not result in unintended consequences that impact negatively on society and the environment. Systemic complexity, where capitalism defines the rules within which businesses operate and are being measured, creates tension, as these rules often contradict the values of sustainability. Employees and leaders in business experience tension, as they have to face the dichotomy between values and profit imperatives. This results in an ethical dilemma for business. The current consumer culture, upon which retailers rely significantly for income, requires the extraction of raw materials and the use of energy, water, oil and chemicals for production purposes. This dependency is concerning, as price volatility as a result of the demand and supply fluctuations, affect the retailer price structures. If these resources were to be priced, based on the true cost to the environment, prices will increase, leaving retailers with no option but to increase sales prices. The scale and depth of change, as well as the uncertainties that exist within decisions that needs to be made, causes tensions for retailers. Other tensions that arise are the need for meaningful stakeholder engagement, transparency, and a common understanding of what sustainability aims to achieve. Meaningful conversations in business will help define new rules that can be applied to create long-term value for all in society. Employees are more committed to sustainability through intrinsic values as oppose to extrinsic values. Therefore, a values based approach to sustainability adoption will resonate with employees, thereby improving the effect of sustainability integration. Adaptive leaders who are prepared to interrogate current business models are required. This way, different models are developed, that delivers shared value and intergenerational equity to society and the environment.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97122
This item appears in the following collections: