Special Issue "Learning, Resilience, and Employability in Organisational Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Marjolein Caniëls
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Management Science and Technology, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen 6401 DL, The Netherlands
Interests: innovation; creativity; learning; resilience; sustainable development
Dr. Wim Lambrechts
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Management Science and Technology, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen 6401 DL, The Netherlands
Interests: sustainable development; individual sustainability competences; higher education for sustainable development; sustainable supply chain management; sustainability assessment; sustainability indicators
Prof. Dr. Judith Semeijn
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Management Science and Technology, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen 6401 DL, The Netherlands
Interests: human sustainability; careers; personality; competencies; personal capacities; sustainable employability

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In current business, there is increased pressure for organisations to be sustainable on various levels. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched by the United Nations in 2015, seem to create a popular framework for businesses to engage in sustainability beyond ‘business as usual’ approaches (Scheyvens et al., 2016). Given the increased social awareness of sustainability, organisations have to learn and adapt. Not only do organisations need to be careful regarding the environmental impact of their production processes (environmental sustainability), they also need to achieve social and human sustainability. This can be done for instance by taking care of the sustainable employability of their employees (Semeijn et al., 2015; Parkin Hughes et al., 2017) and by focusing on individual sustainability competences in the workplace (e.g. Perez Salgado et al., 2018). After all, human resources and talents are the most important drivers of innovation, learning and performance, specifically in relation to green and sustainable organisational processes as well as supply chain processes (Jabbour & Jabbour, 2016).

There are at least two ways of looking at this. First, to achieve sustainability on an organisational level, employee behaviour is crucial. Employees make or break organisational sustainability. For example, internal stakeholders within organisations may be resistant to implementing sustainable practices, or instead be vigilant and on the lookout for sustainable solutions. Different human factors influence organisational sustainability, such as resistance, communication issues, organisational culture and empowerment (Verhulst & Boks, 2012). Management as well as employees undergo different processes of sensegiving, sensemaking and possibly sensebreaking (Angus-Leppan et al., 2010; Weick et al., 2005). Human factors and the processes of sensegiving, -making and -breaking will influence the process of sustainability integration in the organisation. In other words, employees’ mindset regarding sustainability has an important impact on the sustainable behaviour of their entire organisation.

Second, organisations carry a responsibility to ensure human sustainability itself. Social and human sustainability are aimed at preserving our social and human ecosystem, trying to prevent waste and damage to human beings, in addition to preserving the planet that we live on. Hence, organisations should contribute to the sustainable careers of their employees, meaning that people should be able to work in a productive, as well as in a healthy and happy way, during their entire career (Veld et al., 2015). Prior research has shown various organisational factors that impact sustainable careers. For instance, the lifelong development of people is of crucial importance given the changing nature of work (Van Merriënboer et al., 2009). Employees need to continuously develop to be able to cope with these changes and adapt to them. Therefore, investments in the lifelong development and learning of employees may be needed on top of the regular human resources practices that are being implemented by organisations. This links with the importance of individual sustainability competences (e.g. Rieckmann, 2012; Lambrechts et al., 2013; 2018; Wiek et al., 2011) that aim to enable people to cope with the complexity and uncertainty of sustainability issues. There is a need for organisations to invest in the development of sustainability competences of their employees. While these sustainability competences have been well-developed and analysed in the context of (higher) education, their integration and development in the workplace remained understudied until recently (Ploum et al., 2018; Perez Salgado et al., 2018; Lambrechts et al., 2019). Moreover, it is relevant to study the role of leaders and leadership for organisational sustainability in general, and specifically for the development of the sustainability competences of their followers (Osagie et al., 2018).

The question is, however, to what extent and how exactly organisations act on sustainability goals within their specific organizational context. What is the impact of their actions on the organisational learning processes that are taking place, as well as on the resulting outcomes in terms of innovation and performance? Organizations will need to learn how to handle sustainability issues in an integrated manner (Elkington, 2018; Visser & Kymal, 2015), especially because societal stakeholders increasingly demand transparency regarding sustainability approaches. Association by guilt might occur when an organisation teams up with a partner who is considered not sustainable (Molet et al., 2013; Veit et al., 2018), as well as association by honour or the ‘halo effect’ when partnering up with stakeholders believed to be truly sustainable (Chernev & Blair, 2015). It is important to understand how organizations can combine sustainability goals and pay attention to both the environment and people, while also remaining viable in terms of future performance. What does this mean for organizational learning? What challenges does this pose for employee behaviour and individual sustainability competences?

Against this backdrop, Sustainability is announcing a Special Issue that is dedicated to the topic of learning, resilience, and employability in organisational sustainability. This Special Issue will provide an outlet for cutting-edge research that addresses the processes through which organisations tackle sustainability issues, and the role of employees in these processes. We especially welcome submissions that explore constructive and destructive conflict cases, learning and development issues, the integral management of sustainability at different levels of analysis, and other topics that explore the learning and resilience processes that are relevant for sustainability in organisations. 

We invite both quantitative and qualitative studies, and especially seek research that uses multi-source data, incorporates multiple methods, uses multi-level analyses, and is longitudinal. In particular, we encourage submissions that address issues related (but not limited) to the following areas:

  • What issues and processes are involved in organisational change for sustainability?
  • How can organisations address the sustainable employability of their employees?
  • How can organisations develop individual sustainability competences in the workplace?
  • What employee-level factors are related to organisational sustainability, e.g., employee behaviours, such as resistance to sustainability measures or vigilance about sustainability; employee mindset about sustainability?
  • What is the role of employee empowerment in relation to organisational sustainability?
  • What is the role of processes of sensegiving, sensemaking and sensebreaking in relation to organisational sustainability
  • What is the role of the resilience of employees in relation to organisational sustainability?
  • Which are the internal and external drivers and barriers for organisational sustainability? What is their (relative) impact?
  • How can organisations ensure social and human sustainability? How can organisations contribute to the sustainable careers of their employees?
  • Which organisational factors impact sustainable careers?
  • What human resources practices are relevant for achieving organisational sustainability, how can these be implemented, and what are their effects?
  • What is the role of the lifelong development of people in organisational sustainability?
  • What is the role of individual sustainability competences for organisational sustainability? How can organisations address the development of the sustainability competences of their employees? How can we integrate the development of sustainability competences in the workplace?
  • In which way are different forms of leadership (e.g. ethical leadership; transformational leadership) related to organisational sustainability?
  • What is the role of hybrid business models and sustainable business model innovation in relation to organisational sustainability?
  • How are issues of association by guilt or association by honour related to organisational sustainability?

Contact

The guest editors are happy to discuss ideas for papers and can be emailed at the below addresses:

References

Angus-Leppan, T., Metcalf, L., & Benn, S. (2010). Leadership styles and CSR practice: An examination of sensemaking, institutional drivers and CSR leadership. Journal of Business Ethics93(2), 189-213.

Chernev, A., & Blair, S. (2015). Doing well by doing good: The benevolent halo of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(6), 1412-1425.

Elkington, J. (2018). 25 years ago I coined the phrase “Triple Bottom Line”. Here’s why it is time to rethink it. Harvard Business Review, available online: https://hbr.org/2018/06/25-years-ago-i-coined-the-phrase-triple-bottom-line-heres-why-im-giving-up-on-it. Date accessed: 11 March 2019.

Jabbour, C. J. C., & de Sousa Jabbour, A. B. L. (2016). Green human resource management and green supply chain management: Linking two emerging agendas. Journal of Cleaner Production112, 1824-1833.

Lambrechts, W., Gelderman, C. J., Semeijn, J., & Verhoeven, E. (2019). The role of individual sustainability competences in eco-design building projects. Journal of Cleaner Production208, 1631-1641.

Lambrechts, W., Paul, W. T., Jacques, A., Walravens, H., Van Liedekerke, L., & Van Petegem, P. (2018). Sustainability segmentation of business students: Toward self-regulated development of critical and interpretational competences in a post-truth era. Journal of Cleaner Production202, 561-570.

Lambrechts, W., Mulà, I., Ceulemans, K., Molderez, I., & Gaeremynck, V. (2013). The integration of competences for sustainable development in higher education: an analysis of bachelor programs in management. Journal of Cleaner Production48, 65-73.

Molet, M., Stagner, J. P., Miller, H. C., Kosinski, T., & Zentall, T. R. (2013). Guilt by association and honor by association: The role of acquired equivalence. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review20(2), 385-390.

Osagie, E. R., Wesselink, R., Runhaar, P., & Mulder, M. (2018). Unraveling the competence development of corporate social responsibility leaders: The importance of peer learning, learning goal orientation, and learning climate. Journal of Business Ethics151(4), 891-906.

Parkin Hughes, C., J.M. Semeijn, & Caniëls M.C.J. (2017). The sustainability skew. Current Opinions on Sustainability Issues, 28, 58–63.

Perez Salgado, F., Abbott, D., & Wilson, G. (2018). Dimensions of professional competences for interventions towards sustainability. Sustainability Science13(1), 163-177.

Ploum, L., Blok, V., Lans, T., & Omta, O. (2018). Toward a validated competence framework for sustainable entrepreneurship. Organization & Environment31(2), 113-132.

Rieckmann, M. (2012). Future-oriented higher education: Which key competencies should be fostered through university teaching and learning? Futures44(2), 127-135.

Scheyvens, R., Banks, G., & Hughes, E. (2016). The private sector and the SDGs: The need to move beyond ‘business as usual’. Sustainable Development24(6), 371-382.

Semeijn, J.H., Van Dam, K., Van Vuuren, T., & Van der Heijden, B. (2015). Sustainable labour participation for sustainable careers. In: De Vos, A. & Van der Heijden, B. (Eds). Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers, Chapter 10, pp.146-160. Edward Elgar Publishing, United Kingdom.

Van Merriënboer J.J.G., P.A. Kirschner, F. Paas, P. Sloep, & Caniëls, M.C.J. (2009). Towards an Integrated Approach for Research on Lifelong Learning. Educational Technology Magazine, 49(3), 3-14.

Veit, C., Lambrechts, W., Quintens, L., & Semeijn, J. (2018). The Impact of Sustainable Sourcing on Customer Perceptions: Association by Guilt from Scandals in Local vs. Offshore Sourcing Countries. Sustainability10(7), 2519.

Veld, M., Semeijn, J.H., & Van Vuuren, T. (2015). Enhancing perceived employability: An interactionist perspective on responsibilities of organizations and employees. Personnel Review, 4(6), 866-882.

Verhulst, E., & Boks, C. (2012). The role of human factors in the adoption of sustainable design criteria in business: evidence from Belgian and Dutch case studies. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 6(2), 146-163.

Visser, W., & Kymal, C. (2015). Integrated value creation (IVC): beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) and creating shared value (CSV). Journal of International Business Ethics, 8(1), 29-43.

Weick, K. E., Sutcliffe, K. M., & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the process of sensemaking. Organization science16(4), 409-421.

Wiek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development. Sustainability Science6(2), 203-218.

Prof. Dr. Marjolein Caniëls
Dr. Wim Lambrechts
Prof. Dr. Judith Semeijn
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Drivers for Sustainable Business Models in Start-Ups: Multiple Case Studies
Sustainability 2019, 11(24), 6884; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11246884 - 04 Dec 2019
Abstract
Mechanisms that large organizations employ to facilitate corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagement simply do not apply to start-ups due to distinct differences. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how start-ups strive for sustainability in their business models by investigating [...] Read more.
Mechanisms that large organizations employ to facilitate corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagement simply do not apply to start-ups due to distinct differences. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how start-ups strive for sustainability in their business models by investigating internal and external drivers related to organizational processes, managerial characteristics, and stakeholder expectations. We explored key factors such as decision-making regarding CSR engagement, business values about sustainability, entrepreneurial orientation, and the relevance of the CSR theater (philanthropic orientation, disruptive innovation, or transforming the ecosystem). Multiple case studies and interview data elucidated how start-ups engage with their community and stakeholders to determine the best approach to sustainability demands, how start-ups embed sustainability practices within their business models, and how these practices match with the entrepreneurs’ personalities. On the basis of our case studies and data analysis, we propose that the decision to engage in CSR is treated as an investment decision. The business values of a start-up determine its CSR engagement. The philanthropic drive of a start-up determines its CSR initiatives, which are then in line with the field the start-up is operating in. Entrepreneurs’ willingness to adopt CSR practices is determined by their personalities and organizational expertise and experiences. CSR engagement within the business models of start-ups is based on a combination of financial and social capital, while financial benefits act as a continuous motivator for CSR engagement from inception. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Silo-Busting: Overcoming the Greatest Threat to Organizational Performance
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6860; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236860 - 02 Dec 2019
Abstract
Most organizations are set up to operate in some form of silos, such as vertical divisions or horizontal functions. At best, silos offer a practical way for organizations to operate efficiently. At worst, they create a silo mentality where departments do not want [...] Read more.
Most organizations are set up to operate in some form of silos, such as vertical divisions or horizontal functions. At best, silos offer a practical way for organizations to operate efficiently. At worst, they create a silo mentality where departments do not want to exchange knowledge or information, hindering internal collaboration and organizational learning, thus preventing achievement of high performance and organizational sustainability. The silo mentality issue has been recognized for a long time as a real tangible problem that has to be dealt with. On the basis of a questionnaire containing statements on organizational strength, collaboration, and silo-busting techniques applied, which was distributed to a sample of mainly large companies, we found that there are five factors that are important for breaking down silos and increasing the quality of cooperation. Full article
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