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Journal cover: Learning Organization, The

Learning Organization, The

ISSN: 0969-6474

Online from: 1994

Subject Area: Organization Studies

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Elements of organizational sustainability

Document Information:
Title:Elements of organizational sustainability
Author(s):Peter A.C. Smith, (The Leadership Alliance Inc., Brechin, Canada)
Citation:Peter A.C. Smith, (2011) "Elements of organizational sustainability", Learning Organization, The, Vol. 18 Iss: 1, pp.5 - 9
Keywords:Complexity theory, Corporate social responsibility, Ethics, Learning organizations
DOI:10.1108/09696471111095957 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – While the adoption of corporate social responsibility reporting has been growing, less interest has been evoked in how organizations are in fact responding to organizational sustainability, or what their relevant optimal strategies ought to be. Triple Bottom Line Sustainability (TBLS) as a desirable organizational goal is now generating some interest, and it is defined here, together with an exploration of the systemic issues which influence organizational attitudes regarding its achievement. Attention is drawn to lessons to be learned from how a learning organization, on either the local or global scale, might respond to the challenges of achieving sustainability. By exploring research and practitioner viewpoints bearing on sustainability-related promotion of organizational learning, and means to change industrial-age mindsets, this special issue aims to help organizations remove cultural and structural barriers to progressing sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach – General sustainability-related concerns and challenges are reviewed, and individual authors voice their understanding of various elements of sustainability based on their research, their case studies, and the extant literature.

Findings – Findings include enhanced understanding of how economic vested interests and political dynamics can block effective decision making in the sustainability field, even though the many sustainability experiences from around the world have provided practical means for companies to enhance their economic growth without affecting environments and communities. The impact of two different styles of leadership on the creation of a positive and a negative sustainability-enabling environment is explained, and it is suggested that having a better understanding of an organization's ability to adapt and self-regulate on crucial issues for sustainability may help to develop a path through the ongoing socio-ecological crisis. In addition, the importance of an organization having an extended view of its endeavors in corporate and business ethics is revealed. An action research study is also presented to show how organizations currently view and implement sustainability, and to identify which critical systemic components are yet to be seriously addressed.

Originality/value – The opinions and research presented provide new and unique understanding of the elements contributing to organizational sustainability. Further value is added via the assessment of progress toward the sustainability ideal, the identification of barriers, and by studying the many practical examples of means to facilitate progress toward that ideal.

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