The cultural framework for sustainability
Over the past few decades, the concept of sustainability has gained in popularity in Western economies. Now in 2021, companies are keen to integrate sustainability principles within their corporate values and daily activities. And to the questions “What is sustainability?” or “How can we make our business more sustainable?” there is no straight-forward answer. Sustainability is about finding a balance between your social, environmental and economic impacts. It is a concept that can be applied to all areas of life and all business activities.
Inspired by the Scandinavian corporate culture when I first moved to Sweden in 2012, I examined the correlation between business culture and sustainable development within a society. In this article, CSC Consulting is introducing an organizational culture model for sustainable businesses, and exploring the universality of this model to all organizations across the world. What are the limitations of this model? What challenges can organizations face in its implementation?
The role of organizational culture in Sustainability
Corporate culture is defined as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.” (Schein, 1985). The corporate culture is naturally shaped, based on the leadership style, the attitude and beliefs of the employees, and the country in which the organization is evolving, among other factors. Once the corporate culture is in place and implicitly accepted by all members of the organization, it becomes more and more challenging for entrepreneurs and managers to keep control of its components and drive them towards the direction of their choice. However, there are tools and techniques that help shift the organization's culture. Certain aspects of the culture can boost and encourage sustainability. Such elements have been researched and analysed by academics and professionals all over the world, and we have gathered them under a single cultural framework.
To illustrate the framework for sustainability organizational culture, CSC Consulting is using the cultural web analysis tool (Johnson and Scholes, 1992).
Applicability of the model
Applicability is relative. Typically, professionals with broader and more diverse experience are more aware of the subtleties of cultures. They have witnessed that some managerial practices are dominant and more effective in particular contexts, defined by the regional environment, the size of the company, the leadership style, the industry within which it performs, and many more factors. In this context, the level of complexity in the implementation of new managerial practices within organizations can vary, with other factors acting either in favor of or against those. For this reason, the diversity of experience of the respondents was crucial in our study and monitored all along the data collection phase.
CSC Consulting’s model is determining the optimized framework for an organizational culture which can boost the integration of sustainable development within all areas of the society. Our purpose is to help managers worldwide to adopt innovative, modern and sustainable management practices.
Coming soon: CSC’s recommendations to sustainability leaders
Come back next week for some tips and advice on how to implement each of the cultural elements of this model!