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After Paris: Changing Corporate Behaviour to Achieve Sustainability

Burnes B (2017) After Paris: Changing Corporate Behaviour to Achieve Sustainability. Social Business, 7 (3-4), pp. 333-357.

Purpose  The 2015 UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change set challenging sustainable development targets. The aim of this article is to examine how key organisational barriers to implementing these targets can be overcome. In particular, it draws attention to the necessity of changing corporate behaviour so that it supports rather than undermines sustainability and enables organisations to abandon profitability as their paramount goal in favour of a Triple Bottom Line approach of People, Planet and Profit.  Design/Methodology/Approach  The article uses the organisational change literature to examine key barriers faced by organisations in pursuing the UN’s sustainability goals. It draws attention to the current low level of success of most change initiatives, the need for greater stakeholder involvement in identifying how sustainability should be achieved, the development of increased change competency in organisations, and the need for more long-term, stable and consistent leadership.   Findings  The article concludes that most organisations will encounter severe difficulties in aligning their corporate behaviour with the need to achieve sustainability. In order to change successfully, they will have to create a virtuous circle of change that comprises Readiness for Change, Leadership, Participation, Goals and Tenacity. Though it is the role of their leaders to ensure that the available options and choices are identified, organisations will not be able to do this without the full participation of all the stakeholders who represent People, Planet and Profit.  Limitations  The article is based on a review of the literature on organisational change, most of which has little to say about sustainability. Therefore, though what it says about change in general is based on a great deal of theoretical and empirical evidence amassed over many decades, its applicability to sustainability has still to be empirically tested.   Implications  Regardless of its limitations, this article does indicate that unless current corporate behaviour changes, it is likely to impose severe restrictions on organisations’ ability to achieve sustainability. The article also identifies the main barriers to changing corporate behaviour and how these might be overcome.   Contribution  The article represents an attempt to examine key obstacles that most organisations will face in pursuing sustainability and how, by drawing on a wide range of stakeholders, these might be overcome.

sustainability; corporate behaviour; organisational change; Triple Bottom Line

Social Business: Volume 7, Issue 3-4

Author(s)Burnes, Bernard
Publication date30/09/2017
Publication date online12/2017
Date accepted by journal04/09/2017
PublisherWestburn Publishers
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