The Evolution of Thought in the Era of Embedded Sustainability
We used citation networks of ~65,000 academic works to identify clusters of sustainability research that include: 1) Strategy (includes sub-clusters of supply chains, competitive systems, and creating value), 2) Management (leadership, global ethics, and shared value sub-clusters), 3) Marketing (ethical consumers, employee, and brand/reputation), and 4) Performance (ESG, organizational, and financial). Foundational concepts formed ~1995 and by 2006, empirical studies helped shape the field. Keyword analyses showed that today sustainability is multidimensional incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) elements. Research focuses on embedding sustainability. Research propositions from citation networks include: 1) Strategy: The more embedded sustainability is in a company, the greater the benefits, including supportive stakeholder relationships, and shared value (i.e. financial benefits) across the company and stakeholders. 2) Management: Companies with sustainability-focused governance structures that foster new and unexpected leaders create shared value among stakeholders across the globe. 3) Marketing: When a company’s sustainability strategies are authentic to the brand and well-aligned with the values of consumers and employees, they are more trusting and loyal. 4) Performance: The more embedded sustainability is in a company, the more likely they will monetize how specific sustainability strategies affect financial accounting measures, including intangibles, such as risk.