Definitions of the phases in the development of corporate sustainability

Excerpt from Dunphy, D. C., Griffiths, A., & Benn, S. 2007. Organizational change for corporate sustainability: a guide for leaders and change agents of the future. (2nd ed. ed.) Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Routledge, pp. 24 – 29.

Ecological Sustainability
  • the environment is regarded as a ‘free good’ to be exploited;
  • hostility towards environmental activists and to pressures from govt and others aiming for ecological sustainability;
  • pro-environmental action is seen as a threat to the university;
  • no responsibility taken for the environmental impact of its ongoing operations;
  • does not modify operations to lessen future ecological degradation.
  • the ecological environment is not considered to be a relevant factor in strategic or operational decisions, financial and technological factors dominate business strategies to the exclusion of environmental concerns;
  • environmental resources which are free or subsidized (air, water, etc) are wasted and little regard is given to environmental degradation resulting from activities;
  • environmental risks, costs and imperatives are seen as irrelevant or are not perceived at all.
  • financial and technological factors still dominate business strategies but senior mgt seek to comply with environmental laws and to minimize the university’s potential liabilities from actions that might have an adverse impact on the environment;
  • the most obvious environmental abuses are eliminated;
  • other environmental issues that are unlikely to attract litigation or strong community action are ignored.
  • poor environmental practice is seen as an important source of avoidable cost;
  • ecological issues that generate costs are systematically reviewed so as to reduce costs and increase efficiencies;
  • there may be some active involvement in a systematic approach (i.e. TQM ISO 14001);
  • environmental issues are ignored if they are not seen as generating avoidable costs or increasing efficiencies.
Strategic Proactivity
  • proactive environmental strategies supporting ecological sustainability are seen as a means to produce competitive advantage;
  • product redesign is used to reduce material throughput and to recycle;
  • the university seeks competitive leadership through spearheading environmentally friendly products and processes.
Sustaining and integrated
  • the university becomes an active promoter of ecological sustainability values and seeks to influence key participants in the sector and society in general;
  • environmental best practice is espoused and enacted;
  • the university assists society to be ecologically sustainable and uses its entire range of products and services to this end;
  • is prepared to promote positive sustainability policies on the part of governments,
  • the restructuring of markets and the development of community values to facilitate the emergence of a sustainable society;
  • nature is valued for its own sake.


Human Sustainability
  • Employees are regarded as a resource to be exploited;
  • health and safety features are ignored or paid  lip service to;
  • force, threats of force and abuse are used to maintain compliance and workforce subjection;
  • training costs and expenditure on personal and professional development are kept to a minimum;
  • community concerns are rejected outright.
  • Financial and technological factors dominate business strategies to the exclusion of most aspects of HRM;
  • IR/ER strategies dominate the human agenda, with ‘labour’ viewed as a cost to be minimized;
  • HR strategies are directed at developing a compliant workforce;
  • any training agenda centres on technical and supervisory training;
  • broader HR strategies and issues of wider social responsibility and community concern are ignored.
  • Financial and technological factors still dominate business strategies but senior mgt view the university as a ‘decent employer’;
  • emphasis is on compliance with legal requirements in IR, safety, workplace standards, etc;
  • HR functions such as training, IR, organizational development, TQM are instituted but there is little integration between them;
  • compliance is undertaken mainly as a risk-reduction exercise;
  • a policy of benevolent paternalism is pursued with an expectation of employee loyalty;
  • community concerns are addressed only in the face of risk of prosecution or negative publicity.
  • There is a systematic attempt to integrate HR functions into a coherent system to reduce costs and increase efficiency;
  • people are viewed as a significant source of expenditure to be used as productively as possible;
  • technical and supervisory training is augmented with interpersonal skills training;
  • there is careful calculation of cost-benefit ratios for HR expenditure to ensure efficiencies are achieved;
  • community projects are undertaken where funds are available and where a cost benefit to the university can be demonstrated.
Strategic Proactivity
  • the workforce skills mix and diversity are integral aspects of corporate and business strategies;
  • intellectual and social capital used to develop strategic advantage through innovation;
  • recruiting best talent and developing high levels of competence in individuals and groups;
  • emphasis is placed on product and service innovation and speed of response to emerging market trends;
  • flexible workplace practices are part of the workplace culture leading to more balanced lives;
  • communities are taken into consideration and initiatives to address adverse impacts on them are integrated into corporate strategy;
  • the university views itself as a member of the community and contributes to it by offering resources for projects that promote community cohesion and well-being.
Sustaining and integrated
  • the university accepts responsibility for contributing to the process of renewing and upgrading human knowledge and skills formation in the community and society generally and is a strong promoter of equal opportunity, workplace diversity and work-life balance;
  • adopts a clearly defined corporate ethical position based on multiple stakeholder perspectives and seeks to exert influence on the key participants in the sector and society in general to pursue human welfare, equitable just social practices;
  • people are seen as valuable in their own right.