Sustainability in Business: Integrated Management of Value Creation and Disvalue Mitigation

Publikation: Beiträge in SammelwerkenLexikonbeiträgeForschung


Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of current and future generations while operating in the safe ecological space of planetary boundaries. Against this background, companies can contribute to sustainability in both positive and negative ways. In a world of scarce resources, the positive contribution of businesses is to create value for diverse stakeholders (i.e., goods in the actual sense of good services and things with value) without social shortfalls or ecological overshooting with regard to planetary boundaries. Yet, when value-creation processes cause negative social or ecological externalities, companies create disvalue for current or future stakeholders, thus undermining sustainable development. Sustainability in business therefore aims at the integrative management of value creation and disvalue mitigation. Various institutions, such as sustainability laws as well as quasi-regulatory and voluntary sustainability standards, aim at providing an enabling environment in this regard yet are often insufficient. Corporate sustainability therefore calls for proactive management. Neither value nor disvalue fall from heaven but are rather co-created or caused through the interaction with stakeholders. Transforming from unsustainability to sustainability thus requires transforming the underlying relational arrangements. Here, market and non-market stakeholder relations need to be distinguished. In markets, companies transact with customers, employees, suppliers, and financiers who typically have voluntary exchange relationships with the firm. As a result, stakeholders can use the exit option when the relationship causes them harm. Companies therefore need to know and respect their value-creation partners, their potential contributions, and above all their needs. Sustainability can influence these market relationships in two ways. First, as sustainability addresses environmental, social, and ethical issues that are otherwise often overlooked, sustainability can relate to specific goals and motivations that stakeholders pursue when they care about these matters. Second, sustainability can be linked to transaction-specific particularities. This can be the case when sustainability features lead to information asymmetries, higher transaction costs, or resource dependencies. Non-market relationships, however, can differ in that stakeholders are involuntarily affected by the firm. In many cases, such as environmental pollution, stakeholders like local communities experience disvalue but cannot simply walk away. From a sustainability perspective, giving voice to non-market stakeholders through dialogue and participation is therefore crucial to identify early-on potential issues where companies cause disvalue. Such a proactive dialogue does not necessarily present a constraint that limits value creation in the market. Giving a voice to non-market stakeholders can also help create innovations and mobilize valuable resources such as knowledge, legitimacy, and partnership. The key idea is to find solutions that create value not only for market stakeholders but also for a larger circle, including non-market stakeholders as well. Such stakeholder business cases for sustainability aim at the synergistic integration of value creation and disvalue mitigation.
TitelOxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management
HerausgeberRamon J. Aldag
Anzahl der Seiten24
VerlagOxford University Press
ISBN (elektronisch)9780190224851
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 28.06.2021