Contingency in business sustainability research and in the sustainability service industry: A problematization and research agenda

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


A sustainability service industry has emerged that promotes the adoption of management tools, mechanisms, and procedures. This emergence took place despite a knowledge gap of how sustainability performance occurs in businesses. To understand practices amid the knowledge gap, this article explores through problematization how the performance orientations of practitioners and researchers relate to each other in the business sustainability field. The article unearths that like the sustainability service industry in practice, scholarship implicitly accepts assumptions of contingency in research designs. Because these implicit assumptions are unattended, it seems, to date, not possible for researchers to provide evidence-based guidance to practitioners on how to address business unsustainability. In addition, basic concepts of contingency are not yet established in this field to explain performance, rendering the acceptance of corresponding assumptions unfounded. The article concludes with research suggestions for the development of theory of sustainability performance in businesses.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization & Environment
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)298-322
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 06.2021
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • contingency theory, field assumptions, problematization, sustainability performance, sustainability service industry
  • Sustainability Governance