Reframing Business Sustainability Decision-Making with Value-Focussed Thinking

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Per definition business sustainability demands the integration of environmental, social, and economic outcomes. Yet, managerial decision-making involving sustainability objectives is fraught with tension and the way managerial decision-makers frame sustainability issues in their mindset influences how sustainability tensions are managed at the organisational level. In the bid to better understand what types of managerial mindsets, or cognitive frames, foster integrative business sustainability practices that simultaneously advance environmental, social, and economic objectives, extant research has focussed on the underlying logics that drive the acknowledgement of sustainability tensions. However, the existing logics-based constructs do not sufficiently explain this link, and it has been suggested that managers perceive and manage sustainability tensions based on the values that they hold. To clarify the roles of managerial values and logics as antecedents in business sustainability decision-making, we integrate Keeney’s value-focussed thinking approach with managerial and organisational cognition perspectives. Drawing on data from a survey with 169 senior procurement managers in Australia we found three types of cognitive frames which demonstrate that stronger sustainability values are associated with a more holistic perception of sustainability tensions and vice versa. We also found that managers’ cognitive framing of sustainability is strengthened by more holistic organisational cognitive frames and discuss according implications for managerial decision-making in theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)441-456
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 11.2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V.

    Research areas

  • Business sustainability, Cognitive frames, Decision-making, Holistic thinking, Value-focussed thinking
  • Management studies