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Improving companies' impacts on sustainable development: A nexus approach to the SDGS

Jan Anton van Zanten and Rob van Tulder

Business Strategy and the Environment, 2021, vol. 30, issue 8, 3703-3720

Abstract: Companies play a decisive role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, most of the world's sustainable development challenges are interconnected and systemic in their nature. How can companies ensure that their strategies effectively contribute to sustainable development? This interdisciplinary paper draws from the social‐ecological systems, corporate sustainability, and sustainability sciences literatures, in order to introduce a nexus approach to corporate sustainability. A nexus approach induces companies to assess and manage their positive and negative interactions with the SDGs—which may arise directly and indirectly—in an integrated manner. Instead of treating SDGs as isolated silos, a nexus approach aims to advance multiple SDGs simultaneously (creating “co‐benefits”) while reducing the risk that contributions to one SDG undermine progress on another (avoiding “trade‐offs”). Through managing the interactions between the SDGs, a nexus approach to corporate sustainability enables companies to improve their societal and environmental impacts. This nexus approach is a step towards developing a theory of sustainability management that helps companies improve their impacts on sustainable development. Such systemic corporate sustainability strategies are sorely needed to drive progress towards achieving the SDGs and to safeguard companies from “SDG‐washing.”

Date: 2021
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