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Disrupting the Status-Quo of Organisational Board Composition to Improve Sustainability Outcomes: Reviewing the Evidence

Kim Beasy () and Fred Gale ()
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Kim Beasy: College of Arts, Law & Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7005, Australia
Fred Gale: College of Arts, Law & Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7005, Australia

Sustainability, 2020, vol. 12, issue 4, 1-18

Abstract: Sustainability, conceptualised as the integration of economic, social and environmental values, is the 21 st century imperative that demands that governments, business and civil society actors improve their existing performance, yet improvement has been highly fragmented and unacceptably slow. One explanation for this is the lack of diversity on the boards of organisations that perpetuates a narrow business, economic and legal mindset rather than the broader integrated values approach that sustainability requires. This paper presents a systematic review of the literature investigating how board diversity affects the sustainability performance of organisations. Our review uncovers evidence of relationships between various attributes of the diversity of board members and sustainability performance, though over-reliance on quantitative methodologies of studies reviewed means explanations for the observed associations are largely absent. Limited measures of sustainability performance and narrow definitions of diversity, focused predominantly on gender, were also found. Important implications from the study include the need for policy responses that ensure boards are diversely composed. We identify that more qualitative investigations into the influence of a broader range of types of board diversity on sustainability performance is needed, along with studies that focus on public sector boards, and research that takes an intersectional understanding of diversity.

Keywords: organisational boards; sustainability performance; diversity; gender (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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