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Managing Corporate Sustainability with a Paradoxical Lens: Lessons from Strategic Agility

Sarah Birrell Ivory () and Simon Bentley Brooks ()
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Sarah Birrell Ivory: University of Edinburgh Business School
Simon Bentley Brooks: Swansea University School of Management

Journal of Business Ethics, 2018, vol. 148, issue 2, 347-361

Abstract: Abstract Corporate sustainability introduces multiple tensions or paradoxes into organisations which defy traditional approaches such as trading-off contrasting options. We examine an alternative approach: to manage corporate sustainability with a paradoxical lens where contradictory elements are managed concurrently. Drawing on paradox theory, we focus on two specific pathways: to the organisation-wide acceptance of paradox and to paradoxical resolution. Introducing the concept of strategic agility, we argue that strategically agile organisations are better placed to navigate these paradox pathways. Strategic agility comprises three organisational meta-capabilities: strategic sensitivity, collective commitment, and resource fluidity. We propose that strategically agile organisations draw on strategic sensitivity and collective commitment to achieve organisation-wide acceptance of paradox, and collective commitment and resource fluidity to achieve paradoxical resolution. For each of these meta-capabilities, we identify three organisational practices and processes specifically related to corporate sustainability that organisations can leverage in pursuit of strategic agility. We offer a conceptual framework depicting the strategic agility meta-capabilities, and associated practices and processes, which organisations draw on to successfully manage corporate sustainability with a paradoxical lens.

Keywords: Corporate sustainability; Paradox; Paradoxical lens; Strategic agility; Strategic agility meta-capabilities; Tensions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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