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#SustyAcPaper 2020 n°1

This hashtag is to thrive and present one Sustainability Academic Paper to the world... hopefully per week, maybe per month, let's see.


Today, I am starting the year with the editorial "Sustainable Development for a Better World: Contributions of Leadership, Management, and Organizations", published in December 2019 in Academy of Management Discoveries.


The paper starts by reminding us that businesses were call upon for action on the SDGs in 2015: "“call[s] upon all businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges” (United Nations, 2015: 29).


The paper goes on to explain how management scholarship is uniquely positioned to analyze the SDGs:

- because we research on multiple levels of analysis (we can analyse macro-level, institutional pressures, as well as individual behavior)

-because we have multidisciplinary roots to grasp "grand challenges"


We learn that sustainable development research is not a few field, but a new research paradigm, "for it assumes a normative outcome (social equity, functioning life-support systems)". As management scholars, we must focus on "real-world puzzles", to contribute to solutions. This is consistent with the call for "responsible research (see RRBM), that thrives for "rigor and relevance in studying societally important questions".


This editorial all elaborates on the commonalities of the special issue papers, that can also be seen as specifities of SDG-lead papers:

-multilevel foci (interactions across levels of analysis)

-Conceptualizing complexity ("construction, contestation and perpetuation of meanings, actions, and arrangements")


Call for further research: the editorial challenges us to look further away from US and Europe-centered issues, saying that "problem-oriented research is accountability

to those most affected by the problems". We must go beyond the Western-bias. The second challenge is to further investigate micro-level analysis of the SDGs.


The conclusion is powerful "As such, management researchers cannot just continue “business as usual.” We have a professional duty, as social scientists, to contribute knowledge that is robust and useful for solving the world’s toughest social problems."


All quotes are from "Sustainable Development for a Better World: Contributions of Leadership, Management, and Organizations" (Howard-Grenville et al. 2019, AMD).


Linking with further research:

Accounting for the SDGs:

As far as I know, this is the first special issue on the SDGs published. However, there is a paper published in Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal (that got the Mary Parker Follett Prize for 2018) on the SDGs & accounting, and a call for paper that has gone out and is in review process. There is also a virtual SDG special issue in AAAJ.


Grand Challenges:

Ferraro, F., Etzion, D., & Gehman, J. 2015. Tackling grand challenges pragmatically: Robust action revisited. Organization Studies, 36(3): 363–390.


George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. 2016. Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6): 1880–1895.


Whiteman, G., Walker, B., & Perego, P. 2013. Planetary boundaries: Ecological foundations for corporate sustainability. Journal of Management Studies, 50(2): 307–336.

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