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Sustainability managers or rogue mid‐managers? A typology of corporate sustainability managers

Kevin Tang (Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia)
David A. Robinson (Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia)
Michael Harvey (University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, USA and Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




This paper aims to look into the motivations of managers to commit their time and energies to look at environmental, social, and ethical issues. In short, this research set out to answer the following research questions: What are the different types of change agents for sustainability, in terms of their existential needs? What are the motivations and frustrations faced by sustainability managers as change agents? and How are the motivations and frustrations of sustainability managers framed by the sources of meaning in their life and work?


As the research is still at an exploratory stage, a qualitative methodology was adopted. This methodology was also appropriate for the purpose of this research, which was focused on studying how meaning emerges and changes in situated organizational settings. The authors were engaged in 27 value‐laden semi‐structured interviews where they were looking to build a close relationship between the researcher and what was studied. The interview process was divided into three phases to ensure the planning and validity of the process.


It identifies four such categories of sustainability managers, those being Scientist, Messenger, Artist and Storyteller. The findings suggest the key role of expertise, empowerment, values, inspiration, strategic thinking and social contribution as key meaning for these managers. The empirical findings help build on understanding of the different psychological dimensions of corporate sustainability management, and provides a useful tool for developing effective organizational leadership, enhancing recruitment and retention of sustainability talent, and improving individual and team performance for key sustainability growth.


This research has helped to deal application of existential psychology theories to complement corporate sustainability. The findings more or less confirm the usability of major existential psychology theories to find sources of motivations of sustainability managers.



Tang, K., Robinson, D.A. and Harvey, M. (2011), "Sustainability managers or rogue mid‐managers? A typology of corporate sustainability managers", Management Decision, Vol. 49 No. 8, pp. 1371-1394.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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