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Developing a comprehensive business case for sustainability: an inductive study

Neetu Yadav ( Birla Institute of Technology and Science , Pilani, India)
Nandakumar Mankavil Kovil Veettil ( Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode , Kozhikode, India)

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 12 March 2021




In this paper, the authors argue that there is a flip side to the business-and-sustainability relationship, which deals with how sustainability affects management practices. The so-called first-class leading companies in sustainability have put sustainability at the centre of strategic planning and defined their business case for sustainability. This paper aims to analyse these companies on sustainability imperatives and propose a comprehensive framework for developing a business case for sustainability.


This paper investigates the sustainability strategies and initiatives of six leading global firms (Nike, Unilever, Siemens AG, General Electric, Interface and Walmart). It provides insights into how leading firms have developed a comprehensive business case for their sustainability initiatives and are enjoying a competitive advantage. The inductive approach, using the case method and interpretive structural modelling, is used to propose a comprehensive framework for defining the business case for sustainability that might help other organisations do well by doing good and create sustainable value.


The success stories of the chosen organisations reaffirm that there is a business case for sustainability initiatives and efforts, as companies derive long-term benefits and also enjoy a competitive advantage. Other firms, which are yet to pave their paths towards sustainability, have a lot to learn from these successes.

Practical implications

The conceptual framework proposed in this paper will be very useful for organisations that are still on the path to establishing a business case for sustainability as there is a lot to learn from the first-class companies practising sustainability and learn from their reflection and experience.


The study in this paper contributes to the existing knowledge base by presenting a comprehensive list of sustainability imperatives that helps an organisation define the business case for sustainability and proposes a conceptual framework in this direction.



Yadav, N. and Mankavil Kovil Veettil, N. (2021), "Developing a comprehensive business case for sustainability: an inductive study", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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