To read this content please select one of the options below:

Leveraging resource ecologies for sustainability transitions – a waste management case

Rumy Narayan (School of Management, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)
Annika Tidström (Faculty of Business Studies, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 23 September 2020

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




Addressing fundamental sustainability challenges has now become strategic for multi-national corporations. However, such challenges by their very nature are complex and require resources that are frequently beyond those that are traditionally accepted as relevant and crucial to a firm’s core business operations. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how firms identify and integrate diverse groups of actors using social intelligence to build an ecology of resources to tackle these complex challenges.


The empirical part is based on qualitative single case study research of a packaging company and its waste management program.


Organizing for sustainability requires business activities to be conceptualized as a continuous process of project building, involving actors in diverse settings and responsibilities divided thematically and spatially forming nets within a network to solve problems, collectively. There is a fundamental analytical problem of integrating a diversity of value spheres, and society has a set of rational methods for planning and action where decisions are made to privilege one aspect to the exclusion of others. Artificial separation of activities that are interdependent and failure to allow these activities to evolve through interactions in time and space could threaten sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

This is a single case study within a certain context, therefore ways for orchestrating resource ecologies need further investigation.

Practical implications

For managers, it is very important to recognize and appreciate the interconnectedness of resource ecologies but also that interactions resulting in joint actions can often have different rewards and benefits for the diverse range of actors implicated in such networks. This kind of social intelligence offers managers options to experiment with transitional pathways that match the objectives of diverse network actors and provide unique resource combinations for building competitive advantage. There is only so much that is under the control of managers or even firms, which means both must embrace uncertainty and the phenomenon of emergence.

Social implications

From a societal perspective, the findings of the study show how the open and transparent activities for the sustainability of one firm spread through different layers of the society through connecting, sharing and developing resources. Therefore, it is important for societies to enable and support the open sharing of resources for sustainability. Investments in large programs for transitions to sustainability tend to spread from a focal company into various projects for sustainability involving several layers of actors within society. This ensures that awareness, behaviors and attitudes related with sustainability become rooted in society and give rise to valuable innovations.


This study illustrates how resources are created and shaped through nets during transitions toward sustainability using social intelligence.



Narayan, R. and Tidström, A. (2021), "Leveraging resource ecologies for sustainability transitions – a waste management case", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 6, pp. 881-892.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles