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What are the environmental capabilities, as components of the sustainable intellectual capital, that matter to the CEOs of European companies?

Elisabeth Albertini (Sorbonne Business School, Paris, France)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 12 April 2021



Environmental capabilities, allowing companies to carry out their productive activities in ways that limit damage to natural environment, are at the heart of the fourth stage of research in intellectual capital. Accordingly, the purpose of this research is to explore firm's current environmental capabilities, disclosed by managers through corporate messages, that participate to the development of sustainable intellectual capital (SIC).


With this in mind, we first conducted a lexical content analysis followed by a thematic content analysis of 241 letters to shareholders from the CEOs of major European companies published in 2016.


The lexical content analysis reveals that managers of major European companies have developed green alliances to address the energy transition challenge by modifying their manufacturing processes. The thematic content analysis of the CEOs discourse highlights that managerial competencies, continuous innovation and stakeholder integration are key environmental capabilities that matter to CEOs.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to the fourth stage of research on IC highlighting the environmental capabilities and resources that are disclosed by companies in their corporate communication. Our results enhance the understanding on how environmental capabilities and resources enhance the human, organizational, technological and relational sustainable intellectual capital.

Practical implications

This research highlights the importance of green alliances that allow companies to address the challenge of the ecological transition. In this context, the continuous innovation capability seems to be a fruitful way of gaining competitive advantage in this challenge.


This paper provides a detailed description of the environmental capabilities that participate to the development of the human, technological and relational SIC.



This work was funded by the French accounting standard setter as part of a research project programme on intangibles.


Albertini, E. (2021), "What are the environmental capabilities, as components of the sustainable intellectual capital, that matter to the CEOs of European companies?", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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