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Is foreign direct investment caring for sustainability? A look in African sub-Saharan countries

Rui Vicente Martins (School of Technology of Management, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Leiria, Portugal)
Eulália Santos (School of Education and Social Sciences, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Leiria, Portugal)
Teresa Eugénio (CARME – Center for Applied Research in Management and Economics, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria School of Technology and Management, Leiria, Portugal)
Ana Morais (ISEG – Lisbon School of Economics & Management, Universidade de Lisboa and Advance/CSG, Lisboa, Portugal)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 31 October 2022

Issue publication date: 4 September 2023




Business politics and social and economic policies in the past decades brought us to the inevitability of change. Foreign direct investment (FDI) plays a vital role in this change as it is a tool for international business management in a global world. The relationship between FDI and sustainability in sub-Saharan countries with lower incomes has not yet been sufficiently studied, so this study aims to bring some more conclusions to the discussion. Thus, the main objective is to understand if FDI effectively influences the so-called triple bottom line (TBL) pillars of sustainability.


With data from the World Bank regarding 20 sub-Saharan countries gathered between 2010 and 2018, this study analysed 34 indicators composing 11 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Afterwards, the authors grouped them by the TBL pillars and evaluated the influence of FDI inflows on their scores using panel data models.


The results show a positive and significant correlation between the TBL pillars, with the highest correlation being between the environmental and economic pillars. On the other hand, FDI has no significant influence on the TBL pillars.

Practical implications

This study could improve foreign investment legislation/regulation in sub-Saharan African countries, potentially impacting the sustainability these investments should generate.

Social implications

This study contributes to understanding how FDI implies sustainability. The results suggest that governments, non-governmental organisations and other competent entities need to adjust their actions in these countries so that foreign companies sustainably exploit the resources.


This study brings to the current arena an emerging theme: FDI and sustainability in African countries, particularly in sub-Saharan countries. This subject in developing countries is still under-researched.



An earlier version of this paper has been presented at ICARME 2022, Polytechnic of Leiria, Portugal. The authors are grateful for the comments provided by the participants in this session. The authors also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their valuable comments and suggestions provided on earlier version of this paper. This research is financed by National Funds of the FCT – Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology within the project ‘UIDB/04928/2020’ and, under the Scientific Employment Stimulus – Institutional Call CEECINST/00051/2018.


Martins, R.V., Santos, E., Eugénio, T. and Morais, A. (2023), "Is foreign direct investment caring for sustainability? A look in African sub-Saharan countries", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 978-1001.



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