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From sustainability constraints to innovation: Enhancing innovation by simultaneously attending to sustainability and commercial imperatives

Goran Calic (Department of Business, McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Hamilton, Canada)
Anton Shevchenko (Department of Supply Chain and Business Technology Management, Concordia University, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)
Maryam Ghasemaghaei (Department of Information Systems, McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Hamilton, Canada)
Nick Bontis (Department of Strategic Management, McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Hamilton, Canada)
Zeynep Ozmen Tokcan (Department of Information Systems, McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Hamilton, Canada)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 5 February 2020

Issue publication date: 21 May 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to connect the literatures on sustainability, innovation and paradox to suggest that sustainability constraints – simultaneously addressing commercial and sustainability goals – will increase organizational innovation.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing from the literatures on paradox, innovation and sustainability, the authors develop theory about how managers can deliberately enhance the generation and implementation of creative ideas within their organizations.

Findings

The authors build on the existing literature that suggests sustainability considerations should be strategically and deeply integrated elements of business activity by developing arguments about how such integration improves organizational performance. The authors argue sustainability considerations, by creating unique forms of constraints, improve organizational success by enhancing creative idea generation and implementation.

Practical implications

Even strategic leaders espousing to only maximize economic efficiency face the challenge of effectively managing sustainability constraints. The discrepancy between what they should do and the problems they face means strategic leaders often have fewer tools to manage and reflect on their own decision-making than is available in the management literature. This paper presents arguments from diverse research that describes potential decision processes and their outcomes.

Social implications

This paper highlights an important shift in how sustainability constraints are fundamental drivers of long-term organizational performance.

Originality/value

Extant literature treats the simultaneous attention to sustainability concerns and commercial success as difficult accomplishments of clever strategic leaders. Instead, the authors propose that simultaneous attention to sustainability and commercial imperatives is fundamental to long-term organizational success, because it is a powerful determinant of new products, services and business models.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the SSHRC – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant # 430-2017-00610, 2017.

Research funding: This study was funded by a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, Grant number 430-2017-00610.

Citation

Calic, G., Shevchenko, A., Ghasemaghaei, M., Bontis, N. and Ozmen Tokcan, Z. (2020), "From sustainability constraints to innovation: Enhancing innovation by simultaneously attending to sustainability and commercial imperatives", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 695-715. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-02-2019-0084

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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