Danubius International Conferences, 22nd EMAN Conference. Social Responsibility and Sustainability Accounting-Key Corporate Performance Drivers and Measures

Sustainability transformation of markets: How can companies contribute?

Samanthi Luisa Silva, Stefan Schaltegger
Last modified: 2018-04-05


The continuous decline of the global natural environment (Whiteman et al. 2013) makes a sustainability transition of the economy and society necessary (Markard & Hoffmann 2016). Such a transition requires support by all parts of society, including companies. A global transition includes changes in multiple dimensions (Markard et al. 2012; Nill & Kemp 2009), such as energy systems (Markard & Hoffmann 2016; Rogge & Reichardt 2016), transportation (Coenen et al. 2012), consumption and life-styles (Shove & Walker 2010) as well as product and service markets (Schaltegger et al. 2016). Looking at the market dimension, the perspective has so far often been on a high-level perspective of market dynamics (Hockerts & Wüstenhagen 2010; Schaltegger et al. 2016) or policy (Markard et al. 2012). The management perspective, companies’ decision making, and therefore companies’ contributions to a sustainability transformation of markets seem to have so far not been analysed in depth. The planned paper aims to argue that current company approaches in social and environmental management need to be related much more explicitly to global sustainability challenges (e.g. Whiteman et al. 2013) and address the larger scale of sustainability impacts companies have on markets.

In order to deduct management approaches for companies’ contributions to a sustainability transformation of markets, this paper distinguishes different sustainability transformation approaches of a company. In a market, companies (micro level according to Geels 2011; Markard et al. 2012) are one partial actor and thus part of the market. Immediate impacts through innovations in the company can be reached by internal changes. Companies furthermore interact directly with competitors and consumers (meso level) causing effects on society and for the natural environment (macro level). Direct impacts in the market can be achieved when a firm creates a positive sustainability influence on suppliers, consumers and competitors. These direct contributions extend the transformative effect beyond the organisational boundaries and include consumption patterns as well as competitive and supplier behaviour. Indirect impacts on the market can result from interactions with non-market players who shape the market framework such as international organizations and governments.

The planned paper aims to develop a framework that categorises possible management approaches aiming at sustainability transformations of markets. It draws on transition theory, where specific actors (e.g. companies) carry out activities in the system (Markard & Truffer 2008) and sustainability assessment literature, to discuss impacts (Ness et al. 2007) of these activities.



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