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Management Decision

Emerald Article: Sustainability managers or rogue mid-managers?: A typology of corporate sustainability managers Kevin Tang, David A. Robinson, Michael Harvey

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To cite this document: Kevin Tang, David A. Robinson, Michael Harvey, (2011),"Sustainability managers or rogue mid-managers?: A typology of corporate sustainability managers", Management Decision, Vol. 49 Iss: 8 pp. 1371 - 1394 Permanent link to this document: Downloaded on: 25-05-2012 References: This document contains references to 104 other documents To copy this document: This document has been downloaded 932 times.

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Sustainability managers or rogue mid-managers?

A typology of corporate sustainability managers
Kevin Tang
Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia

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David A. Robinson
Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia, and

Michael Harvey
University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, USA and Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia
Purpose This paper aims to look into the motivations of managers to commit their time and energies to look at environmental, social, and ethical issues. In short, this research set out to answer the following research questions: What are the different types of change agents for sustainability, in terms of their existential needs? What are the motivations and frustrations faced by sustainability managers as change agents? and How are the motivations and frustrations of sustainability managers framed by the sources of meaning in their life and work? Design/methodology/approach As the research is still at an exploratory stage, a qualitative methodology was adopted. This methodology was also appropriate for the purpose of this research, which was focused on studying how meaning emerges and changes in situated organizational settings. The authors were engaged in 27 value-laden semi-structured interviews where they were looking to build a close relationship between the researcher and what was studied. The interview process was divided into three phases to ensure the planning and validity of the process. Findings It identies four such categories of sustainability managers, those being Scientist, Messenger, Artist and Storyteller. The ndings suggest the key role of expertise, empowerment, values, inspiration, strategic thinking and social contribution as key meaning for these managers. The empirical ndings help build on understanding of the different psychological dimensions of corporate sustainability management, and provides a useful tool for developing effective organizational leadership, enhancing recruitment and retention of sustainability talent, and improving individual and team performance for key sustainability growth. Originality/value This research has helped to deal application of existential psychology theories to complement corporate sustainability. The ndings more or less conrm the usability of major existential psychology theories to nd sources of motivations of sustainability managers. Keywords Corporate social responsibility, Corporate sustainability, Change agents, Environmental champions, Meaning in life, Psychology, Sustainability managers, Values, Scientist, Messenger, Storyteller, Artisan Paper type Research paper

Management Decision Vol. 49 No. 8, 2011 pp. 1371-1394 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0025-1747 DOI 10.1108/00251741111163179

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Retraction notice The publishers of Management Decision wish to retract the article Sustainability managers or rogue mid-managers? A typology of corporate sustainability managers, by Kevin Tang, David A. Robinson and Michael Harvey, which appeared in Vol. 49 No. 8, 2011. It has come to our attention that a large proportion of this article (including parts of the introduction, methodology, ndings, theoretical and practical implications, and conclusions) were copied by Kevin Tang, without attribution, from an earlier article by Wayne Visser and Andrew Crane entitled: Corporate Sustainability and the Individual: Understanding What Drives Sustainability Professionals as Change Agents, which appeared on the Social Science Research Network on 25 February 2010. The co-authors, David A. Robinson and Michael Harvey were unaware of Mr Tangs actions and he has accepted full responsibility. The Management Decision submission guidelines make it clear that articles must be original and must not infringe any existing copyright. The publishers of the journal sincerely apologize to the readers and the original authors, Wayne Visser and Andrew Crane.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens (managers) can change the world; indeed its the only thing that ever has (Margret Mead).

Introduction As social and environmental issues like persistent poverty, climate change, and economic globalisation continue to become more prominent in geopolitical and economic agendas, corporate sustainability is increasingly touted as a timely and necessary response by business to these complex issues (Dunphy et al., 2003; Welford, 2007; Wheeler et al., 2003). To full this purpose, sustainability needs to take on a conceptual framework that can facilitate change in a practical and relevant way (Winn, 1995). Attention to corporate sustainability has tended to focus on how change can be achieved at the organizational level (Benn et al., 2006). Comparatively little research exists on the role of the individual manager as a change agent for sustainability (Weiss, 2003). What literature there is on corporate sustainability and the individual level typically focuses on four areas: (1) the importance of values congruence between managers/employees and organizational values (Fryxell and Lo, 2003; Hemingway and Maclagan, 2004; Van Marrewijk, 2003); (2) the instrumental association between individual concern, knowledge and commitment and corporate social and environmental responsiveness (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Keogh and Polonsky, 1998); (3) narrative accounts by sustainability managers of corporate greening (Andersson and Bateman, 2000; Prakash, 2001; Walley and Stubbs, 1999); and (4) the role of sustainability managers as champions, entrepreneurs, or agents of change in their organizations (Fineman, 1997; Georg and Fussel, 2000; Starkey and Crane, 2003).

The present literature provides insight into our understanding of managers within a corporate sustainability context by highlighting the importance of intangibles, such as values, attitudes and beliefs in driving corporate sustainability. The crucial role of education and awareness in achieving behaviour change are central to sustainability because without new knowledge managers may be forced to apply yesterdays solutions even when the problem has changed substantially. Sustainability provides perspective and the scope for managerial discretion in making change happen, the power of corporate culture in shaping a consensus story, i.e. shared understanding on sustainability. It can also harness leadership has a pivotal role to play in supporting sustainability. We still know little about what motivates individuals to be sustainability managers, sometimes without corporate direction, how this affects such individuals, and what they seek to achieve from their actions on a personal level. Moreover, the notion of sustainability champions, which is prevalent in the literature on the role of individuals in corporate sustainability, only presents a partial view of sustainability managers. What is needed is a clear picture of the psychological dimensions of sustainability managers to better understand why they act in a manner that is different from that of managers in general. To date, the literature on the psychology of sustainability has mainly focused on responses to global environmental changes (Wolff, 1998). While this is valuable, it does little to enhance our understanding of the personal motivations of sustainability managers within a corporate context. More specically, we have almost no knowledge of how sustainability-related work contributes to job satisfaction and personal meaning in a work context. This is where the discipline of comparative psychology can shed some light on the actions of sustainability minded managers. In particular, the application of psychology can begin to answer questions such as: To what extent are sustainability managers motivated by instrumental incentives, such as career advancement and salary prospects, versus more normative aspirations, such as altruism or striving to make a difference in the world? Framed more broadly, To what extent is the business case for sustainability as opposed to the moral case a driver of individual behaviour? (Smith, 1994; Tsang, 1998; Tu, 1995). Clearly, there is a compelling reason to examine these questions holistically. First, we are more likely to understand the relative contribution of corporate sustainability to an individuals overall motivation. For example, is it their all-consuming passion, or just a marginal concern? Second, we are more likely to get an insight into individuals real motivations, instead of the more predictable corporate sustainability narrative. For example, a sustainability manager may talk about how having children changes their perception of the problems facing the world, rather than how they are engaged in sustainability because they believe it is good for business (Colle and Werhane, 2008). The academic importance of this research is two-fold. First, by contributing to existing theory on sustainability practitioners, it helps to explain one of the key drivers of sustainability performance (e.g. namely the actions of sustainability managers themselves) within a signicant and growing area of academic enquiry, namely corporate social responsibility and sustainability (Alexander, 2007; Starkey and Crane, 2003). Second, the research helps to explore the appropriateness of various existential psychology theories in an applied setting. The trans-disciplinary approach of cross-fertilizing psychology and sustainability is unique and results in a new hybrid theory (Pfeffer and Fong, 2004; Starkey et al., 2004). This hybrid theory is used to develop a typology of sustainability managers in this paper. Since sustainability is

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now an industry in its own right, and a ourishing profession as well, any research that contributes to a better understanding of sustainability managers is likely to offer benets to growing numbers of practitioners. This addresses Gibbons et al.s (1994) call for doing research that is useful to practice. Corporate sustainability and at the managerial level of analysis The role of the individual manager in corporate sustainability practice is embedded in the broader literature on agency theory (Moore, 1999; Seifert et al., 2004) and moral agency theory in particular (Eisenhardt, 1989; French, 1979). Swanson (1995) refers to managers as moral actors and Wood (1991) nds that managers individual discretion is an important component of corporate social performance. Bansal and Roth (2000) notes that the beyond compliance environmental policy literature is weak on recognising internal dynamics (as opposed to external factors) and the role of individual managers (as opposed to treating rms predominantly as unitary actors). However, there are four discernible themes in the literature on corporate sustainability and the individual, namely: (1) individual values; (2) corporate social performance; (3) individual narrative; and (4) environmental champions. Each brings a different perspective to how individual commitment shapes organizational performance on sustainability. First, one set of scholars argue that the values of individuals inuence corporate social and environmental responsiveness. Prakash (2000) suggest that this is expressed mainly through managerial discretion, while Hemingway and Maclagan (2004) argue that it manifests in decision-making (e.g. providing the foundation for managers to discriminate between more and less important ecological issues), motivation (inducing certain individuals to champion ecological responses) and leadership (where top management is more receptive to ecological reforms which are aligned to their personal values). According to Hostager et al. (1998) and Starik and Rands (1995), alignment of the personal and organizational values or morals of managers reduces dissonance and therefore improves sustainability performance. The instrumental link between the attributes of individuals and corporate sustainability performance (the second theme) has been studied by Bansal and Roth (2000). Focusing on environmental entrepreneurship rather than bureaucratic change, they nd that it is personal commitment, dened as both a process and a resultant through which organizational members display environmental concern that results in change. Such conceptual links made with the entrepreneurship literature are perhaps unsurprising. For example, Posner and Schmidt (1993) developed a model for environmental intrapreurship that illustrates how ability, efcacy (perceived ability), motivation and desirability (perceived motivation) affect the successful identication of sustainable options/opportunities. Sharma (2000) similarly claim that individuals bring critical ideas and energy to the greening of their organizations and stress individuals innovative resources in terms of ideas that can increase ecological sustainability. Some researchers have gone so far as to label this phenomenon enviropreneurship (Saiia et al., 2003; Tang et al., 2010).


Like Saiia et al. (2003), Menon and Menon (1997) also focuses on individual commitment to the environment, but these researchers view sustainability from the perspective of the emotional meanings that managers attribute to greening. Hence, sustainability can be seen as an individual narrative account, which is the third theme in the literature. This reinforces Hostagers (1998) proposition on values alignment, since meaning is also shaped by the values embodied in individual and organizational narratives (Keogh and Polonsky, 1998). It also introduces the importance of corporate culture and education in creating a consistent narrative on sustainability that individuals can tap into or align with. In this way, greening becomes a sense-making process, in which organizational members individual and collective identity is gradually transformed (Andersson and Bateman, 2000, p. 175). Hence, individual commitment becomes a two-way process, informing organizational greening but also informed by the changes in an organizations response to sustainability. Those managers with the highest level of commitment to sustainability have been classied in the literature as environmental champions, the fourth theme. Menon and Menon (1997) dene an environmental champion as someone who can attractively express a personal vision about environmental protection that is in tune with both industrys needs and wider public concern. This literature tends to focus on the attributes of effective champions, such as the ability to identify, package and sell environmental issues (Godfrey and Hatch, 2007; Hall, 2006; Stern, 1992; Tang et al., 2010). Hence, from the sustainability literature a multi-faceted picture of what shapes individual commitment to sustainability can be constructed. However, with the exception of the discussion on values alignment, this still does not provide us with insights into the motivations behind manager commitment to sustainability. Research to date has been fairly descriptive, rather than explanatory, suggesting an unmet need to understand the psychological drivers of individual commitment to organizational sustainability. Although psychological perspectives on sustainability more broadly have begun to emerge (Post and Altman, 1994; Visser, 2008), research on the role of the individual in corporate sustainability as yet only makes implicit use of psychological concepts, such as the literature on managers value congruence (Andersson and Bateman, 2000; Crane, 2000; Howard-Greenville and Hoffman, 2003) and emotional subtexts (Post and Altman, 1994). However, literature that applies psychology directly as an aid to understanding corporate sustainability and sustainability managers remains extremely limited (Fineman, 1997). The research in this paper addresses this weakness by using insights from psychology to extend our knowledge of corporate sustainability managers as individuals. Psychology of the sustainability manager Existential psychology literature has emerged over the past 50 years, as practising psychiatrists have made meaning in life central to their psychotherapy approach. Collectively, they are regarded as belonging to the existential psychotherapy school (Crumbaugh and Maholick, 1964). Today, meaning in life is associated with a number of related concepts, including happiness (Reker and Wong, 1988), life goals (Battista and Almond, 1973), life regard (Ryff, 1989), life satisfaction (Reker and Wong, 1988), purpose in life (Frankl, 1964), self-transcendence (Zika and Chamberlain, 1992), sense of coherence (Tait et al., 1989) and wellbeing (Antonovsky, 1979).

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The literature on meaning in life can be characterised as positive scholarship, a recent strand in organizational theorising (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Hemingway and Maclagan, 2004; Posner and Schmidt, 1993). More specically, scholarship on meaning in life falls into three broad areas: (1) scientic studies on the clinical or therapeutic applications of existential psychotherapy; (2) positivist research to model and quantify meaning in life and its associated variables; and (3) interpretive literature seeking to give descriptive and normative accounts of meaning in life. In general, each category has a different focus. The medical science research tends to be concerned with diagnosing pathologies and testing the effectiveness of associated therapeutic techniques. The positivist research typically strives to measure the level of experienced meaning in life and whether there are causal or associated factors. And, the interpretive research is mostly trying to understand the qualitative experience of meaning and the contexts, which shape that experience. The rst category (clinical applications) is not directly relevant to this paper. Of the other two categories, the positivist research is more dominant in the literature and provides some insights into sources of meaning (Yalom, 1980), while the interpretive research adds qualitative depth to our understanding of sources of meaning and crucially also discusses contexts that shape meaning in life (Wong, 1998). By way of summary, Table I shows that signicant overlap exists between the sources of meaning identied by three leading existential psychology theorists, Wong (1998), Frankl (1964) and Yalom (1980). What is an interesting derivative of this review of the literatures on corporate sustainability and existential psychology is the emergence of linking themes, especially those of values and self-transcendence. Values appear in many of the normative conceptualisations of corporate sustainability (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Hemingway and Maclagan, 2004; Posner and Schmidt, 1993), as well as being discussed in the context of congruence between managerial and organizational values (Ehrenfeld, 2000; Welford, 2004; Wheeler et al., 2003). Likewise, Wong (1998) states that positive life meaning is related to, among other things, strong religious beliefs and self-transcendent values. Yaloms (1998) research also nds that religion and values are signicant sources of meaning in life, represented by statements like the following in
Paradigm/author Goal fullment Existential need Spirituality Metal ideal Wong Achievement Relationship, intimacy Religion Self-transcendence Fair treatment Frankl Creative values Being values Ultimate meaning Self-transcendence Attitude Yalom Self-actualisation, hedonism, creativity Intimate relationship Cosmic meaning Altruism, devotion to a cause Devotion to a cause

Table I. Comparison of theories on sources of meaning

Personal ethos

Source: Frankls (1964), Yaloms (1980), Wong (1998)

his Personal Meaning Prole: I believe that human life is governed by moral laws; and I seek higher values values that transcend self interests (Yalom, 1998, p. 138). Self-transcendence is also common to both literatures. For example, Patterson and Watson (1996, p. 18) conclude that sustainability is aspirational in nature, a meta-ideal, one inherently infused with societal values of justice, integrity, reverence, respect, community and mutual prosperity. Wong (1998), on the other hand, emphasises responsibility as central to the idea of deriving meaning from making a social contribution. Frankls (1964) Personal Meaning Prole includes self-transcendence statements like: I believe I can make a difference in the world; I strive to make the world a better place; it is important that I dedicate my life to a cause; I make a signicant contribution to society; and I attempt to leave behind a good and lasting legacy (Frankl, 1964, p. 148). These insights and linkages provide a useful platform from which to explore and understand the existential drivers of corporate sustainability managers. In particular, they set the stage for asking the following research questions: . How do different types of change agents for sustainability, differ in terms of their existential needs? . What motivates and frustrates sustainability managers as change agents? and . How are the motivations and frustrations of sustainability managers shaped by the sources of meaning in their life and work? Methodology In order to address these research questions, a qualitative approach was adopted, drawing on the narrative and life-history techniques (Denzin, 1998; Guba and Lincoln, 1994; Janesick, 1998). Qualitative methods were well-suited to the type of research being conducted, which was largely exploratory, involving inductive reasoning and theory building. It was also appropriate for the research objectives, which were focused on studying how meaning emerges and changes in situated organizational settings (Stake, 1998; Strauss and Corbin, 1998). Here, we were engaged in a value-laden inquiry where we were seeking to build an intimate relationship between the researcher and what was studied (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005). Signicantly, although positivist-based quantitative research has been dominant in the existential psychology eld, we considered a qualitative approach to be consistent with the subjective and socially constructed epistemology adopted by several key scholars in meaning research (Frankl, 1966; Yalom, 1980) and in organizational sustainability research (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Moon et al., 2005; Sharma, 2002). The life-history method of data collection refers to the ways in which individuals account for and theorise about their actions in the social world over time (Cohen, 2003, p. 10) audit was therefore a natural choice for the type of research enquiry being undertaken. Cohen (2003) notes that the life history method is particularly relevant if the research requires an understanding of the motivations and inuences that organizational leaders, or specic groups, bring to bear on organizations. In order for research participants to feel comfortable to share highly personal information about how they found meaning in their life, a high level of rapport, trust and credibility was critical (Eisenhardt, 1989; Glaser and Strauss, 1967). In-depth interviews with 30 sustainability managers across a diverse set of organizational and professional contexts in Australia, including business associations, large and small consultancies and

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companies from the real estate industry. The intimate approach to the interviews was consistent with the beliefs of most qualitative scholars (Esterberg, 2002; Miller and Glassner, 1997) and so-called research romantics, who emphasise interactivity and closeness to interviewees seen as participants (Guba and Lincoln, 1994, p. 14). Similarly, Strauss and Corbin (1998) suggest that attempting to preserve the distance and hierarchy between interviewer and interviewee makes for poor interviews, since researchers cannot expect intimacy if they are not willing to reciprocate. The sample included sustainability managers from corporations (19), consultancies (nine) and government agencies (two). There was a spread of seniority, from executive directors (six) and senior managers (12) to middle managers (seven), junior managers (nine) and consultants (two). There was also a range of working experience, with respondents having worked on average for 18.5 years (minimum ve years, maximum 38 years) for an average of two organizations (minimum one, maximum six). Their average working time in the sustainability eld was 8.5 years (minimum one-and-half years, maximum 20 years). The majority of the managers described their roles in terms of sustainability (20) or sustainable development and environment (18), although other labels such as corporate governance, occupational health and safety, social responsibility, social investment, public relations, business ethics, corporate affairs and public relations were also used. Data was gathered in three phases. In the rst phase, a pilot interview, resulted in the original unstructured interview approach being modied to a semi-structured format for the second phase, as well as the introduction of two psychometric meaning in life questionnaires as an orientation technique. These additions were made after the pilot interview revealed that some participants experienced difculty understanding what was meant by meaning in life. The second phase involved conducting 30 in-depth interviews with sustainability managers from the nineteen organizations, guided by thematic questions on personal meaning and corporate sustainability. The incorporation of two psychometric tests or diagnostic questionnaires was not to obtain quantitative data for statistical analysis, but rather to introduce participants to the way in which some existential psychologists discuss meaning in life, as well as to stimulate reection on how meaning applied to their own life. Participants were free to question, criticise and discuss the questionnaires during the interview. In the third phase of data gathering, second interviews were conducted with twelve of the original thirty participants from phase 2. The purpose of the third phase was to present the initial ndings, including the meaning framework which was developed out of Phase 2, in order to obtain feedback and add more depth to the data through further discussion. When the interviews were transcribed and analysed, the interview content was coded using an inductive approach, i.e. there was no pre-determined structure imposed on the data or preconceived categorical coding, but rather themes were allowed to emerge from reading of the transcripts (Fontana and Frey, 1994; Taylor and Bogdan, 1984). This resulted in the identication of 72 themes, which were then grouped into six sources of meaning and four types of sustainability manager as depicted in Table II. These were presented to participants in the Phase 3 interviews for their critical comment, ultimately resulting in a revised framework, comprising six sources and four contexts of meaning, with the typology remaining unchanged. This remainder of this paper focuses on presenting the typology.

Constellation of meaning


Storyteller People empowerment Group or team

Messenger Strategic input Organization

Artist Societal contribution Society Community development, social change

Primary source of Specialist input meaning Level of concern Source of work satisfaction Skills Knowledge Legacy Individual Personal development, quality of input

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Staff development, Organizational development, effective strategic change facilitation

Technical, process Managerial, facilitation Specialist Successful work projects Generalist Staff or teams achievements

Visionary, political Collaborative, questioning Key players, future trends Organization or industry transformation Community or macro needs Sustainable environment and equitable society Table II. Summary features of the four types of sustainability managers

Findings From the interviews in this study, four distinctive types of sustainability manager emerged, in terms of their meaning-driven role as change agents. A type is essentially a collection of attributes associated with sources of life satisfaction. Each type The Storyteller, The Artist, The Scientist and The Messenger represents a relative constellation of meaning or centre of gravity for meaning in the sustainability managers work, i.e. the mode of operating in which they felt most comfortable, fullled and satised. Figure 1 visually represents the idea that people derive meaning from a variety of sources. The conceptual model is depicted as having two axes, being continua, namely the horizontal-axis (technical detail-strategic vision) and vertical-axis (entrepreneurial facilitator-servant like collaboration). The types are then depicted in each of four quadrants. The relative size of the shaded boxes simply indicates how much meaning the individual derives from each type. Hence, in the case depicted in Figure 1, there is an assumption of perfect balance, although the authors do not imply such a state exists or that it should be regarded as an ideal. Every category is a combination of traits that have been pooled and identied. Therefore, it is highly likely to nd managers with inter-related traits but they are unlikely to hold all the traits of any one type. The typology is also non-exclusive, in that individuals are likely to obtain their meaning from sources relating to more than one type, rather than exclusively one or another. This is consistent with major existential psychology theories (Frankl, 1965; Wong, 1998; Yalom, 1980). What identies someone as a particular type, therefore, is the weight of emphasis, or the strength of attraction, associated with a particular constellation of meaning relative to the others. Table II introduces the comparative features of the four types, each of which is the described and illustrated in more detail in the sections to follow. The identied sustainability managers are visually represented in Figures 2-5 (note that for each type, the relative weights of the other three quadrants are arbitrarily depicted).

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Figure 1. Four types of sustainability manager

Figure 2. Scientist type sustainability manager

The Scientist The rst type of sustainability manager is the Scientist, depicted visually in Figure 2. The Scientist typically derives satisfaction from developing and offering specialist, technical input and conscientiously bringing a project to fruition. This source of

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Figure 3. Storyteller type sustainability manager

Figure 4. Messenger type sustainability manager

meaning echoes (Battista and Almond, 1973) notion of work serving as a way for individuals to formulate their unique contribution in relation to society. For example, one participant believed his work fullled a specic need in the market, saying: I actually found a niche so to say as an environmental scientist.

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Figure 5. Artist type sustainability manager

To illustrate further, another Scientist-type sustainability manager explained: There were a couple of projects that I did nd very exciting . . . to get all the bits and pieces in place, then commission them and see them starting to work. Another said: I usually get that sense of meaning in work when Ive completed a particular task, for example a Sustainability Report, Ive really put in a lot and here it is. Or you have had a series of community consultations and you now have the results. In the general sense then, Scientists nd their motivation through engaging with projects or systems, giving expert input, focusing on technical excellence, seeking uniqueness through specialisation, and deriving pride from their problem solving abilities. The sense of fullment from being able to give specialist input as a sustainability manager manifests through the achievement of specic tasks or completing projects (Frankl, 1966). Underlying this seems to be a motivating concern with quality improvements in processes or products. For example, one sustainability manager explained: If I look at the products we have, the feed-stocks, [I think] how we can improve this thing to become cleaner, more efcient? I like it when something works well, its optimal and it has an inherent quality in it. Frustrations for scientists arise when their expertise is not appreciated or their advice not heeded. One sustainability manager commented thus: You feel frustrated when you think out of the box and you want to implement something new like we want to implement a software system to help us on the management side of an EMS [environmental management system] and you can run into a brick wall of resistance . . . That puts a big boulder in the way and sometimes, you say, You keep asking yourself if it really worth doing? Storyteller The second type of sustainability manager is the Storyteller, depicted visually in Figure 3. Storytellers typically derive meaning in sustainability work from empowering

other people. People empowerment draws on relationships as source of meaning (Frankl, 1964) and could also be seen as a manifestation of altruism or self-transcendence (Wong, 1998). This aspect of self-transcendence is particularly clear in the way one sustainability manager of a large mining company reected on his achievements: Its hardly the individual successes along the way, professionally, that really mean much to one except the difference one has made to peoples careers, peoples lives and to developing people. It seems thats much more of a lasting type of fullment. Furthermore, one Storyteller-type sustainability manager said: If you enjoy working with people, this is a sort of functional role that you have direct interaction, you can see people being empowered, having increased knowledge, and you can see what that eventually leads to. Another explained: Training is something that I always look forward to, where I get the opportunity to work with a group of people to interact with people at a very personal level. You can see how things start to get clear for them, in terms of understanding issues and how that applies to what they do. Common themes among Storytellers are the derivation of motivation from transferring knowledge and skills, focusing on people development, creating opportunities for staff, changing the attitudes or perceptions of individuals, and team building. Consistent with their role as a team leader, Storytellers relish group learning contexts. One talked about getting people to think through things differently . . . Its the teaching and the enlightenment . . . seeing people come in with one set of views and leaving with different set of views. And you think, That has been important. Storytellers are typically more sensitive to interpersonal dynamics and this can also lead to frustration. A manager of a large business ethics consultancy recounted: When people let you down, its always sobering [or] when someone is dishonest with you, or is really just so negligent that they let the whole team down. Another pointed to interpersonal conicts in the workplace as a frustration: It demoralizes people [and] it becomes very tight and difcult. Messenger The third type of sustainability manager is the Messenger, visually represented in Figure 4. Being a Messenger, draws on elements of dedication to a cause and/or the company as well as creative values as sources of meaning (Battista and Almond, 1973; Wong, 1998). It also links strongly with the literature on social and environmental champions (Sharma, 2002), especially descriptions of their ability to identify, package and sell sustainability ideas (Bird and Smucker, 2007) and their reliance on being able to inuence top management (Fineman, 1997). One sustainability manager, who spent many years leading a business association, reected that the most rewarding part of it has been seeing the progression in companies . . . in terms of creativity around addressing social and environmental problems. Another, who headed the safety, health and environmental department of a major company, saw his most rewarding task as identifying all these values which I consider important and then building it into a strategic focus area. For instance, one Messenger-type sustainability manager involved in safety, health and environmental corporate policy claimed: The type of work that Im doing is . . . giving direction in terms of where the company is going. So it can become almost a life purpose to try and steer the company in a direction that you believe personally is right as well. Another suggested: I like getting things changed. My time is spent trying to inuence people. The real interesting thing is to try and get managing directors, plant managers, business leaders, and sales guys to think differently and to change what they do.

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Other messengers emphasised the satisfaction to be derived from inuencing the companys leadership. Referring to one case where he had to persuade the CEO to invest substantially in tackling waste water management, one manager recounted that it was satisfaction not just in terms of me getting something, but the sort of tangible commitment from the executives saying we are going to do business differently . . . this actually makes business sense, this is part of our values, this is what we are about. For Messengers, motivation is associated with initiating change, giving strategic direction, inuencing leadership, tracking organizational performance, and having a big-picture perspective. The frustrations for Messengers are typically related, as one put it, to the speed at which I would like to move [rather] than the normal rate and the concomitant level of conict. Whilst trying to be a change agent, they often nd that you think that youve got messages across and then nd that it just hasnt happened, or its died a death in the cascading process. For one sustainability manager, the frustration was so acute that he confessed that its time to jump ship and actually drive something where you leave a legacy behind. Artist The fourth type of sustainability manager is the Artist, represented visually in Figure 5. Artists derive meaning from their perceived role in improving the lot of others at a broad societal level. There is a strong link here between corporate sustainability and existential psychology theory in terms of self-transcendence. For example, Miller and Glasner (1997) talk about the life satisfaction people derive from leaving the world a better place to live in, serving others, [and] participation in charity (the greatest virtue of all) (431). Similarly, Ryff (1989) claims that many people look for new meaning potentials in work that benet his co-workers, minority groups he identies with and causes he considers worth supporting (Miller and Glassner, 1997, p. 316). One Artist-type sustainability manager said: I remember one hardcore poor condition that I witnessed in one of my work assignment overseas. You dont realise how fortunate you are until you see their living conditions, and you start asking question like: How fortunate am I? The other manager suggested: My goal is to assist others in one way or another and hoping that this will set a good example for my future generations to adopt. One Artist-type in our study cited a case where he had investigated worker abuse, which resulted in the working conditions being improved for over 5,000 workers. He recounted: I took great pride . . . I can go back to a workplace and people say, Ever since you come on board theres been a change, were now being treated properly, and get rewarded for the work we do, our working environment its much better, theres fresh air and theres life, we actually enjoy it, we feel happy to come to work, and for me thats a big difference. Another manager also gave a specic example, in this case involving philanthropy: As of now, he said, were currently working on a big program where were rolling out six billion tablets to wipe out malaria in Africa . . . For sure you feel like, were making a difference. Another noted: When you slow down and reect back, Look, I made a difference today and thats amazing. For Artists, motivation comes from being aware of broader social and environmental issues, feeling part of the community, making a contribution to

poverty eradication, ghting for a just cause, and leaving a legacy of improved conditions in society. Frustrations for Artists often seem to be around the limits of their power to effect change, as compared to the scale and urgency of the problems. Or they feel that the impact of their sustainability work is too indirect to give a feeling of satisfaction. As one sustainability manager said, often its not something that we get a chance to see, or see the end product of. In some cases, there is also a sense of conict between sustainability ideals one person characterised themselves as a messenger of the community and the organizations response. We identied at the outset of this paper, that the researchers of corporate sustainability had paid little attention to date to the individual/managerial level of analysis. However, our ndings clearly nd resonance in the broader management, sustainability and psychology literatures. For example, the Messenger draws on a strategic role (Starkey et al., 2004) and applies it to sustainability through forms of change management (Walley and Stubbs, 1999). The Storyteller nds echoes in the servant leadership literature (Shrivastava, 1995a). The Artist is probably best described in the work on social and environmental entrepreneurship (Schaper and Savery, 2004; Schmidt and Radaelli, 2004) and there are glimpses of the Scientist in much of the more technical scholarship on environmental and quality management (Roome, 1999). Dynamics in the sources and contexts of meaning In the same way as sources in meaning of life can vary over the life-cycle or other changing circumstances (Wong, 1998), there is ample evidence from our data to suggest that sustainability managers default types can change as well. For some (but not all) participants, this was shaped by their changing work roles. Hence, there is a suggestion that either people are naturally attracted to roles that t with their types, or that their roles shape the meaning they derive as certain types, or perhaps both. One sustainability manager also pointed out that freedom to align with ones natural type may vary over the career cycle: One of the things that you have to bear in mind is how much individual exibility you get in working environments. I think at an earlier stage in someones career, no matter what their typology might be, they dont necessarily yet have the luxury of nding themselves in the position that gives expression to their preference. This adds some nuance to Posner and Schmidts (1993) argument that individual commitment is derived from managerial discretion towards social performance, in that discretion (and hence commitment) needs to be viewed in a temporal context. Another inuence that emerged was the organizational context. For example, one sustainability consultant, a self-declared Activist, observed that the organization dynamics of corporate require conformism to the organizational culture, which to a large degree requires maintenance of the status quo . . . this makes it difcult for Activists. This recalls some of the literature cited earlier on narrative accounts of sustainability and the importance of being in alignment with the dominant corporate narrative (Post and Altman, 1994). Some participants also related to a specic typology as an ideal or aspirational state. The notion that managers internalise the expectations of their formal job role and translate this into a meaning type, underscores the aspirational nature of sustainability itself (Prahalad and Hamal, 2000).

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Theoretical and practical implications Building on Crumbaugh and Maholicks (1964) more general work in applied psychology, the application of existential psychology to corporate sustainability managers appears to have proved fruitful. The research ndings enrich the current literature on corporate sustainability and the individual through our application of the existential psychology concept of meaning in life. In terms of the rst theme in the literature identied earlier the importance of congruence of manager/employee values with organizational values (Gardberg and Fombrun, 2006; Grayson and Hodges, 2004; Hall, 2006) our ndings conrmed such a relationship across all types of sustainability manager, showing that some are inspired by the perceived alignment between sustainability values (Andrew et al., 2005) and religious faith or personal beliefs (Frankl, 1964; Yalom, 1980; Wong, 1998), while others are frustrated in their work by the apparent contradiction between sustainability ideals and more narrow organizational goals. In particular, our research supports most of the theoretical sources of meaning in a sustainability context. Additionally, it hints at a possible enhancement to existential psychology modelling as change agency, which was strongly in evidence in our data, appears to be absent from existing theories of sources of meaning. We suggest research in further professional contexts could usefully explore and conrm the validity of this as a possible additional dimension. An important contribution of our work here is the recognition that whilst sustainability managers will be seeking a conuence of values with their organizations, such managers are not homogenous in terms of their sources of meaning. Scientists nd satisfaction from doing and achievement, Storytellers focus on relationships, Messengers on creative values and dedication to a cause and Artisans tap into their altruistic need to make a social contribution (Frankl, 1964; Yalom, 1980; Wong, 1998). With regard to the instrumental association between individual concern, knowledge and commitment and corporate social and environmental responsiveness (Alexander, 2007; Annandale et al., 2004), which was the second theme in the literature, our evidence suggests some important inuences on individual commitment, namely commitment is shaped by an individuals sources of meaning. Therefore, in order to fully understand the relationship between commitment and sustainability performance it is necessary to identify which constellations of meaning are driving individual commitment, and in which role and organizational contexts this commitment will therefore translate into improved performance. The third theme, narrative accounts by sustainability managers of corporate greening (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Keogh and Polonsky, 1998), typically focuses on the need to embed sustainability initiatives into organizational narratives oriented around the business case. Our evidence, however, suggests that the personal sense making narratives of managers are far richer and heterogeneous than these organizational narratives. These include narratives of professional accomplishment (Scientist), team development (Storyteller), organizational transformation (Messenger) and social change (Artisan). One implication of this is that emphasising the positive association between sustainability performance and nancial performance (Diamantis, 1999; Elkington, 2001), may not be sufcient to motivate sustainability managers. A second is that theories of organizational sustainability narrative may benet from attention to deeper-level personal narratives, insofar as the latter provide critical insight into the

obfuscations, diversions and psychological work involved in managers constructions of organizational narratives. The nal theme alluded to in our review of the literature, is also addressed by our research. Our ndings conrm the importance of the role of sustainability managers as champions, entrepreneurs or agents of change in their organizations (Crane, 2000; Fineman, 1996; Georg and Fussel, 2000), but suggest that different types of sustainability manager represent different modes of change agency. For example, the Scientist thrives when he/she can have an impact on projects or organizational systems and Storyteller when they can see sustainability team members or trainees change. Crucially, our ndings also demonstrate that the psychological drivers of such change agents vary, and that these drivers in turn may vary over time and context. The change agent toolbox that has been identied in the literature may therefore need to be revisited to explore how particular tools and strategies may be more appropriate for particular change agents who are seeking to derive particular types of meaning from their actions. Whereas the sustainability management role has previously been portrayed one-dimensionally (Gardberg and Fombrun, 2006), this research has show that not all sustainability managers derive satisfaction from the same things and individuals display a natural predisposition for certain role types. If individuals can match their sustainability manager roles with their meaning type, it is likely that job satisfaction, commitment, motivation and productivity will improve (Gillentine, 2006). For example, if a Storyteller-type sustainability manager is given substantial team management and employee coaching responsibilities, they are more likely to perform well than if they are designated technical tasks on a systems-oriented project (Gopinath, 2005). Likewise, Messengers have a very particular set of needs around change agency, which will benet corporate sustainability management if they are recognised and accommodated (Godfrey and Hatch, 2007). We would suggest therefore that the representation of the ndings as a typology of meaning creates a useful management tool, demonstrating various of Gummessons (1991) advantages of typologies it is descriptive, reduces complexity and allows for the identication of similarities and differences. More specically, it suggests a way for human resource managers and organizational leaders to better recognise the motivational elements of sustainability managers sources of meaning. An insight into the meaning types of sustainability managers can also improve sustainability team performance. Management literature has long recognised the importance of high performance teams (Hanson et al., 2005) and the positive impact of team diversity (Balkundi and Harrison, 2006). Henriques and Sardosky (1996) point out that team members ability and/or knowledge have been shown to play an important role in team performance (Henriques and Sardosky, 1996, p. 609). Similarly, Hopkins (2006) concludes that in innovative teams the more diverse the information and knowledge that are applied, the more novel is the output (Hopkins, 2006, p. 723). This research suggests that each different type of sustainability manager is likely to bring complementary skills and knowledge. Hence, the head of sustainability for an organization may consciously seek to balance sustainability manager types represented in the team. Another way to think about team performance is to match the roles, skills and knowledge of individual team members to the tasks that are a priority for the sustainability department. This agrees with Balkundi and Harrisons (2006) conclusion

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that task-related knowledge levels are likely to be even more important to teams (Balkundi and Harrison, 2006, p. 609). Hence, if the team has to deal a lot with operations, Scientists may bring more credibility to the sustainability function, whereas a corporate policy advisory unit may have more need for Messengers. At the level of personnel management, as corporate sustainability becomes an ever more signicant career path (Irwin, 2002), human resource departments of large companies are likely to increasingly be involved in efforts to recruit and retain sustainability managers. The literature is beginning to explore the role of existential issues in career decision-making ( Jensen and Meckling, 1976), especially as it relates to spirituality (Kirk, 1998), but to date, there has been little attention applied to the corporate sustainability context (Fineman, 2006). In order to address this, our typology could serve as the basis for the development of a psychometric diagnostic instrument not dissimiles to the indicator (Kohli and Jaworski, 1990). The benets of such tools in leadership, team building and organizational development are well documented in industrial psychology literature (Leiss, 1976), as are its limitations (Maignan and Ferrell, 2003). A nal area of application is leadership. Leaders who realise the powerful links between their companys sustainability performance and employees satisfaction may choose to emphasise their peculiar type more consciously as part of their leadership style (Mathieu and Schulze, 2006) to create a meaningful work environment. Future research could test the ndings in other socio-cultural, organizational and professional contexts, and the typology could usefully be developed into a more robust and practical management tool, including possibly a psychometric diagnostic. Conclusions In this paper, we have sought to demonstrate that the relationship between corporate sustainability and existential psychology represents an innovative, interesting and important area of cross-disciplinary research. Corporate sustainability at the level of the individual currently represents an under-researched area of scholarly inquiry, which this research has helped to address through an empirical application of existential psychology to corporate sustainability. The results largely conrm the applicability of the major existential psychology theories to the creation and maintenance of meaning in the lives of sustainability managers. They also generate a distinctive set of sustainability manager types the Scientist, Storyteller, Messenger, and Artisan as shaped by the sources of meaning in their life and work. The representation of these ndings as a typology of meaning adds to corporate sustainability theory and creates a useful new management tool. The participants have reminded us that, for many, it is fullling in and of itself simply to be engaging with such a dynamic, complex and challenging concept as sustainability. The satisfaction is huge, said one sustainability manager, because there is no day that is the same when you get into your ofce. Its always changing, its always different. Another concluded that sustainability was the epitome of meaningful work because it painted a much bigger picture and is just as holistic as you want it to be. It requires a far broader vision. This paper demonstrates that deeper investigation into corporate sustainability at the level of the individual gives us a more holistic view of sustainability management and a broader vision of why it is important.

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Further reading Crane, A. and Matten, D. (2005), Corporate citizenship: missing the point or missing the boat? A reply to van Oosterhout, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 681-4.

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Appendix. Corporate sustainability interview guide (1) What is the underlying philosophy driving your corporate sustainability (CS) activities? . Key decisions (short term and long term-1 each) or internal and external. . SBUs (Purchasing, Marketing, HR). (2) Would you say that CS has become embedded in the way you run the business or is it a separate function? What are you doing to try and embed it into the way you do business? . MACRO (compliance-based, market-based, value based). . Will regulatory and economic incentives to encourage economic development and maintain bio diversity? (3) For CS to be embedded in the organisations DNA, for a start employee has to believe in it and that it is genuine. How much are they contributors of your CS strategy and to your reporting? (4) Do you think CS is good for business or is it something that needs to be done to appease the NGOs and other pressure groups? . Some companies (if not most) are still/always caught between sustainability & protability (long term investment but short term loss). . Positive inuences (nancial benets, competitive advantage, image enhancement, stakeholder pressure, regulatory action) Negative inuences (lack of regulatory/market pressure, uncertainty, monetary bias which favour narrow, short term & economist). (5) In terms of your CS reporting initiative, how have you evolved the process to make it better and what best practices in reporting can you share with other companies that are starting on their reporting journey or want to improve on their reporting? Also, what is the one thing companies should denitely avoid in their CS reporting? . Internally (a dedicated SBU that look into Sustainability) or externally? (6) Do you think being known as a company with a strong CS culture helps you attract better quality talent to the organisation? . Green maverick or Managements role encourages/attract talent (7) Case example: Airlines industry (September 11, Iraq war, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), uncertain global economic condition) . What about real estate industry (credit crunch, rising wage costs, emission taxes, increase in material price etc? Complete this sentence. CS is not about . . .

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