Sustainability Strategies as Indicators for Corporate Success

In the context of the GOLDEN Observatory P. Snoeren and M. Zollo are currently investigating what factors distinguish organizations capable of both high social/environmental sustainability performance and short-term economic performance from those who are not. From the analysis of 10,022 sustainability initiatives carried out by large companies operating in the electric utility sector, evidence has been found that firms that excel in short term financial and in environmental and social performance do not only exert higher efforts in terms of the number of sustainability actions, but also target different stakeholder groups and different societal issues.

In addition, and most importantly, firms that do well on both accounts are also more likely to undertake initiatives oriented to internal operating change, rather than externally oriented stakeholder management. When subdividing internal change into initiatives aimed toward adapting current processes and those aimed toward adding new products, the data shows that companies capable of both short-term financial performance and long-term sustainability performance emphasize the adaptation of current processes to integrate sustainability vis-à-vis new sustainable product development.

For more information on this project please contact Maurizio Zollo or Peter Snoeren.

GOLDEN Paper accepted in Journal of Change Management

The Complexity of Wicked Problems in Large Systems Change

S. Waddock, G. Meszoely, S. Waddell & D. Dentoni


Purpose:  This paper extends and elaborates the notion of successful organizational change to incorporate the concept of large system change, by developing a framework that brings together complexity and wicked problems theories to understand how individual organizations and change agents can better influence large system change. 

Design:  This conceptual paper integrates wicked problems and complexity theories to understand and cope with large system initiatives from the perspective of change agents in organizations, and uses the case of the electricity system as an illustrative example for these concepts. 

Findings:  The paper provides implications for large systems change and action steps for change agents in organizations, arguing that by understanding change initiatives through the lenses of complexity and wicked problems, change agents are likely to be more effective. 

Research Implications:  The integration of complexity science and wicked problems underpins the development of a comprehensive framework for creating effective large system change solutions, however, these ideas still need to be grounded in practice and empirical research. 

Practical Implications:  Using these ideas, change agents in organizations can enhance their influence and use the power of system dynamics to support positive action for sustainable change.  This paper provides a foundation to help think through the cross-sectorial, inter-organizational, and change dynamics involved in large system change efforts needed to bring about a more sustainable, secure, and equitable world for all.

If your are interested in this paper please contact Steve Waddell.


The 31st Annual Conference of the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) takes place in Athens July 2-5 2015. It is the third year in a row that researchers connected to GOLDEN contribute to the EGOS conferences with an entire track related to the research questions of the GOLDEN program. This year, for our subtheme on Challenging Unreflective Organizational Life: Innovating towards Sustainable Enterprise Models (co-chaired by Stefano Brusoni (ETH Zurich), Arnaldo Camuffo and Kerstin Neumann (both Bocconi University) 19 papers were accepted for presentation. Moreover, we will be organzing a joint panel discussing together with the subtheme on “Responsible Leadership” on the role of corporate leaders in driving sustainable change in organziations and society.

For more information see the program of the subtheme please click here or contact Kerstin Neumann.

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