A cultural development strategy for a firm wishing to maximise the sustainability behaviour of its workforce
This research builds a hypothesis and a set of cultural principles upon which a firm needs to act if it wishes to move towards sustainability. It is assumed in this research that a company wishing to move towards sustainability needs to proactively address its long-term, environmental, social and financial responsibilities. As these responsibilities are continually changing over time, this research assumes that a firm needs to build a capability to respond. In order to achieve this a firm needs to maximise the behaviour and commitment towards sustainability of all its workers. The cultural principles form the basis for choosing the most appropriate organisational structure, management style, reward systems etc. to move a firm towards sustainability. The research initially develops these principles by identifying several relevant topic areas through a set of expert four-day workshops. It then explores empirical case study research findings from three U.K. best-practice firms; The Body Shop International plc, Traidcraft plc and Suma Wholefoods. These firms are defined as best-practice as they each are leading innovators within either the environmental protection or social equity fields. They each also share a top-management commitment to moving towards sustainability. The emergent hypothesis argues against using the 'unitarist' (strong) cultural, topdown approach which represents the most popular strategy of the 1980's culture writers. The three cultural principles which typify this unitarist approach are identified as leadership (values and financial), mission support and worker accountability. Similarly, the hypothesis also argues against the 'pluralist' cultural, bottom-up approach. The three cultural principles which typify this pluralist apporach are identified as participation, personal support and management accountability. Instead, the research hypothesis argues that a business should adopt an optimal combination of both unitarist and pluralist principles. This optimal combination is contingent, at any point in time, upon the firm's historical cultural approach, the extent of diversity of values and opinions amongst workers and the extent of top management commitment towards sustainability. In order to help a firm move towards its optimal unitarist-pluralist mix, two further overarching principles are also identified; worker involvement and mutual trust. It is proposed that these principles will be realised fully only when a firm's optimal mix is developed.