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Why are Companies Doing Good, and What Good Does it Do?: A Qualitative Study of Managers' Interpretations and Drivers of Adopting Sustainable Development Practices.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Despite being a fairly new concept, sustainable development is gaining more attention from social actors. The demand on companies to incorporate sustainable development practices is therefore increasing. Previous research has emphasized that companies are influential drivers of sustainable development practices and many claim to work actively with the issue, yet few have implemented such practices to a sufficient extent. Many companies who claim to be working actively with sustainable development were found to be uncertain of what it implies. Moreover, manufacturing companies tend to be greatly dependent on the consumption of raw material, energy and waste disposals and are therefore often affected by changes associated with sustainable development. Thus, the purpose of this study is to identify what drives manufacturing companies to commit to sustainable development practices.


In the field Management of Sustainable Development, previous research has neglected drivers of sustainable development in relation to managers’ differing interpretations of the concept, constituting a research gap. It has also been suggested by previous research to investigate sustainable development from an organizational perspective, thus this study investigates individual managers’ interpretations and what drives companies to adopt sustainable development practices. The following research question has therefore guided this study:


What drives manufacturing companies to adopt sustainable development practices and how do these drivers vary depending on managers’ interpretations of the term?


In order to investigate this phenomenon and fulfill the purpose of our study, a qualitative approach was deemed most suitable. Six manufacturing companies in Västerbotten County were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. In addition, a triangulation method was used, where official and organizational documents were collected from each participating company to complement the interview data and decrease subjectivity. The analysis of our empirical data resulted in a compiled analysis of the key findings, where we found that manufacturing companies in Västerbotten perceive sustainable development as an ambiguous term and interpret it differently but consider environmental factors as a central feature of the term. Furthermore, we can conclude that the adoption of sustainable development practices is facilitated by establishing a separate sustainable development strategy or incorporating sustainable development into the company’s general business strategy. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 95 p.
Keyword [en]
Sustainable Development, Drivers, Barriers, Practices, Managers' Interpretations, Manufacturing Companies, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Stakeholder Theory, Legitimacy Theory
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-122023OAI: diva2:936572
Educational program
International Business Program
Available from: 2016-06-14 Created: 2016-06-14 Last updated: 2016-06-14Bibliographically approved

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