A Paradox Perspective on Corporate Sustainability: Descriptive, Instrumental, and Normative Aspects

Journal of Business Ethics 148 (2):235-248 (2018)
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Abstract

The last decade has witnessed the emergence of a paradox perspective on corporate sustainability. By explicitly acknowledging tensions between different desirable, yet interdependent and conflicting sustainability objectives, a paradox perspective enables decision makers to achieve competing sustainability objectives simultaneously and creates leeway for superior business contributions to sustainable development. In stark contrast to the business case logic, a paradox perspective does not establish emphasize business considerations over concerns for environmental protection and social well-being at the societal level. In order to contribute to the consolidation of this emergent field of research, we offer a definition of the paradox perspective on corporate sustainability and a framework to delineate its descriptive, instrumental, and normative aspects. This framework clarifies the paradox perspective’s contents and its implications for research and practice. We use the framework to map the contributions to this thematic symposium on paradoxes in sustainability and to propose questions for future research.

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