Call for Papers
Journal of Business Ethics
Special Thematic Symposium on
PARADOXES IN CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY: MANAGING TENSIONS BETWEEN SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Submission deadline: 30 November 2015
Tobias Hahn, KEDGE Business School, Marseille
Lutz Preuss, Royal Holloway University of London
Jonatan Pinkse, Grenoble Ecole de Management
Frank Figge, KEDGE Business School, Marseille
Background to the Special Issue
Corporate sustainability,with its interdependence betweensocial,economic and environmental dimensions, clearly is a complex concept (Bansal 2002; Gladwin et al. 1995)that entails manifold tensions (Hahn et al. 2014a). In addition to tensions between social, economic and environmental aspects, there may be tensions between the individual, the organisation and the wider social system. Moreover, incremental as well as radical change processes from currently unsustainable production and consumption patterns towards more sustainable ones lead to additional tensions. Third, tensions between social, economic and environmental aspects arise from the temporal andspatial context in which the transition towards sustainability is embedded. Many solutions to sustainability challenges require a longer time horizon than the short-term focus that corporatedecision making allows for(Slawinski and Bansal 2012); just as sustainability may have very different meanings in developed versus underdeveloped regions (Zuindeau 2007).
Much of the literature on the management of social and environmental issues proposes an instrumental logic – the business case for corporate sustainability and CSR(Carroll and Shabana 2010; Dentchev 2004; Husted and de Jesus Salazar 2006). The business case prioritises the economic dimension of corporate sustainability over the other two dimensions; it hence ignoressituations where environmental and social aspects cannot be aligned with financial outcomes. These shortcomings of the instrumental logic have more recently led to the emergence of an integrative view on corporate sustainability (Berger et al. 2007; Gao and Bansal 2013; Hahn et al. 2010). This integrative view argues that decision-makers need to embrace the tensions inherent in corporate sustainability and acknowledge the need to combine different desirable but seemingly incompatible sustainability aspects without emphasising one aspect over others.
In conceptual terms, the integrative view builds on the literature on strategic contradictions, tensions and paradoxes (Ford and Ford 1994; Lewis 2000; Poole and Van de Ven 1989). A paradox refers to a situation where two or more interrelated elements come together that are sound and accepted individually but brought together seem inconsistent or incompatible (Lewis 2000; Poole and Van de Ven 1989; Smith and Tushman 2005). The integrative view builds on paradoxical thinking to embrace – rather than eliminate – tensions (Lüscher and Lewis 2008; Smith and Tushman 2005) and argues that achieving corporate sustainability depends on the ability of management to pursue seemingly conflicting social, economic and environmentalaspects simultaneously. In their frequently used typology, Poole and Van de Ven (1989) propose that paradoxes can be managed through opposition, spatial or temporal separation or synthesis. Using an opposition – or acceptance – strategy, managers keep the paradox open and live with the tensions. By contrast, separation and synthesis seek to resolve the tension through spatial or temporal separation or – under synthesis – through the introduction of a new element that links or accommodates both poles of the tension(Poole and Van de Ven 1989; Smith and Lewis 2011).Only recently, scholars have addressed in more detail how decision-makers and organisations deal with tensions between social, economic and environmental concerns (Battilana et al. 2014; Hahn et al. 2014b; Jay 2013; Smith et al. 2013).
Types of Submissions Solicited
This Special Thematic Symposium of the Journal of Business Ethics provides an opportunity to explore the role of paradoxical management with regard to the tensions between social, economic and environmental aspects in organisations, not least to challenge the current dominance of the business case. We welcome theoretical and empirical papers from various disciplines on diverse levels and foci. The questions below are indicative of the scope of theSpecial Thematic Symposium:
- Managing with a paradoxical logic: What would different paradoxical strategies in corporate sustainability look like? How and under what conditions can tensions be temporally or spatially separated? How can decision-makers genuinely keep a paradox open and live with tensions?
- Managerial and organisational cognition: How do managers make sense of the different tensions between social, economic and environmental issues? Under what conditions can we expect paradox to be the dominant logic in an organisation to address these tensions?
- Determinants of paradoxical approaches to managing tensions in corporate sustainability: Which are the various antecedents of managers’ and organisations’ ability to deal with tensions between social, economic and environmental aspects in a paradoxical way?
- Change process: What are the dialectical interactions between evolutionary development and creative destruction? What implications does this tension have for managing opposing yet interrelated social, economic and environmental concerns?
- New organisational forms: What is the role of hybrid forms of organizing that blur the boundary between the for-profit and non-profit worlds for the management of tensions between social, economic and environmental challenges?
- Spatial and temporal tensions: How can paradoxical management help to address the tensions between opposing time frames in corporate sustainability? What are the role of and organisational responses to conflicting institutional expectations and logics behind environmental and social issues in different places?
Submissions that raise additional research questions in line with the sketched agenda are welcome.
Submission Process and Deadlines
Authors are strongly encouraged to refer to the Journal of Business Ethics website and the instructions on submitting a paper. For more details about the types of manuscripts that will be considered for publication, see
Submission to the Special Thematic Symposium – by30 November 2015 – is required through Editorial Manager at
Questions about expectations, requirements, the appropriateness of a topic, and so forth, should be directed to the editors of the Special Thematic Symposium:
Tobias Hahn ()
Lutz Preuss ()
Jonatan Pinkse ()
Frank Figge ()
Paper Development Workshop in Vancouver in August 2015
To help authors prepare their manuscripts for submission, the guest editors will hold a workshop just prior to the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Vancouver on Thursday, 6 August 2015(more details can be found here). Authors are invited to present and discuss their papers during the workshop. To be considered for the workshop, please send a short version of your paper of ca. 3000 words toFrank Figge () by Monday, 2 March 2015. Authors will be notified of the acceptance of their paper for the workshop by Friday, 13 March 2015.Presentation of a paper atthe workshop is not a precondition for submission to the Special Thematic Symposium. More information on the workshop can be obtained from the guest editors.
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