Academy of Management Perspectives
Building Sustainable Organizations: The Human Factor
by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Although most of the research and public pressure concerning sustainability has been focused on the effects of business and organizational activity on the physical environment, companies and their management practices profoundly affect the human and social environment as well. This article briefly reviews the literature on the direct and indirect effects of organizations and their decisions about people on human health and mortality. It then considers some possible explanations for why social sustainability has received relatively short shrift in management writing, and outlines a research agenda for investigating the links between social sustainability and organizational effectiveness as well as the role of ideology in understanding the relative neglect of the human factor in sustainability research.
here is growing public and business interest in building sustainable organizations and increasing research and educational interest in the topic of organizational sustainability. The Academy of Management has a division called Organizations and the Natural Environment, and there are numerous journals and research papers concerned with ecological sustainability. There are growing numbers of higher education programs focused on sustainability and an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (Fountain, 2010). Marcus and Fremeth (2009) noted that this enthusiasm for what they called “green management” came from people’s expectations for how managers and the organizations they lead should conduct their business to protect the environment. As
I gratefully acknowledge the advice, encouragement, and inspiration of Nuria Chinchilla from IESE, who encouraged me to think about the issue of human sustainability in both societies and companies. The... [continues]
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