Making sense of sustainability work: A narrative approach

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Management, 2021, 46, (4), pp. 740-760
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Corporate sustainability is a priority for organisations, but the nature of the enabling intra-organisational activities, processes and managerial agency is not well understood. In this study, we examine the activity and agency of corporate sustainability managers through a narrative approach and the novel theoretical lens of ‘sustainability work’: purposeful and strategic activities to shape the social-symbolic context such that social and environmental outcomes are prioritised. Analysing how individuals across a range of diverse organisations and industries frame their activity, we identify three overlapping and co-occurring broad subsets of sustainability work: goal-directed, other-directed and self-directed. Through our notion of sustainability work, we contribute by recasting managerial agency in the enabling of sustainability as occurring in the social-symbolic realm and highlighting the implications in both theory and practice for the professionalisation of sustainability. JEL Classification: M10, M14
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