Edinburgh Research Explorer

Scaling sustainability from the organizational periphery to the strategic core: Towards a practice-based framework of what practitioners “do”

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Early online date20 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Mar 2020


This paper explores what sustainability managers do when attempting to scale sustainability to a strategic level within their organization. Drawing on semistructured interview data with 44 sustainability managers in large, for‐profit companies, we identify three distinct scaling microstrategies that individuals use when scaling sustainability. We label these conforming, leveraging, and shaping. Our analysis also finds that sustainability managers deploy combinations of these microstrategies in three distinct approaches, which we call the assimilation approach, the mobilization approach, and the transition approach. Finally, we interrogate the degree to which employing these different approaches achieves a peripheral, intermediate, or strategic scale of sustainability within the organizations represented in the study. Our paper contributes to theory and practice at the interface of strategy and sustainability by developing a practice‐based Scaling Approach Framework, whereby an assimilation approach is associated with organizations with sustainability at a peripheral scale, a mobilization approach is associated with an intermediate scale of sustainability, and a transition approach is associated with scaling sustainability to a strategic level. From these results, we propose a Scaling Progression Model that reflects the phases that individuals progress through when scaling sustainability.

    Research areas

  • microstrategy, scaling, scaling approach, strategy, sustainability

ID: 141851928