Mapping 70 years of advancements in management research on sustainability

Should Sustainability Management be a distinct field in management studies? Co-author¬†Nicholas Palaschuk¬†and I argue YES in our latest study “Mapping 70 years of advancements in management research on sustainability“, now published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Sustainability management literature – though nascent – is highly impactful. Of the +46,000 management studies we examined, just 800 (1.71%) speak to sustainability. However, these studies are more frequently cited, indicating a growing appetite for sustainability research!

Though both fields are rooted in a common language, interdisciplinary research maps expose where the fields differ. Sustainability management focuses more on real-world pragmatism and may thus be better suited to addressing the science-practice gap.

Institutional, stakeholder, and resource-based theories dominate sustainability management literature. However, the field may benefit more by drawing from emergent hybrid approaches and transdisciplinary schools of thought.

On the Sustainable Development Goals – there is an over-emphasis on the environmental dimensions of sustainability at the expense of social issues. In several instances, sustainability management research fares even worse than its conventional counterpart.

We hope our study informs emerging sustainability researchers on where the field of sustainability management is and may go!