Sustainability is increasingly recognized as the preferred aim of organizing in environmental, economic, and social development (Dingwerth and Pattberg 2009;Jones 1996). Companies have reciprocally been promoted as responsible for their operations and management practices, specifically in relation to carbon emissions and sustainable goals (Epstein 2008;Stead, Garner Stead J and Starik 2004). Several transnational organisations construct norms and rules of sustainability, and sustainable stakeholder accounting has been proposed to be integrated in environmental accounting (Sherman, Steingard and Fitzgibbons 2002). “Corporate social responsibility” (CSR) as a means for “competitive advantage” (Porter and Kramer 2006) has also been repositioned in management journals. From CSR, “corporate sustainability” and “corporate social performance” to “environmental management”, “sustainable development” and “sustainability” (Montiel 2008). However, such academic production as well as engagement from business has not always been self-evident. There has been a discursive shift, from 1970s criticism of the economic system and its elements, to an embracement of the economic as a solution to environmental problems (Darier 1999;Feindt and Oels 2005;Hajer 1995;Luke 1997;Oels 2005). This shift has not happened instantaneously, but is constituted by a complex of knowledge production, professionals, managerial techniques, institutions and policies.
A broad aim of this paper is to trace how SM has evolved and been a constitutive part of this shift. While Sustainable Development, fostered by the 1987 World Commission on Economic Development (WCED), the United Nations interest in climate change and the Rio declaration in 1992, can be seen as a political concept, a program for change, Sustainable Management can be understood as its correlating operationalization. While SM has a longer history in natural resource management, it has more recently been integrated in business studies as strategic sustainable management (Stead, Garner Stead J and Starik 2004) or plain sustainable management (Epstein 2008). Academic research and business have together turned mitigation of environmental risks into Sustainable Management (SM) and transformed environmental problems not only into so called green business opportunities, but opportunities for new managerial techniques. The purpose is to investigate and problematize a possible conflation of SM and soft forms of Human Resource Management (HRM) that incorporates the employee both as a possible opponent and resource to sustainable goals. This includes how SM and HRM handle possible internal critique, such as ironic reflexivity against sustainable goals, as well as too radical change in the direction of these goals. While resistance to companies often is discussed as external and civic (Böhm and Dabhi), there is a need to explore the possible existence of internal environmental resistance movements.
Nordiska Företagsekonomiska Föreningen, Stockholm aug. 21-24 2011.