One of the outcomes of the 2019 ARCS Focused Workshop Pilot was the Special Issue on “The Role of the Corporation in Sustainability Transitions” from Organization and Environment.
The state of the planet calls for large-scale sustainability transitions involving systemic adoption of markedly better environmental and social practices. The objective of this symposium is to better understand the role of corporations in promoting such systemic change. We present four case studies—representing diverse industries and change mechanisms—-to investigate corporate leadership in sustainability transitions. The cases examine a wide range of mechanisms used by corporations to progress toward sustainability, such as political coalition building and information strategies through eco-labels, socially responsible investing, and the public statements of CEOs. In this introduction, we discuss the challenges associated with both achieving and studying systemic change, explain the rationale for a case study approach, describe the findings from the case studies, and draw some general conclusions on the mechanisms by which firms may be able to lead, or at least participate in, systemic change in the different phases of sustainability transitions.