AMP Call for Special Issue Papers: Digital Sustainability

AMP@aom.org

Submission deadline: 15 May 2023

Digital Sustainability:
Addressing Managerial, Organizational, and Institutional Challenges


Guest Editors:

AMP Associate Editor:

Background

Contemporary firms are under increasing pressure to deliver above and beyond profit, and to operate in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner (e.g., Bansal, 2005; Seelos & Mair, 2007; Elkington, 2018). At the same time, organizations of all sorts are exhorted to engage with digital technologies and, in consequence, have to transform their business models to remain viable (e.g., Lanzolla et al., 2020; Bonnet & Westerman, 2021). While organizations are, in general, accustomed to dealing with global pressures (e.g., Höllerer et al., 2017), these recent pressures are substantive and frequently viewed as conflictual and complex (e.g., Greenwood et al., 2011; Meyer & Höllerer, 2014), if not paradoxical (e.g., Smith & Lewis, 2011). And yet, the response to these global pressures may become positively intertwined—synergistic—when systematically converging on the challenge. It is in this way that an emerging group of scholars (e.g., Stuermer et al., 2017; Tirabeni et al., 2019; Pan & Zhang, 2020; George & Schillebeeckx, 2021, 2022; George et al., 2021, 2022; Bohnsack et al., 2022; Pan et al., 2022) and practitioners (e.g., World Economic Forum, 2021; IBM, 2022; McKinsey, 2022) has been coining the term ‘digital sustainability’ to identify the substantial potential of digital technologies and industry 4.0 in contributing to organizational- and society-level sustainability goals. It has been suggested that the transformations that are currently orchestrated utilizing digital technology—such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)—can contribute to sustainability goals by reducing cost, waste, information asymmetries, inequality, and risk of injury (Birkel & Müller, 2021; Tim et al., 2021). Equivalently, sustainability goals may prompt the use of digital technology. We here define digital sustainability as an organization’s ability to advance the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) through the effective deployment of digitally enabled resources and solutions. Digital sustainability promotes processes through which an organization conceptualizes and implements digital transformation and sustainability as core synergistic components that guide the entirety of their business activity. The intertwined character is crucial: Digital sustainability combines the sustainability imperative with the digital imperative (George et al., 2021; Pan & Zhang, 2020).

Conceptually, digital sustainability sits at the intersection of two issues recently dominating public discourse: sustainability and digital technology (Stuermer et al., 2017). The literature on sustainability is vast (e.g., Bansal & Roth, 2000), and the literature on digital transformation substantive (e.g., Wessel et al., 2021). For many academics and practitioners alike, these two topics have remained distinct. However, a literature combining the two as synergistic components of business, or organizational, activity has been emerging recently across various domains of scholarly inquiry (e.g., Pan & Zhang, 2020; George & Schillebeeckx, 2021; George et al., 2021; Mair & Gegenhuber, 2021). Importantly, this opens up abundant opportunities for multi-disciplinary research into the critical and necessarily intertwined roles of digital technologies in achieving SDGs, and into understanding the organizational and institutional factors that influence the ongoing and successful transformation towards digital sustainability—including the various forms of ‘institutional work’ required (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006).

However, digital sustainability is a new trajectory rather than some kind of endpoint. During the current ‘sustainability revolution’, organizations are not only challenged to leverage digital technologies to address SDGs as such, but also to adapt to radically shifting consumer preferences, novel stakeholder demands, as well as new waves of competition—in addition to radical ruptures in the global institutional fabric (Hwang & Höllerer, 2020). Organizations will need to re-imagine and re-invent themselves to capture the opportunities of digital sustainable innovation—transforming existing operations, business models, products, and even culture to survive and prosper (e.g., Tirabeni et al., 2019; Criado-Perez, 2022). Many substantial challenges exist—at multiple levels of analysis—in understanding how digital sustainability emerges and is cultivated, managed, and maintained. The various forces and their consequences entail managerial, organizational, and institutional aspects that are in urgent need of clarification and conceptualization. This Academy of Management Perspectives Special Issue aims at capturing this theme (and the various managerial, organizational, and institutional challenges that come with it) ‘in the making’—and, with this, at a consolidation of conceived knowledge so far, including important policy implications. It is in this way that it provides a unique opportunity at the forefront of one of the arguably most dramatic transformations of the global business landscape in the years to come, and to be inspired by empirical examples, current developments, and contemporary ways of theorizing them. Consistent with the mandate of Academy of Management Perspectives (Markman & Wood, 2022), we aim to promote the understanding of intertwined digital and sustainability activity in organizations, and the development of actionable principles that guide behavior and governance across multiple levels of analysis.

For this Special Issue, we encourage organization and management scholars to address the various challenges outlined above through the development of research that attempts to further investigate and better understand digital sustainability as well as its consequences from varied theoretical perspectives and levels of analysis. We see that organization and management scholars have much to contribute in these domains, and we believe that this Special Issue can be a space for reflection, for investigation, and for sowing the seeds for both future research and robust action to meet the demands of the times ahead for our societies and organizations. We see strong potential for research from multiple perspectives, and therefore welcome submissions grounded in all research traditions and methodologies. Our key goal in the Special Issue is to bring together the most advanced scholarship that is able shed new light on managing, organizing, and governing for digital sustainability.

Below, we offer initial thoughts on possible questions and opportunities. However, we wish to stress that this list is not meant in any way to narrow our collective vision. In the spirit of robust academic engagement that is participatory and multi-vocal, and that builds on and contributes to engaged scholarship, we encourage innovative, thoughtful, provocative, as well as critical submissions from scholars at all stages of their academic careers. 

Key Topics

The following exemplary questions might inspire submissions to this Special Issue:

  • How could we more comprehensively understand, conceptualize, and measure digital sustainability?
  • What are the sustainability imperatives for organizations in the digital age? What are the key antecedents (or predictors) of digital sustainability in managerial and organizational practice?  
  • What managerial skills and tools are needed for the challenges of digital sustainability? How are relationships in multi-team systems and external ecosystems organized for digital sustainability?
  • What are the organizational practices that enable and facilitate successful digital sustainability transformation?
  • What is the influence of business model design on digital sustainability? How can organizations make effective use of sustainable innovation to create value? How is business strategy conceptualized and communicated when implementing a digital sustainability strategy? Unintended consequences? 
  • What mechanisms explain social and institutional change in the context of digital sustainability, and which institutional infrastructure is needed for successful digital sustainability transformation?
  • How do place-based and cultural dynamics affect action and possibilities for digital sustainability? Multilayered processes for dealing with trade-offs and resistance in the face of digital sustainability? 
  • What are examples of novel forms of organizing around the challenges of digital sustainability?
  • What resources and capabilities influence successful transformation towards digital sustainability?
  • What does it take to make digital sustainability a taken-for-granted imperative of organizations?
  • How do organizations and phenomena born in the digital era relate to issues of digital sustainability?
  • Consolidating what is known about digital sustainability, as well as what has been learned about digital and sustainability independently, what are key debates and critical research questions that remain?

Manuscript Submission and Paper Style

All submissions should follow the author guidelines as per the Academy of Management Perspectives website.

Submitting authors are reminded that the Academy of Management Perspectives seeks manuscripts that advance theory and contribute to the development of policy (broadly defined). We welcome conceptual and empirical papers—in particular manuscripts based on qualitative methodology—but note that the Academy of Management Perspectives is neither a theory-testing nor a mathematical modeling journal. 

Submissions to the Academy of Management Perspectives should: (a) explore connections between scholarly enquiry and policy; (b) summarize and edify theoretical and applied research that has a relevance to understanding applied management, theory, and policy; (c) fundamentally be based on well-established evidence, rather than opinions; (d) raise the standards of debates in terms of rigor, and increase the impact and involvement of the scholarly community; (e) build foundational research agendas and inform policy in doing so.

Important Dates (Provisional)

  • Submission deadline: May 15, 2023. The submission portal will be open May 1–15, 2023 (https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/amp)
  • Paper Development Workshop for manuscripts with revise and resubmit decisions: Planned for October 19-20, 2023 at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
  • Publication of the Special Issue: Planned for early/mid 2025

We welcome informal enquiries relating to the Special Issue, proposed topics, and potential fit with the Special Issue objectives. Please direct any questions on the Special Issue to markus.hoellerer@unsw.edu.au or any of the Guest Editors.

References

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Bansal, P., & K. Roth (2000). Why companies go green: A model of ecological responsiveness. Academy of Management Journal 43(4), 717-736.
Birkel, H., & J.M. Müller (2021). Potentials of industry 4.0 for supply chain management within the triple bottom line of sustainability: A systematic literature review. Journal of Cleaner Production 289, 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.125612
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Bonnet, D., & G. Westerman (2021). The new elements of digital transformation. MIT Sloan Management Review, 62(2), 82-89.
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