Tensions and outcomes in corporate sustainbility: The moderating role of paradoxical frame

Simone Carmine, Valentina De Marchi

Producció científica: Article en revista indexadaArticleAvaluat per experts

4 Cites (Scopus)


Tensions are an unavoidable experience for companies dealing with social and environmental issues because of their inherent complexity and diversity. Paradox and sustainability literature are proposing the crucial role of cognitive frames in effectively managing sustainability tensions. Indeed, denying and suppressing them can spur vicious downward spirals that paralyze actions, reduce their effectiveness, or lead to unintended consequences. On the contrary, recognizing the interrelation and the persistence of opposing sustainability elements and accepting the inherent conflicts can generate virtuous cycles, where the potential of these tensions is released and superior outcomes achieved. Existing literature is providing the first qualitative empirical evidence regarding the potential of a paradoxical cognitive frame for corporate sustainability. However, research on the role of paradox as organizational cognitive frame in fostering sustainability outcomes is still underdeveloped, and moreover, quantitative research to make such evidence more generalizable is missing. Therefore, this study aims at quantitatively investigating whether organizations embracing paradox as collective frame – i.e. accepting contradictions by accommodating competing yet interrelated elements simultaneously, and continuously integrating them – to address sustainability tensions are able to improve their sustainability outcomes – i.e., going beyond compliance in limiting their impact on social and natural systems and preventing social and environmental crises. Based on original survey data regarding how firms perceived the experience of sustainability tensions, how they frame such tensions, and how they perceived their social, environmental, and financial outcomes, results reveal that framing sustainability tensions as paradoxes fosters firms' social and environmental outcomes; however, they also highlight the limitations of this approach. Indeed, a paradoxical organizational cognitive frame supports companies in achieving higher social and environmental outcomes, but not economic ones. Thus, this research contributes to paradox literature by providing a better understanding of the role and the nature of paradox as potential organizational frame to cope with sustainability complexity.

Idioma originalAnglès
Número d’article134952
RevistaJournal of Cleaner Production
Estat de la publicacióPublicada - 20 de des. 2022
Publicat externament


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