Why do companies engage in sustainability? Propositions and a framework of motivations

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Marco F. Simões-Coelho
Ariane Roder Figueira


This article proposes a framework of corporate motivations for sustainability based on the study of sustainability engagement most prevalent in the different UN-defined macro-regions. Four main motivations were uncovered in the literature: Legitimacy — the perception that the actions are appropriate within a system of norms and beliefs; Market Success — increase in turnover, brand equity, or innovation due to sustainable practices; Process Improvement — sustainability-oriented optimization of processes; and Social Insurance — preemptive insurance against reputation or goodwill losses. Field articles were selected via a bibliometric review to develop the propositions. They indicate which motivations are of more academic concern in general and in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern America, and Oceania. Legitimacy appears as the most prevalent motivation, followed by Market Success. More developed regions tend to have more studies on Market Success, while Social Insurance seems linked to less developed markets, where corporations must provide access to needs beyond their business.


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Simões-Coelho, M. F., & Figueira, A. R. (2021). Why do companies engage in sustainability? Propositions and a framework of motivations. Brazilian Administration Review, 18(2), e190042. https://doi.org/10.1590/1807-7692bar2021190042
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