Publication Details

Maletic, M., Maletic, D., Dahlgaard, J. J., Dahlgaard-Park, S. & Gomiscek, B. 2014, 'Sustainability exploration and sustainability exploitation: from a literature review towards a conceptual framework', Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 79, pp. 182-194.


Theoretical and empirical research often points to a positive relation between corporate sustainability and organisational performance; however, attempts to conceptualise the multi-dimensional nature of sustainability practices are rare in the current literature. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to present a conceptual framework to aid in understanding and explaining the relationship between sustainability practices and organisational performance. The concepts of exploitation and exploration are adopted to distinguish between different types of sustainability practices. The research model is then analysed in terms of different outcomes related to sustainability performance, quality performance and business performance. Based on an interdisciplinary perspective, this paper suggests a new approach for the discussion of corporate sustainability and its implications for the organisational context. The results of the research suggest that the organisation may place a stronger focus on developing new sustainabilitycentred competencies when it is faced with an uncertain and rapidly changing environment. In contrast, efficiency and responsiveness to various stakeholders' expectations and demands might dominate in highly competitive environments. The primary conclusion of this paper is that the alternative relationships between sustainability practices (exploitation and exploration) and organisational performance depend on different factors, including environmental uncertainty, competitiveness, long-term orientation and institutional approaches. These arguments indicate that managers in resource-constrained contexts may benefit from focusing on the management of trade-offs between sustainability exploration and sustainability exploitation demands; however, for long-term success, the simultaneous pursuit of exploration and exploitation is both desirable and necessary.



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