A Literature Review of Inter-Organizational Sustainability Learning

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Sustainable development goals (SDGs) have become increasingly important for today’s firms as they build sustainability strategies that integrate SDGs into their core activities. Addressing these goals collaboratively, in line with SDG 17—partnerships for the goals, has gained momentum, hence the growing literature on sustainability-oriented partnerships. However, addressing SDGs through partnerships is not straightforward. For firms, contributing to SDGs through alliances and partnerships requires building environmental capabilities and embracing new value frames; in other words, going through the complex process of inter-organizational learning. This paper reviews the literature on sustainability-oriented partnerships with a focus on the inter-organizational learning process. As a result of the review, a model of inter-organizational sustainability learning is presented. This model captures the di erent levels and types of the inter-organizational learning process; partner and partnership characteristics that impact learning; the environmental conditions that set the conditions for learning to take place; the catalyst and inhibitors of learning; and finally outcomes of learning. This model expands and re-organizes the existing scholarly conversation about inter-organizational learning in the context of sustainability-oriented alliances and partnerships and o ers a learning-based understanding of sustainability partnerships to practitioners. Based on the review, the paper proposes ideas for future research and contributes to the development of a future research agenda in the area of sustainability-oriented alliances and partnerships.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4876
Number of pages52
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Capabilities
  • Collaboration
  • Frames
  • Inter-organizational learning
  • SDGs
  • Sustainability


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