Sustainability and Transformational Change: A Review, Conceptualization, and Empirical Investigation

Anne Quarshie

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Sustainability has become an important research field in business and management research, and scholars from multiple disciplines have covered a broad range of topics concerning (corporate) sustainability over the past several decades. Nevertheless, important gaps still exist in the understanding of how multinational and other firms can sufficiently address and be part of the solutions to significant global sustainability challenges and other 'wicked' problems related to them. As a large share of the existing research on sustainability has focused on relatively incremental or mainstream corporate activities and approaches toward sustainability, which mainly seek to reduce some of the environmental, social and economic harms that firms are connected to, we still remain somewhat limited in our knowledge of more transformational efforts toward true sustainability. A key purpose of this doctoral dissertation is to advance a scholarly understanding of transformational change as it relates to multinational corporations (MNCs) and other firms in the context of sustainability. Specifically, the dissertation addresses the question of how firms can bring about or participate in transformational change that pursues sustainability; within their own organizations and/or as part of broader networks and systems. The three essays that are included in this dissertation each contribute to this general theme and more specific scholarly conversations within the interdisciplinary (corporate) sustainability research field. The first essay presents an extensive, systematic review of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature related to supply chains. The essay identifies and establishes the urgent need to further study transformational corporate sustainability efforts. The developed future research ideas include suggestions for investigating transformation within organizations as well as across supply chains and networks. Essay two explores the theme of transformational change toward sustainability more in-depth, and develops a conceptual framework of four corporate approaches to change toward sustainability. Two of these approaches concern transformational change, internally and externally to the firm. Lastly, essay three is a qualitative study of systemic (or transformational) change of broad organizational systems. Our investigation is conducted in the context of the United States national disaster preparedness system, and Hurricane Sandy in particular. The paper seeks to advance a scholarly understanding of the connections between cross-sector social interaction and significant change of broad systems. In sum, this doctoral dissertation and its three essays are intended to bring us closer to a scholarly understanding of transformational change toward greater sustainability, as well as to contribute to more sustainable and responsible business practice by globally operating firms.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Salmi, Asta, Thesis Advisor
  • Fey, Carl, Thesis Advisor
  • Mäkelä, Kristiina, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7331-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7330-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • sustainability
  • corporate social responsibility
  • transformational change
  • radical change
  • systemic change
  • supply chain management
  • multinational corporations
  • disaster response

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainability and Transformational Change: A Review, Conceptualization, and Empirical Investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this