Transdisciplinary research in sustainability management: Mixing methods, theories and practical learnings

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsScientific


    Research Question The paper discusses the synergies that can be achieved by doing transdisciplinary research in sustainability management and sustainability assessment. Theoretical Framework Need for transdisciplinary research in the context of sustainability management has been acknowledged in several contexts (See e.g. Gladwin et al. 1995). The aim of transdisciplinary research is to integrate knowledge from different fields, and create useful outcomes for both theory and practice (Wickson et al. 2006). Transdisciplinary approaches would be necessary for addressing the complexity related to many sustainability challenges, and for properly addressing the interlinkages between the natural and the social systems. This is crucial for sustainability management and responsibility research, which has been criticized for forgetting about the ecological impacts of its activities (Whiteman et al. 2013). Life cycle based sustainability assessment methods are specialized in studying environmental impacts and resource flows that that take place between the organizations and the natural environment. However, these studies often ignore important managerial and social aspects that are relevant for decision-making. There is a need for approaches that are able to integrate the interlinked social, environmental, technical and organizational aspects related to sustainability (See e.g. Hoffman 2003). Methods The study is based on four case studies that all deal with different sustainability challenges and aim to measure, prioritize or communicate about sustainability impacts of products and technologies. The study uses quantitative research methods (life cycle assessment and multicriteria decision-making), and applies the principles of life cycle thinking. The life cycle thinking approach is interested in human and organizational factors that affect how life cycle assessment and other methods and tools are organized and applied in organizations (Nilsson-Lindén et al. 2018).
    Findings The study shows how sustainability assessment methods can be used to collect environmental information, and to create the necessary feedback loops between the social and natural environments in which the companies operate. Thus, the study addresses some of the fundamental questions related to sustainability management. However, we must be careful on how we interpret and use that information, since sustainability requires handling paradoxes, trade-offs and uncertainty of information.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCorporate Responsibility Research Conference CRRC2019
    Subtitle of host publicationBook of Abstracts
    PublisherUniversity of Tampere
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2019
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible


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