A1 Journal article (refereed), original research

The dark side of sustainability orientation for SME performance

Open Access hybrid publication

Publication Details
Authors: Kautonen Teemu, Schillebeeckx Simon J.D., Gartner Johannes, Hakala Henri, Salmela-Aro Katariina, Snellman Kirsi
Publication year: 2020
Language: English
Related Journal or Series Information: Journal of Business Venturing Insights
Volume number: 14
eISSN: 2352-6734
JUFO-Level of this publication: 1
Open Access: Open Access hybrid publication


This article examines how a firm’s willingness to make trade-offs that
favour sustainability over commercial goals attenuates the relationship
between firm-level sustainability orientation and subsequent
performance. The hypothesis development draws on stakeholder theory and
the literature on mission and revenue drifts, while the empirical
analysis is based on two waves of original survey data on Finnish
manufacturing SMEs. We find that sustainability orientation is
positively associated with performance only when the willingness to make
sustainability trade-offs is low, whereas the relationship becomes
negative when the willingness to make such trade-offs is high. Our
findings thus suggest that the popular adage of doing well by doing good
might only hold if doing good does not conflict with business
interests. The results add to stakeholder theory by showing how
conforming to stakeholder expectations can be good for business – but
only if doing so does not seriously compromise the pursuit of profits.

Last updated on 2020-21-09 at 12:17