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Practicing Organization Development: Leading Transformation and Change, 4th Edition by Roland L. Sullivan, Jacqueline M. Stavros, William J. Rothwell

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Chapter NineteenSustainability and Transformational Work

What Should Business Do?

Nadya Zhexembayeva

In recent years, three big trends—declining resources, radical transparency, and increasing expectations—have redefined the way companies compete. The linear throw-away economy, in which products and services follow a one-way trajectory from extraction to use and disposal, can no longer be supported, as we are simply running out of things to unearth and places to landfill. Consumers, employees, and investors are beginning to demand socially and environmentally savvy products without compromise, while radical transparency is putting every company under a microscope.

Together, these challenges have been addressed by the global sustainability movement, which at its best calls for embedded sustainability—defined as “the incorporation of environmental, health and social value into the core business with no trade-off in price or quality—in other words, with no social or green premium” (Laszlo and Zhexembayeva 2011, 100). Yet, embedding sustainability into the core of business without compromises on price or quality requires a comprehensive business makeover. This transformation does not happen overnight, and it requires strategic and systemic change management efforts by everyone involved. Here, organization development (OD) professionals have a special role to play. So, what are the most crucial considerations for transformational work done in the field of sustainability? It boils ...

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