Chapter 2: Sustainability agency in business: an interdisciplinary review and research agenda
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Tackling sustainability challenges requires the engagement of multiple business actors. Yet, in order to understand the relation between business and sustainability, there is need to appreciate the role of actors and their agency in shaping this relation. While there is research on sustainability actors and their agency in business contexts, this research is scattered and fragmented across journals and disciplines. To take stock of this subject matter, in this chapter, we review extant research on sustainability agency across the sustainability transitions, management studies, as well as corporate social responsibility (CSR) streams of literature. This review leads us to observe that prior research on sustainability agency in business, across disciplines, has identified numerous types of active sustainability actors. Further, it appears that influence is their main means of action. The main contribution of this chapter is in offering a meta-review of the studies on sustainability agency in business settings across three disciplines, based on which we develop a typology of sustainability actors. Going forward, agentic practices and a more thorough micro-level appreciation of both individual-level and collective-level action formation processes deserve further attention. Moreover, our chapter is a call for further interdisciplinary integrative work on different types of actors and their agency in furthering sustainable business, and in so doing, sustainable futures.

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