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Sustainability and innovation : the case of a global carpet manufacturing company.

Luqmani, Adam R. (2017) Sustainability and innovation : the case of a global carpet manufacturing company. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Sustainability requires urgent, radical innovation from the private sector. However, private sector-led sustainability which meaningfully advances social, environmental and economic goals remains a rare occurrence. Despite the potential role of balanced environmental strategies such as ecological modernisation, there remains a lack of understanding of how such theories can be translated to actions at the level of a single organisation. This thesis explores the topics of ecological modernisation, employee engagement and sustainability-oriented innovation, grounded by a case study of Interface, a global manufacturing company. The work helps to build an understanding of the practicalities of organisation-level ecological modernisation, corporate sustainability and innovation in practice. It makes use of a case study research strategy combined with a grounded theory methodological approach. Three themes; ecological modernisation, employee engagement and sustainability-oriented innovation, are discussed and are applied to the analysis of the case material. The following key findings emerge: • Ecological modernisation, a theory typically applied and discussed at the macro-sociological level, is explored at the level of a single organisation, where it is used to contextualise the actions of Interface which contribute to wider, system-level sustainable disruptions. This is found to be a useful unit of analysis compared with typical explorations of EM, and reveals a number of interesting pathways by which EM organisations might impact upon the wider system in which they operate; • Social dimensions of EM theory are discussed and explored. By considering Interface at the centre of a larger, interconnected network of actors, it is found that there are numerous dynamics at play, including the role of employees and their levels of engagement, the role of competitors and the wider industry, the role of customers and the role of suppliers; • Temporal dimensions of EM are revealed and discussed, and several barriers are shown to emerge for Interface as it progresses further into a 20-year journey towards sustainability. Most strikingly, the low-hanging fruit is no longer available, and Interface finds itself in the “tall canopy” in seeking further reductions in emissions and waste; • Net-Works, a radical, innovative recycling project is presented and compared with other, less successful innovations from Interface. The contextual factors that gave rise to Net-Works are a combination of a radical goal, deliberate adoption of a social goal, and a safe failure space. Success is owed to developed capabilities, incorporation into an existing product, and partnering with an NGO and academia for accountability and credibility.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Luqmani, Adam R.
Date : 21 December 2017
Funders : EPSRC
Contributors :
Depositing User : Adam Luqmani
Date Deposited : 08 Jan 2018 09:38
Last Modified : 12 Jan 2018 11:59

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