Sustainable Corporate Culture Through Sustainable Human Resources Systems

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The research from which this report is based on consists of an analysis of the web site of the top 100 US corporations, as well as a survey mailed to the human resources executive of each of the top 250 US corporations (10% response rate). A primary observation in the findings is the large variation existing among top US corporations when it comes to their commitment to sustainability, and their demonstration of this commitment through the integration of sustainability practices into their corporate cultures. Companies such as Berkshire Hathaway Inc., for example, exemplify a lack of integration of sustainability practices, while companies such as ATT, Inc. and International Business Machines Corp., embody what it means to develop and cultivate a sustainable corporate culture, and reap the benefits of the value this effort brings. In general, the research points to a lack of consensus and understanding of what sustainability means among the top US corporations, and perhaps a lack of prioritization of sustainability issues. From the website analysis, two-thirds of the top 100 US corporations report on sustainability issues, but only 43% chose to make sustainability immediately visible on their corporate website landing page. The large discrepancy between the number of companies that report on sustainability (67%) and those which have integrated sustainability issues in their corporate mission (5%) or vision (6%) statements may point to sustainability being regarded more as a public relations tool rather than a vital component of corporate culture. There are nonetheless some encouraging findings: executive support of sustainability is strong (both among respondents of the written survey and the web analysis). This kind of support is critical to developing a sustainability-oriented corporate culture.

Human resources as a function should exert stronger leadership. It can facilitate the advancement of sustainability by managing change, starting with the modification of the company’s mission statement and/or core values. The human resources function can also accelerate adoption of sustainability by encouraging the integration of sustainability issues in the various traditional human resources tools such as awards, recognition and compensation programs.





Rousseau, Alexandra (2009). Sustainable Corporate Culture Through Sustainable Human Resources Systems. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.