Carmine, S., Mapping Paradox Perspectives in Corporate Sustainability Research.

ABSTRACT

Under Review at Journal of Business Ethics

In the last years, a paradox perspective is emerging as a new approach to informing corporate sustainability, and scholars are increasingly adopting it empirically. However, the empirical use of the concept of paradox is fuzzy, and more clarity is needed on how to adopt it. To reduce such fuzziness, I conducted a systematic review and a content analysis of the empirical literature on paradox theory and corporate sustainability. The analysis provides a comprehensive account of how this concept has been used by scholars and what meanings have emerged. It explores contingent factors, strategies and processes, and outcomes of the adoption of the paradox concept. The analysis suggests that three distinct uses, with three operationalizations, exist: a detective use, which identifies and defines paradoxical tensions in sustainability; a sensemaking use, which underlines paradoxical thinking; and a managerial use, which focuses on paradoxical and integrative strategies to respond to sustainability tensions. A framework to organize this emerging literature in three research streams is proposed, and future research trajectories are defined