Commitment strategies for sustainability: how business firms can transform trade-offs into win-win outcomes

Markus Beckmann, Stefan Hielscher, Ingo Pies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Citations (SciVal)


This paper addresses a fundamental problem in corporate sustainability: How can corporations transform trade-offs through win-win-oriented governance strategies aimed at creating value? Drawing on new strands of research in business ethics, we employ an 'ordonomic' perspective and proceed in four steps. First, we sketch how sustainability semantics has evolved historically from a societal searchlight to a heuristics for business practice. Second, we discuss how business firms can make strategic use of moral commitments as governance contributions by deploying individual or collective self-commitments as well as commitment services in their stakeholder relations. Third, we combine these four governance strategies with the three ESG ('ecological, social and governance') criteria of sustainability. We derive and illustrate with real-life examples a 12-box matrix as a tool for the strategic management of corporate sustainability. Fourth, we discuss the specific contribution of our ordonomic approach to the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-37
Number of pages20
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Business ethics
  • Corporate sustainability
  • ESG criteria
  • Governance
  • Ordonomics
  • Strategic management
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Business and International Management


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