This paper demonstrates the potential of a qualitative empirical research method [Ganzheitliche Bewältigung von Komplexität (GABEK®)] for systemic sustainability research. We interpret systemic corporate sustainability as a research programme that views the company and its environment as an ongoing process of social construction. Furthermore, we argue that the mental models of relevant actors are crucial within the process of social construction. We then present GABEK® as a unique method for qualitative empirical content analysis and highlight that GABEK® can contribute substantially to systemic sustainability research because it holds the potential to unearth and analyze the mental models of diverse actors with the scrutiny of empirical research. We illustrate this potential with a case study of a major German company's sustainability management (BASF AG), and we outline avenues for future research for an empirically oriented approach to systemic sustainability research.
- Qualitative research