Research concept Sustainable Management

The research concept of the Chair for Business Studies and Sustainable Management can be best described as a gradual approach, where the steps are based on each other but are iteratively enhanced at the same time. The object of research is the action of economic systems, such as firms, municipalities, households etc. The research goal is a sustainable and spatiotemporally generalizable economic situation of social systems for which an expanded term of economical rationality is needed. The subject of research is the contradiction between an efficiency-oriented and a sustainability-oriented economic rationality.

  1. In the first step of the concept a sustainable resource management was theoretically substantiated. The aim of this step was to prove that it can actually be economically rational for economic systems to act in a sustainable manner: sustainable in the sense of substance-sustaining development. The concept of salutogenesis has consequently led to insights during the further elaboration of this theory. (Literature Müller-Christ, G. (2001): Nachhaltiges Ressourcenmanagement. Metropolis-Verlag Marburg)

  2. In the second step of the research concept the question came to the fore how the rationality of sustainability is related with the business studies’ understanding of success. Several research projects (CRC, EU project) have shown that sustainability-oriented economic activities and efficiency-oriented economic activities are contradictory to each other. While politics and economics try to harmonize the contradiction, for instance by compensating or balancing economical, ecological and social issues, theory reveals that these contradictions reappear in the context of decision-making and lead to dilemmatic decisions. Management theory is not well prepared for coping with contradictions. (Literature: Müller-Christ, G./Arndt, L./Ehnert, I. (Hrsg.): Nachhaltigkeit und Widersprüche. Lit Verlag Hamburg 2007)

  3. In the third step, the new research questions therefore focused on the need to connect the rationality of sustainability to the traditional decision-making processes of economic actors. It was found that the core problem of dilemmatic decision-making processes is the legitimacy of trade-offs. How do actors handle trade-offs in decisions for sustainable consumption? How do companies handle trade-offs in decisions for CSR-activities or environmental protection? This research heuristic is also the background for designing systematic resource management approaches for selected industries, for instance the textile industry. New tools for a sustainable resource management have been developed, such as the “strategic sustainability vector”, the business principles for management ecology, the management of resource regimes and a resource-oriented sustainability monitoring. The results of the past ten years were published collectively in: Müller-Christ, G. (2011): Sustainable Management. Coping with the Dilemmas of Resource-Oriented Management. Berlin/Heidelberg. Springer. Nomos Shop

  4. In the fourth step, the research concept is now being enhanced to the question which competences for a more sustainable way of doing business are needed by individuals, businesses and societies. The approach of the competencies for sustainable development which is used in the context of the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development is taken into consideration. In particular, the following competences will be operationalized on the basis of theoretical foundation and empirical verification for a concept of sustainable leadership:
  • Competence to cope with contradictions
  • Competence to deal with trade-offs
  • Competence for now-for-then decisions
  • Competence to decelerate processes
  • Competence to use resources economically
  • Competence for moral decisions