Does sustainable leadership make a difference? Examining perceptions of corporate sustainability in the Australian manufacturing sector

Errol Brandt

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    642 Downloads (Pure)


    With a growing acceptance that the business community has an obligation to balance social, environmental and economic capital, corporate sustainability has become a topic of increasing importance for business leaders. Orchestrating corporate sustainability requires transformational change. Leaders must encourage the organisation to embrace new operating paradigms and think beyond the pure maximisation of financial returns if they are to build a culture that promotes socially-responsible corporate behaviours.

    Despite there being considerable academic effort towards understanding the role of leadership in transformational change, there has been little scholarly effort directed towards understanding the relationship between leadership and corporate sustainability. This thesis begins to address this gap by exploring whether the presence of sustainable leadership is associated with adoption of corporate sustainability. This question was investigated within the context of the Australian manufacturing sector, which still appears to lag behind its international peers in embracing corporate sustainability.

    Through an examination of the literature, a new conceptualisation of ‘sustainable leadership’ was tested using a combination of existing survey instruments. This was to determine whether there was a significant difference in leadership perceptions among employees working in the Australian manufacturing sector. The analysis was further supported by in-depth interviews and a textual analysis of publicly available sustainability reports.

    Although the research did not find that a lack of sustainable leadership explains the difference in the Australian manufacturing sector, it did reveal certain barriers make it more difficult than necessary for the manufacturing sector to embrace corporate sustainability, including poor government regulation, limited mandated sustainability information disclosure, and the absence of a carbon-pricing mechanism. The thesis concludes by recommending changes that would remove these barriers and promote corporate sustainability in the Australian manufacturing sector.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Business Administration
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Krivokapic-Skoko, Branka, Principal Supervisor
    • Bhanugopan, Ramudu , Co-Supervisor
    Award date01 Jun 2020
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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