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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring organizational cultures affecting sustainability professionals’ motivation to implement sustainability : a study in Malaysia and Canada Wan, Kah Mun


Business organizations are increasingly pressured to move beyond conventional sustainable development approaches and embrace transformative change. Within these organizations, internal sustainability change agents play a crucial role in championing sustainability initiatives. These change agents operate within the landscape of organizational cultures, which significantly influence their motivations and actions. This study examines how organizational culture shapes the motivation of sustainability change agents and addresses two research questions: (1) Is there a significant relationship between organizational cultures and the motivation of sustainability professionals to implement sustainability? (2) What organizational culture factors motivate and demotivate sustainability change agents, and how do these factors differ between firms in Canada and Malaysia? To answer these questions, a combination of surveys and semi-structured interviews were conducted. Surveys were collected from 60 sustainability professionals in Canadian firms and 62 in Malaysian firms. Additionally, 17 semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 sustainability professionals from Canadian firms and 9 from Malaysian firms. The empirical results reveal a prevailing sense of motivation among sustainability professionals, driven by the nine predefined organizational culture factors. These factors shape organizations' approaches and adaptation strategies to sustainability, influencing the types of challenges faced by sustainability professionals. Notably, organizational culture factors, such as long-term orientation, a unified sustainability goal, and supportive colleagues, consistently motivate sustainability professionals across both countries, underscoring their relevance to sustainability professionals as an occupation, regardless of their specific organizational context or country of origin. The interviews also revealed country-specific motivating factors. In Canadian firms, aspiring to an egalitarian culture, inclusive leadership emerged as a strong motivator. In contrast, Malaysian firms, driven by their collectivist culture, found motivation in top-down approaches and collective efforts aligned with shared values. These findings present opportunities for cross-cultural learning and emphasize the need for context-specific strategies to address the unique challenges faced by sustainability professionals in their respective settings. In conclusion, this study brings attention to the critical role of organizational cultures in motivating sustainability change agents and highlights the significance of organizational culture factors in driving sustainable practices. By understanding these factors, organizations can cultivate a motivated and proactive workforce of sustainability professionals.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International