A typology of sustainability managers: Scientist, messenger, artisan and storyteller

Kevin Tang, Bond University
David A. Robinson, Central Queensland University
Michael Harvey, Bond University

Document Type Conference Paper

Interim status: Citation only.

Tang, K., Robinson, D.A. & Harvey, M. (2010). A typology of sustainability managers: Scientist, messenger, artisan and storyteller. Paper presented at the 12th West Lake international conference on small and medium business: WLICSMB 2010, Hangzhou, China.

Access the publisher's website.

2010 HERDC submission. FoR Code: 220319

© Copyright Kevin Tang, David A. Robinson & Michael Harvey, 2010


Talk of "sustainability" is fashionable in the business world these days. However, in the face of overwhelming global challenges such as, climate change and persistent poverty, the reoccurring question is "can individuals in organizations make a difference?" This paper examines the motivates of managers to devote their time and energies to addressing social, environmental and ethical issues. There is an expanding literature on the role of managers for corporate sustainability change agents, in particular in their capacity as environmental or social 'champions'. The paper presents empirical findings among sustainability managers, providing a rich, understanding of different types of sustainability change agents. It identifies four such categories of sustainability managers, those being Scientist, Messenger, Artist and Storyteller. The data also suggests the pivotal role of values, inspiration, expertise, empowerment, strategic thinking and social contribution as sources of meaning for these purpose-inspired managers. The findings shed light on our understanding of the psychological dimensions of corporate sustainability management, and provides a useful tool for improving individual and team performance, enhancing recruitment and retention of sustainability talent, and developing more effective organizational leadership for sustainability.


This document has been peer reviewed.