Shared Visions of Sustainability and the Resulting Impacts on Organizational Performance


Through this research opportunity, strong theoretical contributions have been made connecting self-determination theory to sustainability. By distinguishing between the problem-oriented minimisation of unsustainability and a possibility of vision-oriented sustainability, it can be more clearly articulated how expressions of autonomous, intrinsic or self-determined motivation are the driving forces of a sustainability characterised by individual and planetary flourishing in contrast to a sustainability characterised by survival. The investigators’ theoretical contribution distinguishes vision (or envisioning) from projections, scenarios, or forecasts in a way that provides access to crafting autonomous motivation for sustainability and transformational leadership. This model for transforming sustainability has the potential to provide psychological access to individual flourishing and correlative access to deep or transformational learning and creative, integrative or interdisciplinary solutions that span cognitive boundaries.

The investigators have completed the qualitative data collection with Patagonia and are scheduled to conduct interviews with our second study participant, Stone Brewery. The quantitative assessment is scheduled to follow the qualitative analysis.

Project Outcomes

The exploration of self-determination theory within the theoretical development of this research led to the identification of several pitfalls and pathways toward the creation of motivation for sustainability. Some of this work was initially presented at the ERB Institute Symposium in Ann Arbor with extraordinary feedback. The pitfalls and pathways are now being expanded into an online article series in collaboration with the MIT Sloan Initiative for Sustainable Business & Society.

Use and Applicatons

The article, “Transforming Sustainability,” was released in June of 2013. It was also used within the curriculum of the Byron Fellowship this summer and is being utilized by the Dalai Lama Fellows Program.

Since the ERB Institute Symposium, the investigators have hosted several workshops at venues including: The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (San Antonio, Texas), The MIT Sustainability Summit (Cambridge, MA), The International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (Cincinnati, Ohio), and The Byron Fellowship (Marshall, Indiana).

Future Activities

In August of 2013, the investigators hosted a train-the-trainer professional development workshop at the Academy of Management in Orlando, Florida. The pitfalls and pathways are being expanded into an educational curriculum that was experimentally used at the University of Michigan and is being illustrated through an online article series in collaboration with the MIT Sloan Initiative for Sustainable Business & Society.

Photo from Tobias von der Haar/flickr

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