Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  Building a sustainability-organisational culture: theory-building and empirical modelling

   The Business School

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

There is strong evidence, which is replicated often and widely, that organisational culture is an influential driver of organisational behaviour, one that can subsume other factors such as strategy, human resource capability and leadership. Comparison of the sustainability performance of carefully matched companies such as the mining multinationals Verdanta and First Quantum Minerals, which are otherwise very similar, indicates culture theory might offer an important explanation for why some organisations exhibit significantly more sustainability behaviours than others. Yet, despite the extensive and intensive focus on sustainability in organisations, the study of the critical catalysing role organisational culture might play remains relatively underexplored.

This doctoral research aims to improve understanding of how organizations can develop a culture which enables them to embed a deep-rooted sustainability ethos beyond the superficial initiatives motivated by self-serving, business concerns.

The doctoral student could address the following objectives, as well as others they develop in the course of the research:

 By drawing from diverse theories of organisational culture formation such as immersion theory, the attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) model, normative isomorphism and social network theory, define a sustainability-organisational culture and describe how organisations can develop it from shared axioms, beliefs, values, symbols, practices, etc.,

 Develop and validate a multidimensional framework for measuring a sustainability-organisational culture in organisations.

 Through empirical modelling, analyse the effects of different dimensions of sustainability-organisational culture on certain economic, social and environmental sustainability outcomes in organisations.

The successful applicant will benefit from the expertise and network of the supervisory team within academia. Furthermore, the applicant will get the opportunity to be involved in research activities within the Napier Applied Business Research for Society group, which Prof Chipulu leads at the university.

Part-time applicants working in sustainability, whether in the private or public sector, are encouraged to apply.

Academic qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in a numerate subject with a good fundamental knowledge of quantitative research methods.

English language requirement

IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes

1. Experience of fundamental academic research project at the post graduate level

2. Competent in developing and deploying quantitative surveys, quantitative analysis such as regression models and use of software that implements such methods.

3. Knowledge of sustainability, organisational culture and organisational behaviour

4. Good written and oral communication skills

5. Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project

6. Good time management

Desirable attributes

Experience of working with secondary data such as reports and documents

Business & Management (5)


Brulhart, F., Gherra, S., & Marais, M. (2017). Proactive environmental strategy, natural competences & economic performance: a resource-based view. Academy of Management Proceedings,
Chan, L. L., Shaffer, M. A., & Snape, E. (2004). In search of sustained competitive advantage: the impact of organizational culture, competitive strategy and human resource management practices on firm performance. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 15(1), 17-35.
Erez, M., & Earley, P. C. (1993). Culture, self-identity, and work. Oxford University Press New York.
Gayle, D. (2019, 10 April 2019). Zambians can pursue mining pollution claim in English courts. The Guardian.
House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., & Dorfman, P. (2002). Understanding cultures and implicit leadership theories across the globe: an introduction to project GLOBE. Journal of World Business, 37(1), 3-10.
Leung, K., Bond, M. H., de Carrasquel, S. R., Muñoz, C., Hernández, M., Murakami, F., Yamaguchi, S., Bierbrauer, G., & Singelis, T. M. (2002). Social Axioms The Search for Universal Dimensions of General Beliefs about How the World Functions. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 33(3), 286-302.
Linnenluecke, M. K., & Griffiths, A. (2010). Corporate sustainability and organizational culture. Journal of world business, 45(4), 357-366.
Mukuka. (2017, 17 August 2017). Environmentally Friendly Mining Practices. News in Depth.
Ortiz‐de‐Mandojana, N., & Bansal, P. (2016). The long‐term benefits of organizational resilience through sustainable business practices. Strategic Management Journal, 37(8), 1615-1631.
Pearce, D. W., & Atkinson, G. D. (1993). Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of “weak” sustainability. Ecological Economics, 8(2), 103-108.
Tsui, A. S., Nifadkar, S. S., & Amy Yi Ou. (2007). Cross-National, Cross-Cultural Organizational Behavior Research: Advances, Gaps, and Recommendations. Journal of Management, 33(3), 426-478.

Register your interest for this project