For strategic environmental sustainability not to be lost in translation(s) anymore

Sophie Liénart, Annick Castiaux

Research output: Contribution in Book/Catalog/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The increasing scale of environmental externalities related to technological firms’ activities shows the limits of today’s economic system and development path. It forces these firms to integrate environmental sustainability concerns not only in their operations but also strategically in their business processes, to ensure legitimacy and the protection of their competitive advantage. However, a strategic implementation of environmentally-oriented initiatives remains difficult given the poor understanding of human and non-human actors’ interactions taking place during that process.
Environmental sustainability strategy development and implementation can be seen as an organisational process of change. In this paper, we propose a conceptual model that combines some key elements of Callon and Latour’s actor-network theory and Lewin’s model of change. On the one hand, actor-network theory proposes a sociology of science in which technology is not to be seen as an autonomous artefact. Therefore, the strategic integration of environmental sustainability issues in technological business processes is understood as a co-constitution and transformation of artefacts, actors and practices within the firm. It focuses on how socio-technical actor-networks are created in the organisation through a process of translation(s) ¬- i.e. interpretation(s) that every actor makes of other actors present in the network. On the other hand, Lewin’s three-step model of change highlights some useful stages (unfreeze-move-refreeze) that can be followed by practitioners to successfully plan, design and implement change in a structured way, as well as keep track of the achievements attained. We show that their complementary aspects of emergent and planned approaches to environmental sustainability change ensure a better understanding of actors’ interactions taking place in the technological organisation. While actor-network theory reinforces Lewin’s model in a dynamic and iterative way, Lewin’s model brings some structure to the numerous translation processes taking place in the organisation and hence, eases the transmission of actor-network theory perspectives to the practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
EditorsPeter Teirlinck, Stijn Kelchtermans, Filip de Beule
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-909507-61-6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


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