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Working Paper

There are still many, many things we do not know about how taking a more sustainable approach to business can lead to better financial, social, and environmental outcomes for a wider range of stakeholders. We aspire to make the Center for Sustainable Business a world-renowned hub for applied research in the field of sustainable business models.

CSB Working Paper Series

The Power of Purpose: Using Internal Marketing to Drive Employee Sustainability Engagement

CB Bhattacharya, H.J. Zoffer Chair of Sustainability & Ethics, Professor of Marketing and Management, University of Pittsburgh, Sankar Sen, Lawrence and Carol Zicklin Chair in Corporate Integrity and Governance, Professor of Marketing, Baruch College., Laura Marie Edinger-Schons, Chair of Sustainable Business, University of Mannheim, Michael Neureiter, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh

Given the sustainability challenges humanity faces, companies need to go beyond sustainability rhetoric to motivate and enable all their employees to incorporate sustainability into their jobs. Taking an internal marketing perspective, we propose a novel conceptual framework that establishes the key role of corporate purpose in driving employees’ sustainability behaviors, via the mediating role of the psychological ownership of sustainability (SO) among employees. Through five studies, two of which are conducted in collaboration with partner companies, and responses from more than 1,600 employees, we establish a company’s articulated purpose, the autonomy employees feel, and the self-importance of their moral identity as interactive drivers of SO and sustainability behaviors. Specifically, these are highest when employees (a) perceive their employer to have a purpose beyond profit maximization, (b) perceive high autonomy, and (c) morality is an important part of their sense of who they are.

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