Theories of Sustainability


Special issue of AMS Review; Deadline 31 Dec 2023

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Shuang Wu


“Theories of Sustainability”


Bård Tronvoll, CREDS – Center for Research on Digitalization and Sustainability, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (Norway)

Mark Peterson, University of Wyoming (USA)

Julia Fehrer, The University of Auckland Business School (New Zealand)

Deadline for submission:  December 31, 2023

Environmental problems and resource depletion have become increasingly salient and challenging issues (Sanchez-Medina and Díaz-Pichardo, 2017; Tung et al., 2014). These and related concerns traverse generations, industries, and nations and have become significant focal issues for individuals, firms, and societies worldwide. In particular, the interests and concepts of sustainable businesses have been emerging since the second half of the 20th century due to pressure from the ever-increasing awareness of the challenges of sustainable societal and economic development (Cekanavicius et al., 2014).

In recent years, policymakers and business leaders have made important pronouncements about shifting to more sustainable business practices. Recognized in the Harvard Business Review, businesses committing to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles are now taking a proactive approach to strategically influencing the sustainability of their supply chains, business models, and broader business ecosystems (Kaplan and McMillan 2021; Polman and Winston 2022).

However, despite this push from governments and organizations toward sustainable business practices, there remains a shortage of robust theories that adequately address the process (Field et al. 2021; Vargo, 2021). We see this lack of theories dealing with the convergence of individual, corporate, and governmental practices needed for transformation to occur as severely restricting progress. Some researchers argue that theories provide the very foundation of knowledge creation (e.g., Handfield and Melnyk, 1998), implying a pressing need for their development across a broad range of sustainability perspectives—e.g., micro, meso, and macro levels.

This special issue aims to address this acute need for theories of sustainability. Such theories might draw on indigenous marketing knowledge, for instance, work on value (co-)creation and service ecosystems (Vargo and Lusch, 2004; 2016), transitions and emergence (Vargo et al. 2022), market shaping frameworks (Nenonen et al., 2019; Kjellberg and Helgesson, 2007), and macro- and megamarketing (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 2021; Humphreys, 2010). It may also be developed from other disciplines of social science (including, management, psychology, sociology, economics, consumer sciences, and anthropology) as well as disciplines of natural science (such as ecology and biology) and others, including philosophy, religion, and ethics.

The purpose of the special issue is to advance theoretical development for sustainable thought and action—especially market-based perspectives of sustainability, which prominently address the role of business in its market-facing endeavors. This theoretical development can draw on existing theories and frameworks, both indigenous to and from outside of academic marketing. Both conceptual manuscripts (including reviews), for peer review, and commentaries, for editorial review, will be considered.

Possible contributing theories and frameworks might include, but are not limited to:

Theories and Frameworks Developed in Marketing

Service-Dominant Logic and Complex Adaptive (Eco-)systems

  1. Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2004). Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 68 (1), 1–17.
  2. Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2016). Institutions and axioms: an extension and update of service-dominant logic. Journal of the Academy of marketing Science, 44(1), 5-23.
  3. Vargo, S. L., Peters, L., Kjellberg, H., Koskela-Huotari, K., Nenonen, S., Polese, F., … & Vaughan, C. (2022). Emergence in marketing: an institutional and ecosystem framework. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 1-21.
  4. Polese, F., Payne, A., Frow, P., Sarno, D., & Nenonen, S. (2021). Emergence and phase transitions in service ecosystems. Journal of Business Research, 127, 25-34.
  5. Von Bertalanffy, L. (1972). The history and status of general systems theory. Academy of management journal15(4), 407-426.
  6. Lansing, J. S. (2003). Complex adaptive systems. Annual review of anthropology, 183-204.
  7. Preiser, R., Biggs, R., De Vos, A., & Folke, C. (2018). Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems. Ecology and Society23(4).

Market-Based Sustainability and Market Shaping for Sustainability  –

  1. Hult, G. T. M. (2011). Market-focused sustainability: market orientation plus!. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science39(1), 1-6.
  2. Connelly, B. L., Ketchen, D. J., & Slater, S. F. (2011). Toward a “theoretical toolbox” for sustainability research in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science39(1), 86-100.
  3. Nenonen, S., Storbacka, K., & Windahl, C. (2019). Capabilities for market-shaping: Triggering and facilitating increased value creation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 47(4), 617-639.
  4. Flaig, A., Kindström, D., & Ottosson, M. (2021). Market-shaping strategies: A conceptual framework for generating market outcomes. Industrial Marketing Management, 96(1), 254–266.

Macromarketing –

  1. Sheth, J. N., & Parvatiyar, A. (2021). Sustainable marketing: Market-driving, not market-driven. Journal of macromarketing41(1), 150-165.
  2. Kelleci, A. (2022). Four-stage model of value creation for sustainability-oriented marketing: en route to participatory marketing. Journal of Macromarketing42(1), 5-11.
  3. Humphreys, A. (2010). Megamarketing: The creation of markets as a social process. Journal of Marketing, 74(2), 1–19.

Resource-Advantage Theory –

  1. Hunt, S. D., & Morgan, R. M. (1996). The resource-advantage theory of competition: dynamics, path dependencies, and evolutionary dimensions. Journal of marketing60(4), 107-114.
  2. Crittenden, V. L., Crittenden, W. F., Ferrell, L. K., Ferrell, O. C., & Pinney, C. C. (2011). Market-oriented sustainability: a conceptual framework and propositions. Journal of the academy of marketing science39(1), 71-85.

Theories Developed in Other Disciplines

Institutional Theory –

  1. Thornton, P. H., & Ocasio, W. (2008). Institutional logics. The Sage handbook of organizational institutionalism, 840(2008), 99-128.
  2. Lawrence, T. B., & Suddaby, R. (2006). Institutions and institutional work. The Sage handbook of organization studies, 215-254.
  3. Garud, R., Hardy, C., & Maguire, S. (2007). Institutional entrepreneurship as embedded agency: An introduction to the special issue. Organization studies, 28(7), 957-969.
  4. Hoffman, A. J., & Jennings, P. D. (2015). Institutional theory and the natural environment: Research in (and on) the Anthropocene. Organization & Environment, 28(1), 8-31.

Resource-based View and Dynamic Capabilities–

  1. Barney, J. B. (2001). Resource-based theories of competitive advantage: A ten-year retrospective on the resource-based view. Journal of Management, 27(6), 643-650.
  2. Teece, D. J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. (1997). Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18(7), 509-533.
  3. Teece, D. J. (2018). Dynamic capabilities as (workable) management systems theory. Journal of Management & Organization, 24(3), 359-368.

Paradox Theory –

  1. Hahn, T., Figge, F., Pinkse, J., & Preuss, L. (2018). A paradox perspective on corporate sustainability: Descriptive, instrumental, and normative aspects. Journal of Business Ethics148(2), 235-248.
  2. Ozanne, L. K., Phipps, M., Weaver, T., Carrington, M., Luchs, M., Catlin, J., … & Williams, J. (2016). Managing the tensions at the intersection of the triple bottom line: A paradox theory approach to sustainability management. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing35(2), 249-261.

Stakeholder Theory –

  1. Freeman, R. E., Dmytriyev, S. D., & Phillips, R. A. (2021). Stakeholder theory and the resource-based view of the firm. Journal of Management47(7), 1757-1770.
  2. Freeman, R. E., Phillips, R., & Sisodia, R. (2020). Tensions in stakeholder theory. Business & Society59(2), 213-231.

Human Ecology Theory –

Catton Jr, W. R. (1994). Foundations of human ecology. Sociological Perspectives37(1), 75-95.

Industrial Ecology  –

  1. Erkman, S. (1997). Industrial ecology: an historical view. Journal of Cleaner Production, 5(1-2), 1-10.
  2. Graedel, T. E. (1996). On the concept of industrial ecology. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 21(1), 69-98.

Natural Ecology Theory and Ecological Economics–

  1. Neumayer, Eric. (1999), “Weak versus strong sustainability,” Edward Elgar Publishing.
  2. Scheiner, S. M., & Willig, M. R. (Eds.). (2011). The theory of ecology. U. of Chicago Press.
  3. Shaw, D. R., & Allen, T. (2018). Studying innovation ecosystems using ecology theory. Technological Forecasting and Social Change136, 88-102.
  4. Costanza, R., De Groot, R., Sutton, P., Van der Ploeg, S., Anderson, S. J., Kubiszewski, I., … & Turner, R. K. (2014). Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change, 26, 152-158.
  5. Daly, H. E., & Farley, J. (2011). Ecological economics: principles and applications. Island press.

Human Development Theory –

Xia, M., Li, X., & Tudge, J. R. (2020). Operationalizing Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Process Person Context-time model. Human Development64(1), 10-20.

About AMS Review

Additional Information

For additional questions regarding the special issue, please contact the special-issue editors,

Bård Tronvoll,
Mark Peterson,
Julia Fehrer,

Additional references

Čekanavičius, L., Bazytė, R., & Dičmonaitė, A. (2014). Green business: challenges and practices. Ekonomika93(1), 74-88.

Handfield, R. B., & Melnyk, S. A. (1998). The scientific theory-building process: a primer using the case of TQM. Journal of operations management16(4), 321-339.

Kaplan, R. S., & McMillan, D. (2021, February 3). Reimagining the balanced scorecard for the ESG era. Harvard Business Review.

Kjellberg, H., & Helgesson, C.-F. (2007). On the nature of markets and their practices. Marketing Theory, 7(2), 137–162.

Neumayer, E. (1999). Weak versus strong sustainability, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Polman, P., & Winston, A. (2022, April 13). Yes, investing in ESG pays off. Harvard Business Review.

Sánchez-Medina, P. S., & Díaz-Pichardo, R. (2017). Environmental pressure and quality practices in artisanal family businesses: The mediator role of environmental values. Journal of Cleaner Production143, 145-158.

Sheth, J. N., & Parvatiyar, A. (2021). Sustainable marketing: Market-driving, not market-driven. Journal of Macromarketing, 41(1), 150-165.

Tung, A., Baird, K., & Schoch, H. (2014). The relationship between organisational factors and the effectiveness of environmental management. Journal of environmental management144, 186-196.