IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Corporate Purpose and Employee Sustainability Behaviors


  • C. B. Bhattacharya

    (University of Pittsburgh)

  • Sankar Sen

    (Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College—City University of New York)

  • Laura Marie Edinger-Schons

    (University of Mannheim)

  • Michael Neureiter

    (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)


This paper examines the effects of employees’ sense that they work for a purpose-driven company on their workplace sustainability behaviors. Conceptualizing corporate purpose as an overarching, relevant, shared ethical vision of why a company exists and where it needs to go, we argue that it is particularly suited for driving employee sustainability behaviors, which are more ethically complex than the types of employee ethical behaviors typically examined by prior research. Through four studies, two involving the actual employees of construction companies, we demonstrate that purpose drives the sustainability behaviors of employees by causing them to take psychological ownership of sustainability. In addition, we show that the sustainability-enhancing effect of purpose is stronger when employees perceive that they have higher autonomy in enacting their sustainability actions and for those employees for whom being moral is more central to their sense of self.

Suggested Citation

  • C. B. Bhattacharya & Sankar Sen & Laura Marie Edinger-Schons & Michael Neureiter, 2023. "Corporate Purpose and Employee Sustainability Behaviors," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 183(4), pages 963-981, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:183:y:2023:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-022-05090-5
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-022-05090-5

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Weihui Fu, 2014. "The Impact of Emotional Intelligence, Organizational Commitment, and Job Satisfaction on Ethical Behavior of Chinese Employees," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 137-144, June.
    2. Ashlea Kellner & Kenneth Cafferkey & Keith Townsend, 2019. "Ability, Motivation and Opportunity theory: a formula for employee performance?," Chapters, in: Keith Townsend & Kenneth Cafferkey & Aoife M. McDermott & Tony Dundon (ed.), Elgar Introduction to Theories of Human Resources and Employment Relations, chapter 21, pages 311-323, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Claudine Gartenberg & Andrea Prat & George Serafeim, 2019. "Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(1), pages 1-18, February.
    4. James Avey & Tara Wernsing & Michael Palanski, 2012. "Exploring the Process of Ethical Leadership: The Mediating Role of Employee Voice and Psychological Ownership," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 107(1), pages 21-34, April.
    5. Olivier Boiral & Nicolas Raineri & David Talbot, 2018. "Managers’ Citizenship Behaviors for the Environment: A Developmental Perspective," Post-Print hal-03795981, HAL.
    6. Belk, Russell W, 1988. "Possessions and the Extended Self," Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Research Inc., vol. 15(2), pages 139-168, September.
    7. Raymond Hicks & Dustin Tingley, 2011. "Causal mediation analysis," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 11(4), pages 605-619, December.
    8. Wilmar Schaufeli & Marisa Salanova & Vicente González-romá & Arnold Bakker, 2002. "The Measurement of Engagement and Burnout: A Two Sample Confirmatory Factor Analytic Approach," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 71-92, March.
    9. Gazi Islam & Michelle Greenwood, 2021. "Reconnecting to the Social in Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 170(1), pages 1-4, April.
    10. Chin-Shan Lu & Chi-Chang Lin, 2014. "The Effects of Ethical Leadership and Ethical Climate on Employee Ethical Behavior in the International Port Context," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 124(2), pages 209-223, October.
    11. Jun Liu & Hui Wang & Chun Hui & Cynthia Lee, 2012. "Psychological Ownership: How Having Control Matters," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(5), pages 869-895, July.
    12. Pascal Paillé & Jorge H. Mejía Morelos & Nicolas Raineri & Florence Stinglhamber, 2019. "The Influence of the Immediate Manager on the Avoidance of Non-green Behaviors in the Workplace: A Three-Wave Moderated-Mediation Model," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 723-740, March.
    13. Bidhan L. Parmar & Adrian Keevil & Andrew C. Wicks, 2019. "People and Profits: The Impact of Corporate Objectives on Employees’ Need Satisfaction at Work," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 154(1), pages 13-33, January.
    14. Kenneth De Roeck & Omer Farooq, 2018. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethical Leadership: Investigating Their Interactive Effect on Employees’ Socially Responsible Behaviors," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 151(4), pages 923-939, September.
    15. Pascal Paillé & Jorge Mejía Morelos & Nicolas Raineri & Florence Stinglhamber, 2019. "The Influence of the Immediate Manager on the Avoidance of Non-green Behaviors in the Workplace: A Three-Wave Moderated-Mediation Model," Post-Print hal-03796009, HAL.
    16. Duygu Turker, 2009. "How Corporate Social Responsibility Influences Organizational Commitment," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 89(2), pages 189-204, October.
    17. Benedict Sheehy, 2015. "Defining CSR: Problems and Solutions," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(3), pages 625-648, October.
    18. Olivier Boiral & Nicolas Raineri & David Talbot, 2018. "Managers’ Citizenship Behaviors for the Environment: A Developmental Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 149(2), pages 395-409, May.
    19. Clay M. Voorhees & Michael K. Brady & Roger Calantone & Edward Ramirez, 2016. "Discriminant validity testing in marketing: an analysis, causes for concern, and proposed remedies," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 119-134, January.
    20. Chiara Pellegrini & Francesco Rizzi & Marco Frey, 2018. "The role of sustainable human resource practices in influencing employee behavior for corporate sustainability," Business Strategy and the Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(8), pages 1221-1232, December.
    21. Karin Tollin & Lars Bech Christensen, 2019. "Sustainability Marketing Commitment: Empirical Insights About Its Drivers at the Corporate and Functional Level of Marketing," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 156(4), pages 1165-1185, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Francesca Collevecchio & Gianluca Gionfriddo, 2023. "Adopting a social purpose in for-profit firms: the role of the board of directors," International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 1467-1499, September.
    2. Dianru Zhang & Chi Zhang & Li Wang, 2023. "Preventing Moral Crisis and Promoting Sustainable Development in Enterprises: A Study of Managers’ Moral Decision-Making," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(15), pages 1-18, July.
    3. Madalina Manolache & Gheorghe Epuran, 2023. "The Mediating Impact of Goal–Role Clarity on the Relationship between Feedback–Seeking Behavior and Goal Orientations with Job Satisfaction Intrinsic Cognitions and Person–Organization Fit," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(17), pages 1-33, August.
    4. Ge Yan & Liang Meng & Bo Li & Jiamin Li, 2023. "How Can Managers Promote Employee Sustainability? A Study on the Impact of Servant Leadership on Emotional Labor," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(14), pages 1-19, July.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Talat Islam & Saima Ahmad & Ishfaq Ahmed, 2023. "Linking environment specific servant leadership with organizational environmental citizenship behavior: the roles of CSR and attachment anxiety," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 855-879, April.
    2. Justyna Berniak-Woźny & Małgorzata Rataj, 2023. "Towards Green and Sustainable Healthcare: A Literature Review and Research Agenda for Green Leadership in the Healthcare Sector," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 20(2), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Jiali Chen & Aiqing Zhang, 2023. "Exploring How and When Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility Impacts Employees’ Green Innovative Work Behavior: The Mediating Role of Creative Self-Efficacy and Environmental Commitment," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 16(1), pages 1-21, December.
    4. Jenni Sipilä & Sascha Alavi & Laura Marie Edinger-Schons & Sabrina Dörfer & Christian Schmitz, 2021. "Corporate social responsibility in luxury contexts: potential pitfalls and how to overcome them," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 280-303, March.
    5. Hsieh, Sara H. & Chang, Aihwa, 2016. "The Psychological Mechanism of Brand Co-creation Engagement," Journal of Interactive Marketing, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 13-26.
    6. Raiswa Saha & Shashi & Roberto Cerchione & Rajwinder Singh & Richa Dahiya, 2020. "Effect of ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility on firm performance: A systematic review," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 27(2), pages 409-429, March.
    7. D’Souza, Clare & Apaolaza, Vanessa & Hartmann, Patrick & Nguyen, Ninh, 2023. "The consequence of possessions: Self-identity, extended self, psychological ownership and probabilities of purchase for pet’s fashion clothing," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    8. Edina Molnár & Asif Mahmood & Naveed Ahmad & Amir Ikram & Shah Ali Murtaza, 2021. "The Interplay between Corporate Social Responsibility at Employee Level, Ethical Leadership, Quality of Work Life and Employee Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Case of Healthcare Organizations," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(9), pages 1-16, April.
    9. Charles H. Schwepker & Sean R. Valentine & Robert A. Giacalone & Mark Promislo, 2021. "Good Barrels Yield Healthy Apples: Organizational Ethics as a Mechanism for Mitigating Work-Related Stress and Promoting Employee Well-Being," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 174(1), pages 143-159, November.
    10. Mónica Santana & Rafael Morales-Sánchez & Susana Pasamar, 2020. "Mapping the Link between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Human Resource Management (HRM): How Is This Relationship Measured?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(4), pages 1-28, February.
    11. Jianwan Jing & Jinzhe Yan, 2022. "Study on the Effect of Employees’ Perceived Organizational Support, Psychological Ownership, and Turnover Intention: A Case of China’s Employee," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(10), pages 1-18, May.
    12. Potdar, Balkrushna & Guthrie, John & Gnoth, Juergen & Garry, Tony, 2018. "The role of psychological ownership in shoplifting prevention: An exploratory study," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 253-265.
    13. Matthias Gotsch & Carsten Gandenberger & Luisa Serafimov & Mathias Miemiec, 2023. "Top‐down and bottom‐up strategies for the implementation of corporate social responsibility: A qualitative survey of an international IT services company," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 30(4), pages 1645-1663, July.
    14. Simon Torp & Bo Bernhard Nielsen, 2018. "Psychological ownership and financial firm performance: The interplay of employee stock ownership and participative leadership," Australian Journal of Management, Australian School of Business, vol. 43(3), pages 476-492, August.
    15. Hans Jaich, 2022. "Linking environmental management and employees' organizational identification: The mediating role of environmental attitude," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 29(2), pages 305-315, March.
    16. Muddassar Sarfraz & Ilhan Ozturk & Sunghoon Yoo & Muhammad Ali Raza & Heesup Han, 2023. "Toward a new understanding of environmental and financial performance through corporate social responsibility, green innovation, and sustainable development," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1), pages 1-17, December.
    17. Deanne Hartog & Frank Belschak, 2012. "Work Engagement and Machiavellianism in the Ethical Leadership Process," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 107(1), pages 35-47, April.
    18. Akram, Muhammad S. & Malhotra, Neeru & Goraya, M. Awais Shakir & Shareef, Mahmud A. & Malik, Aneela & Lal, Banita, 2022. "User engagement on global social networks: Examining the roles of perceived brand globalness, identification and global identity," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 181(C).
    19. Ramos, Hazel Melanie & Man, Thomas Wing Yan & Mustafa, Michael & Ng, Zuie Zuie, 2014. "Psychological ownership in small family firms: Family and non-family employees’ work attitudes and behaviours," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 300-311.
    20. Waqas, Muhammad & Yahya, Farzan & Ahmed, Ammar & Rasool, Yasir & Hongbo, Li, 2021. "Unlocking employee's green behavior in fertilizer industry: the role of green HRM practices and psychological ownership," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association, vol. 24(5), May.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:183:y:2023:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-022-05090-5. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Sonal Shukla or Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.