Department of Management Studies

Sustainability in Business (SUB)

Our mission is to provide knowledge about innovative business models and transition paths that enhance sustainable development. As complex sustainability challenges call for multi-disciplinary knowledge and societally impactful research, we co-create solution proposals together with partners from different sectors of society.
View of Earth from space

Research areas

Solar panels in front of mountains

Energy transitions

Renewable energy production and storage technologies change the way we produce and use energy, do business with it, and innovate.

Department of Management Studies
Airplane at gate in evening

Managing transition risks

The effective management of transition risks is crucial for the resilience of businesses in global value chains.

Department of Management Studies
Recycling bins

Circular economy

Circular economy keeps materials in use longer using strategies like reuse, remanufacture, recycling, and replacing ownership with rentals.

Department of Management Studies
Car parked at electric charging station

Innovation for sustainability

Innovating new sustainable products, services, business models and forms of consumption can help tackle global challenges.

Department of Management Studies
Two people hauling bags in Brazil

Innovation for poverty alleviation

Frugal innovations can help alleviate poverty.

Department of Management Studies
CSR news articles

Corporate responsibility

Cross-national governance of businesses make ethical issues urgent.

Department of Management Studies
Palms with sustainability pictures drawn on them

Transformational change and leadership

Quality of leadership matters in sustainable transitions.

Department of Management Studies


The latest publications from SUB researchers

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Sustainability teaching

Sustainability course offerings in the School of Business

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Creative Sustainability students gathered around a laptop

SUB seminar series

The SUB lunchtime seminar series provides a monthly forum for all interested to discuss topical research in social and environmental issues in management.

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Seminar schedule 2020-2021

Spring 2021

Thursday 20.5, 12.00-13.00
Remote seminar, contact [email protected] for more information

Elizabeth Miller, Olli Sahimaa and Minna Halme, Aalto University
Linking organizations with systems: A cross-scale method for understanding (textile) firms in the context of their collective global sustainability impacts

From factory emissions accelerating climate change to society-wide pandemic lockdowns, it is becoming increasingly clear that activities on the organizational and socio-ecological system levels impact one another profoundly. Consequently, there has been a call for organization studies to focus on grand challenges, complex and critical problems that are difficult to understand yet possible to solve (Eisenhardt, Graebner and Sonenshein, 2016). This can mean taking a cross-scale approach linking organizations and socio-ecological systems (Bansal, Grewatsch and Sharma, 2021). However, we lack methods to understand these complex, messy, systemic problems that exceed the boundaries of individual firms or groups of them. In this study, which is currently in progress, we seek to develop a qualitative system mapping approach for organization studies to understand the system level that crosses multiple scales, has a wide array of factors, and has impacts spread out in space and time. We showcase this method for global textile systems, which are particularly useful for this demonstration as they are highly globalized and vertically disintegrated, with a wide array of actors involved.

From our extensive mapping of textile systems based on a line-by-line analysis of the 55 most relevant articles on the topic of sustainability in the textile and garment industries’ supply chains , we have preliminary findings linking the enterprise, industry, and socio-ecological system levels. Our findings focus on the dynamics facilitating the low prices and speed of the modern mass market garment industry, and well as the ecological and social impacts of cheap, fast fashion. We seek to contribute to the grand challenges discussion and the nascent research on bringing a systems perspective to organizational action (Whiteman, Walker and Perego, 2013; Bansal, Grewatsch and Sharma, 2021). In this seminar, we would like to discuss the approach and potential contributions to organization and management literature as well as to sustainability systems literature.


Bansal, P., Grewatsch, S. and Sharma, G. (2021) ‘How COVID-19 Informs Business Sustainability Research: It’s Time for a Systems Perspective’, Journal of Management Studies, 58(2), pp. 602–606. doi: 10.1111/joms.12669.

Eisenhardt, K., Graebner, M. and Sonenshein, S. (2016) ‘Grand Challenges and Inductive Methods: Rigor Without Rigor Mortis’, Academy of Management Journal, 59(4), pp. 1113–1123.

Whiteman, G., Walker, B. and Perego, P. (2013) ‘Planetary Boundaries: Ecological Foundations for Corporate Sustainability’, Journal of Management Studies, 50(2), pp. 307–336. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01073.x.

Thursday 25.3, 12.00-13.00
Remote seminar, contact [email protected] for more information

Tulin Dzenghiz and Samuli Patala, Aalto University
The role of cross-sector partnerships to break away from the vicious cycles of place-based dynamics in innovation ecosystems

The purpose of this article is to advance theory development by conceptualising how place (detachment) attachment of actors’ leads to (vicious) virtuous innovation ecosystems and how cross-sector partnerships (CSPs) carry the potential to break away from the vicious cycles of place-ecosystem dynamics. To do so, we synthesise existing knowledge on innovation ecosystems, spaces, places, and CSPs, define the main constructs (health of innovation ecosystems, place attachment-detachment, CSPs as herding spaces) and introduce the relationships between these seemingly disparate constructs in a conceptual model that brings them together. Our conceptual model demonstrates the recursive relationships between place (detachment) attachment and (un)healthy innovation ecosystems, which we characterise as vicious and virtuous cycles. We emphasise the role of CSPs to break away from the vicious dynamics of place-innovation ecosystem dynamics and explain the conditions in which CSPs carry such potential. We also generate propositions in alignment with our conceptual model and provide new paths for future research by raising new questions about the platial dynamics of innovation ecosystems and the role of CSPs in these dynamics. We support our conceptual model with two illustrative cases that exemplify vicious and virtuous place-innovation ecosystem dynamics.

Awards and highlights

Inês Peixoto

Finalist for the EGOS Best Student Paper Award with the paper “Risk organization and moral multiplexity in the EU biofuels market” (presented at EGOS Edinburgh 2019)

Minna Halme

HSE Support Foundation Societal Impact Award, 2019

Elizabeth Miller

Thesis "Trash to Treasure: A Multiple Case Study of Finnish Companies That Create Economic Value from Waste Materials" received award for top university master's thesis, Association for Environmental Management (Ymparistöjohtamisen yhdistys ry), 2018

Samuli Patala and Minna Halme

Article "Polycentric Governance of Privately Owned Resources in Circular Economy Systems" received Carolyn Dexter Award for international papers, Academy of Management 2018

Jouni Juntunen, Minna Halme, Angelina Korsunova and Risto Rajala

Article "Powering sustainable innovations: Strategies for collaborating with deviant partners" won Best Academic Paper at R&D Management Conference 2016, University of Cambridge

Minna Halme, Sara Lindeman and Paula Linna

Article "Innovation for Inclusive Business: Intrapreneurial Bricolage in Multinational Corporations", Journal of Management Studies, 2012 received the Emerald Citations of Excellence for 2015

The latest from SUB

Dive deeper into SUB's work through our blog posts and news articles.

Sustainability in Business (SUB) group awarded funding to research transition risks for low-carbon shipping and aviation

The newly funded T-Risk research project aims to shed light on transition risks in the maritime and aviation sectors, crucial for global trade and transportation.

Shipping port

Jouni Juntunen nominated to Network for Business Sustainability Sustainability Centres Community (SCC) Advisory Board

Jouni Juntunen has been nominated to Network for Business Sustainability Sustainability Centres Community (SCC) Advisory Board for a three year period starting from 2021.

Network for Business Sustainability logo

Interesting methodology workshop organized by SUB researchers

The Sustainability in Business research group organized a virtual workshop on conducting field research in methodologically challenging settings.

Methodology workshop

The World Needs Hands-on Solutions to Wicked Problems

New Global has taken a holistic approach to exploring pathways from poverty to sustainable development. By com-bining interdisciplinary research and education with innovation work in the field, we have studied and experimented with co-innovation across Finland and emerging markets.

Aalto New Global

Does Corporate Responsibility Deliver? Broken Pathways to Business Sustainability (external link)

Guest blog for Business and Society by Leena Lankoski and Minna Halme.

Broken road

Millainen liiketoiminta muuttaa maailmaa? (external link)

Perinteinen kapitalistinen ajatus, että yrityksen tehtävänä on ainoastaan tuottaa voittoa osakkeenomistajilleen, tuntuu nykyään suunnilleen yhtä 1900-lukuiselta kuin lankapuhelin.

Kuuluisassa Kasvun rajat –raportissa (Meadows ym., 1972) todettiin jo lähes 50 vuotta sitten, että luonnonvarojen tuhlaileva käyttö ei voi jatkua loputtomiin.

Valitettavasti 2020-luvulle tultaessa on käynyt ilmeiseksi, että ihmiskunta on ollut hidas reagoimaan. Materiaalienkäytön ja päästöjen kasvu kielii siitä, että todellinen radikaali muutos vaatii aikaa. Näinhän se menee. Hammaslääkäriinkin vaivautuu vasta, kun tarpeeksi kivistää.

Onneksi löytyy myös kosolti kestäviä edelläkävijäyrityksiä, joiden innovaatiot ovat parhaillaan tehokasta juurihoitoa luonnonvarojen käytön kasvun kanssa kipuilevalle ihmiskunnalle. Näitä edelläkävijäyrityksiä löytyy tekstiilialalla esimerkiksi vastuullisten yritysten listasta, jota Finix-hankkeen tutkijat kokosivat koronakevään aikana #kestävävaate-kampanjassa.

Green roof in urban center

SUB researchers to present at the virtual Academy of Management conference

From August 7-11, several members of the SUB research group will participate in the 80th annual meeting of the Academy of Management, this year held virtually because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

AoM logo 2020

Doctoral dissertation: Innovative entrepreneurship may be a viable solution for reducing poverty

Entrepreneurs need an innovative business idea, access to significant support and an environment that endorses entrepreneurship.

Kolmipyöräinen traktori nimeltään Bullet Santi ja kehittäjänsä Mansukhbhai Jagani

Creative Sustainability included in Financial Times’ list of best practices for sustainability in business schools

School of Business was included among the best practices for sustainability in teaching and student projects.

Creative sustainability students brainstorming

Kicking off the "Better Business - Better Society" series

Researchers and partners from the Finix sustainable textile system project, co-led by SUB scholars, kicked off the Aalto Business School "Better Business - Better Society" seminar series.

Cellulose-based fabric from the Ioncell process

SUB researchers to present at the Academy of Management conference in Boston

From August 9-13, several members of the SUB research group will participate in the 79th annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Boston, USA. They will join scholars from across the world to share and discuss the latest research on the conference theme Understanding the Inclusive Organization, examining how organizations impact communities on many different dimensions, from the psychological to the ecological.

Academy of Management 2019 logo

SUB researchers lead new sustainable textiles consortium

Researchers from the Sustainability in Business (SUB) research group are leading one of Aalto’s three consortia funded in the latest round of grants from the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research Council.

Rolls of fabric in warehouse

Many Shades of Cocreation: Research Designs for Collaboration

When academics and practitioners work together on research, there’s no standard template to follow. Aalto researchers provide a model.

Nanomaji water filters in East Africa

'The solutions for circular economy are not achieved alone'

A circular economy workshop series develops new collaborations between engineers and business researchers.

Circular economy workshop Dilemmas of disassembly Photo: Outi Puukko

How to accelerate the circular economy

It sounds simple — one business’s waste becomes another’s input. But the reality is challenging. Three case studies provide best practices.

Bales of paper and cardboard waste

Aalto sustainability news

Tree on lawn
Press releases, Research & Art Published:
Lithium ion battery electrodes and cells, researcher Taina Rauhala, photo Valeria Azovskaya, 2017
Cooperation, Research & Art Published:

Safer and more efficient rechargeable lithium batteries – Aalto is taking part in new corporate cooperation projects

International projects aim to develop new more environmentally friendly materials and production methods for rechargeable lithium batteries
Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto, Valeria Azovskaya
Cooperation, Research & Art Published:

Finland continues to lead battery metals and recycling research

As demand for batteries increases, the need to find solutions is urgent.
Students at the Spring School are studying sustainable energy solutions
Studies Published:

Unite! Spring School inspired students for further studies in sustainable energy

70 students from the seven partner universities of Unite! took part in the Spring School on sustainable energy on 17-19 May, 2021.


Resource Wisdom - Designs for a Cooler Planet 2021
Exhibitions and fairs

Helsinki Design Week 2021 lands in Otaniemi in September, showcasing three paths to resource wisdom

What is wise to design for future generations? Luxurious biocolours from fields, wearable solar cells and a lot more. Have a look into the future!
Image that illustrates Nubia disappearing under water
Exhibitions and fairs

Nubia:No More

This research project takes place in Egyptian Nubia. Today, the Nubian region in Egypt is mainly under the water of a man-made lake caused by the construction of High Dam in Aswan, Egypt. The exhibition's main goal is to create awareness on the sustainability of Nubian traditional architecture, which makes a use of natural resources, better understand social and cultural aspects of Nubian construction practices, and disclose the impacts caused by the acts of mankind.
Conferences and workshops

YHYS colloquium: Sustainable Welfare

The annual YHYS colloquium invites contributions to the topic of Sustainable welfare: States and capabilities of transformation.

Network for Business Sustainability logo

Member of the Sustainability Centres Community

SUB is a member of the Sustainability Centres Community (SCC), hosted by the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS).

Get in touch


Väre, Otaniementie 14
02150 Espoo


Elizabeth Miller
[email protected]

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