The Role of Human Resource Management in Creating Sustainable Organizations
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- Master of Science 
Sustainability is a thoroughly discussed topic in research. The UN define sustainability based on three pillars: environment, finance and society (Bansal & Des Jardine, 2014; Ehnert et al, 2016). So far, most organizations have mainly focused on the first two pillars and less on the third pillar. Society (or people) is mainly taken care of by human resource management (HRM). With the increasing importance of sustainability, a new branch of HRM developed – Sustainable HRM (Ehnert et al., 2016). This type of HRM takes a broad stance on the topic of sustainability, integrating the environmental, economic and societal perspective. It is of interest to companies to examine the role Sustainable HRM plays in fostering sustainability in organizations. Previous research discussed possible tensions between the three pillars of sustainability, a phenomenon called the Sustainability Paradox (Ehnert, Harry, & Zink, 2014; Hahn et al., 2014; Rosati & Faria, 2019). However, there is a lack of research concerning how organizations deal with this paradox. This qualitative study examines how organizations perceive sustainability, which role HRM takes regarding sustainability, and how tensions arising from opposing goals of the three perspectives of sustainability are resolved. The analysis is based on two types of qualitative research and data, which are categorized and examined based on codes. The main data source are ten semi-structured interviews conducted in five companies (five HR and five sustainability departments) and the second data source are 52 sustainability/annual reports. The results indicate that sustainability is mostly defined in terms of the environmental pillar. The social pillar is increasing in relevance, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to the role of HRM, it becomes clear that it functions more as an enabler rather than an active contributor to sustainability strategies. So far, HRM is often too limited in resources to create an active change. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed and directions for future research given.
Masteroppgave(MSc) in Master of Science in Leadership and Organizational Psychology - Handelshøyskolen BI, 2021