Nudging in the Workplace: Exploring a Micro-level Approach Towards Corporate Sustainability

Leonie Decrinis

Research output: Book/ReportPhD thesis

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In the face of growing societal challenges and rising stakeholder pressure on companies to address these issues, this thesis explores ways to facilitate more responsible and sustainable business conduct. It focuses on micro-level organisational dynamics and assesses the application of nudging as a managerial approach to encourage behaviour change in support of corporate sustainability. Three independent papers underlie this dissertation, each providing unique insights into the research topic.
Paper 1 maps and synthesises knowledge from diverse disciplines on previously applied nudging interventions in organisations in areas relevant to corporate sustainability. It creates a comprehensive framework, compiling information on the target persons, the barriers to behaviour change, the nudging types and mechanisms, and the behavioural outcomes that the reviewed studies report. Based on the research clusters and gaps identified, the article formulates a research agenda that the two subsequent papers address and build upon.
Paper 2 presents a conceptual evaluation synthesising insights from nudging research with the literature on ethics and compliance management. It critically examines how organisations can use nudging to promote ethical conduct as an essential micro-foundation of corporate sustainability. More specifically, the article highlights uncertainty, anonymity, and injustice as barriers to ethical decision-making in complex workplace situations and defines values-oriented conditions for addressing these barriers. Based on the conditions formulated, it assesses different nudges regarding their strengths and limitations to tackle the same barriers. It provides suggestions for their improved implementation with the overarching aim of fostering values orientation within the workplace.
Paper 3 employs a field experiment to explore the use of message frames as nudges in an automotive company promoting electric mobility to support corporate sustainability. The tested nudges emphasise emotional, sustainability, and cost-saving motives for employees' adoption of electric vehicles. We find positive effects for all of these nudges, even though the durability of the nudging effects is constrained. The cost-saving message has the most enduring and strongest impact overall. The insights gained from this experiment strengthen the arguments concerning different nudging mechanisms raised by my prior two papers with practical evidence of nudging.
Collectively, this thesis contributes to the micro-level literature on corporate sustainability with knowledge about the drivers and mechanisms of employee sustainable behaviour that nudges can address. Moreover, it offers critical insights into how nudges can contribute to shaping organisational contexts as key levers of behaviour change toward corporate sustainability. For practitioners, the findings of my dissertation provide guidance on the use of nudges to target cognitive and non-cognitive determinants of employee behaviour in support of corporate sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
Number of pages214
ISBN (Print)9788775682638
ISBN (Electronic)9788775682645
Publication statusPublished - 2024
SeriesPhD Series

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