Does Buddhism Enable a Different Sustainability Ethic at Work?

Sashika Abeydeera, Kate Kearins, Helen Tregidga

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This paper examines how sustainability managers in a Buddhist country context make sense of sustainability and the extent to which they see themselves as able to enact their private moral positions at work. Analysis of interviews with 25 managers involved with sustainability initiatives in Sri Lankan organisations reveals differences between private moral positions, conventional and enacted morality. Buddhist values that typically shape managers’ private moral positions on sustainability – interconnectedness, moderation, empathy, and reciprocity – tend not to be reflected in the organisations in which they work. The conventional emphasis in organisations is typically a measure-and-manage approach to sustainability, with only a few organisations reported as displaying more extensive concern for the environment and for community needs and employee wellbeing. Managers’ enacted morality is found to be based on the prioritisation of economic concerns in the organisations in which they work, and the perceived importance of a secular view. Buddhism has potential to inform sustainability, but its actual enactment is problematic as individuals’ moral positions do not translate easily to collective enactment, even in a predominantly Buddhist country context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-130
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Corporate Citizenship
Issue number62
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

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