Bringing Sustainability Innovation into Routine Organizational Management: Philips China Case Study

Lead PI: Dr. Steven Alan Cohen

Unit Affiliation: Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management (SPM)

October 2021 - April 2022
Asia ; China
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The Earth Institute’s Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management proposes a 6-month project (to start July 1, 2021 and be concluded by December 31, 2021) to prepare a case study for Philips China that explores best practices in achieving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments, and investigates challenges and potential solutions to implementing the company’s sustainability action plan and targets.

Sustainability management is the future of management, and is the next phase of management innovation. In the 21st century, sustainability must be integrated into the heart of what businesses do, just as internationalization, information technology, and human resource management were central to management innovation in the 20th century. Corporations such as Philips are attempting to do business responsibly and sustainably, reducing their carbon footprint, minimizing climate and environmental risk, improving health and wellbeing, increasing circularity, enhancing resiliency, and delivering long-term value for customers, shareholders and society. Sustainability is at the core of Philips’ vision, with ambitious targets for the company’s solutions, operations, and supply chain. Philips’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) endeavors require that its managers effectively become sustainability managers. Promoting global environmental sustainability is a shared responsibility of businesses in all countries, but China’s contribution is particularly important. The sheer pace of China’s economic growth makes sustainability a difficult and necessary task. China has recently shown profound leadership on climate change and environmental issues that makes the analysis of case studies in China particularly relevant.

Many companies have come to understand that the implementation of ESG goals requires embedding sustainability management at all levels of the organization. While companies recognize the need to take these actions, often their expertise and immediate priorities lie in their own core functions, not in integrating sustainability plans and assessing operational risks within this context. Many business leaders know they need to do this, and while there is ever broader acceptance of the why, there is not a deep understanding of the how. We therefore aim to build that capacity, based on academically rigorous but applied research. We intend to research and address the fundamental challenges facing managers in operationalizing sustainability strategies within routine decision-making processes inside Philips China.

Specifically, this study will aid Philips China in assessing necessary improvements, in consultation with our team at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, to continue their leadership in the provision of healthcare equipment and other consumer products, as well as serve as a model for the sustainable transformation of global enterprises. In addition, this study will explore the best practices necessary for enhancing the business model of Philips China in alignment with China’s sustainable development policies and Philips’ sustainability targets.