The influence of the sustainable development goals on large companies’ adoption and implementation of a broader corporate purpose

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Purpose: This paper aims to understand whether, and if so how, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) influence large companies’ adoption and implementation of a broader corporate purpose, beyond profit maximization. Design/methodology/approach: Adopting a multiple-case study method, data were collected from semi-structured interviews with 28 managers from 16 large companies in Australia and Japan, and from secondary sources. Grounded theory methods were used to analyze the data and draw out key findings. Findings: The study revealed the influence of the SDGs on corporate purpose depends on the SDG integration level: where and how the SDGs are integrated into management practices. The influence was more significant when the companies implemented the SDGs at a normative level compared to those implementing the SDGs at a strategic and/or operational level. Research limitations/implications: Due to the exploratory nature of the study, the sample size is limited and covers only companies in two countries. Future studies could examine the validity of the findings and the explanatory model by testing with a larger sample and expanding the scope into different countries. The study provides practical implications on how large companies’ could scale up their contributions to achieving the SDGs. Originality/value: While the extant literature suggests a simple relationship between sustainability (the SDGs) and corporate purpose, this paper identified a more complex relationship. It presents in a multi-pathway model that explains the relationship, based on empirical evidence from 16 large companies in two different institutional contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-593
Number of pages18
JournalCorporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Sustainable development goals (SDGs)
  • Corporate purpose
  • corporate sustainability strategy

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