Building Sustainable Organizations Online: How Leaders Embed Sustainability into Organizational Culture in Virtual Contexts

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Business organizations may provide significant contributions toward sustainable development, and their leaders have a critical responsibility in incorporating sustainability into their organizational cultures. However, virtual collaboration creates specific challenges in this task. Although existing literature explores how sustainability is integrated into corporate culture in onsite contexts, a gap exists regarding this process in online teams. As such, this study explores how leaders embed sustainability into organizational culture in virtual contexts. Using thematic analysis on data gathered from interviews with 12 participants, this study suggests that leaders exhibit particular behaviors in this undertaking, including recognizing challenges, engaging employees, role modeling, crafting strategy and planning, monitoring and assessing performance, developing partnerships and activating internal communities, and aligning personal and organizational values. These may be further categorized into intrapersonal, interpersonal and functional leader behaviors, which remain salient in the new normal as organizations balance their virtual and face-to-face modes of interaction.