The overarching research question that guides the GOLDEN program is how companies learn to change towards more sustainable enterprise models.
What is unique about GOLDEN?
The research approach of GOLDEN is characterized by two main principles:
Accordingly, GOLDEN’s research work is organized as follows:
In more detail, GOLDEN researchers work in four inter-related activities:
“The Observatory” is a collection of sustainability related initiatives of companies around the world and across industries. Although it includes company-wide data, its distinctive focus is on initiatives that a company sees as both important for sustainability and its business strategy. The Observatory provides the basis for the assessment of the relative effectiveness of past sustainability-driven initiatives, and the maturity of a company’s sustainability strategy.
Whereas the observatory provides the assessment of the external sustainability impact of companies, the case histories complement that by providing an internal assessment of the status quo of the sustainability integration within the company’s processes, structures (both at the organizational, functional and business unit level), organizational traits and the individual managers’ mindsets.
The research protocol, which is implemented in the case study companies serves two main goals: (1) it provides the baseline assessment for any experimental intervention research (see below) to follow, and (2) it allows to develop a stand alone case study as well as comparative studies to understand sustainability integration at different levels of the business organization.
As GOLDEN aims to understand HOW companies change towards a more sustainable enterprise model, the experimental design approach is at the core of the research program. Both, field and lab experimental studies are carried out at three different levels:
(1) The Decision Makers Experiments to implement interventions on the individual level to develop mindsets, behavior and skills for sustainable change and management;
(2) The Enterprise Experiments to develop and implement sustainability initiatives aimed at changing processes and structures (functional, group, organizational level); and
(3) The Ecosystems Experiments to develop large system change initiatives with the aim to speed up the establishment of structures needed for sustainable enterprise.
Simulation modeling (e.g. agent-based modeling, system-dynamics approaches) supports the experimental work as with the help of these techniques the impact of planned interventions can be better understood ex ante, for example in a longer time horizon or by assuming different, plausible environmental conditions. Moreover, simulation techniques are applied in those areas where field or lab experiments are difficult to implement. Thus, they will support insightful conversation in the labs and provide guidance in setting policies and intervention priorities for businesses and institutions.
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GOLDEN’s developers believe that the time is right for this ambitious undertaking. This hypothesis arises from the following observations and beliefs:
(1) Networks of academics and their research centers partnering with businesses have been forming to address the sustainability imperative, recognizing that they are a source of the problem and must themselves be agents of developing the solution. These provide important building blocks for GOLDEN.
(2) To date, action has focused largely on becoming proactive in protecting reputation and other risks, and operational efficiencies with cost and materials reduction. Leading firms are now focusing more on innovation in products and services, and we foresee that the coming emphasis will be on innovation in the very way enterprises build and configure their social, financial, intellectual and cultural capital.
(3) GOLDEN has developed tools, methodologies, knowledge and skills to a point where it is ready to deploy them in various contexts in cooperation with companies and other institutions in mutually beneficial way.
(4) There is an increased level of appreciation of possibilities and the need for change by others (including ecosystem participants and funders) for innovative change strategies; and
(5) The needs for this scale of ambition and effort are recognized as pressing (evidenced by issues such as climate change, food security and financial crises).
Knowledge generation represented by publications, presentations and new curricula requires rigorously collected and validated data. GOLDEN’s data is distinguished by its geographic scope (global), its industry scope, its type of enterprise (initially publicly held corporations, then expanding), and its longitudinal vision. There are two ways GOLDEN as a data platform can be useful for individual researchers. One is with the data that is collected from all participating firms and Labs, as part of their Observatory commitment. This will provide data for a wide range of testable propositions about issues as varied as sensing and sense-making, search and selection, experimentation and scaling up, learning, strategizing, organizing, relational qualities, capabilities, and individual and organizational identity. In addition, while collecting the common data, the researcher may gather data on associated questions they consider important. These can be individually held emerging initiatives, or ones that can be developed by a group whose formation is facilitated through the GOLDEN community.
A first benefit is to be associated with a most ambitious and comprehensive initiative to develop the knowledge and action necessary to establish sustainable enterprises. It provides a platform for more leading knowledge and methodology development, and for the field of sustainability-related science and sustainable business itself.
Apart from that the amount of data collected could be the basis for a long set of publications, other values for researcher and research centers include:
Value Proposition for Individual Researchers:
Value Proposition for Research Centers:
The input by the researchers largely depends on the activities the he or she wants engage in. Once engaged in a GOLDEN project the following inputs by individual researchers and research centers are expected.
Potential Inputs by Individual Researchers:
Inputs by Research Centers:
We expect that the contribution of RCs will be quite different according to the specializations of researchers working with GOLDEN. The only parts we basically expect all RCs to take part in is the enterprise level with the research handbook and protocol. RCs and their researchers are free to join any other GOLDEN activity they are particularly interested in. For example, involvement in simulations will depend on the availability of a researcher interested in that area. The same is definitely true for the Ecosystem Labs or the Decision Makers Lab. So the set of skill and knowledge determine the involvement and not the other way around.
The only commitment concerns the research activities – no financial (or other) commitment required. The research time should be covered by the financial contribution of the companies involved and/or by funding through grants, etc. The main task for the RCs is to identify interested and available researchers.
The data will flow into one data pool and it is a common good
Yes, with the following process: (1) the researcher who intends to use the data declares ahead of time the paper he or she wants to write, the potential contribution and the type/subset of data that is required to write the paper; (2) every other member of the community will have up to 60 days to declare in writing a similar paper; (3) if the two (or more) agree on co-authoring or splitting the paper, everything is fine, if not the central research advisory board will be asked to produce a suggestion for solving the issue to which everyone agrees.