Title: Emerging trends in sustainability research: a look back as we begin to look forward

Authors: Arash Kordestani; Kaveh Peighambari; Tim Foster

Addresses: Business Administration and Industrial Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, 971 87 Luleå, Sweden ' School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University, 351 95 Växjö, Sweden ' Business Administration and Industrial Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, 971 87 Luleå, Sweden

Abstract: This research is a content analysis of 1,502 peer-reviewed articles on sustainability. The aim is to investigate emerging themes and trends in this area of research and move towards recommendations for researchers to consider when developing their work in sustainability research. By exploring and tracking sustainability literature in the business and management disciplines over a 20-year period, patterns emerge that could provide a better understanding of the trends within authorship, research topic, and the themes and concepts being studied. One interesting contribution of this study is introducing the concept of the '4Ps of sustainability research', which emerges by reviewing this area over time. The results suggest that the evolution of sustainability research can be summarised in organisations and firms moving from principles and policy towards practice and performance during over 20 years of sustainability efforts. This paper also discusses the creation of sustainability value and evolution of businesses to sustainability knowledge centres. It adds to the related literature, by proposing a new way of categorising sustainability research over time, and introducing a framework for theory building in this area of research.

Keywords: sustainability research; content analysis; literature review; Leximancer; historical research; trends; sustainable development; sustainability value; sustainability knowledge centres.

DOI: 10.1504/IJESD.2015.068602

International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development, 2015 Vol.14 No.2, pp.154 - 169

Received: 18 Feb 2014
Accepted: 27 Aug 2014

Published online: 17 Mar 2015 *

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