Working in the Gaps: Exploring the Strategy Work of Accomplished Sustainability Professionals

Gary Thomas Burke, Bimal Arora, Divya Jyoti, Omid Omidvar, Igor Pyrko

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This study explores how experienced sustainability professionals perform strategy work to integrate sustainability into business strategies and processes. Drawing on in-depth interviews and research on strategy-as-practice, sustainability, and paradox, we bring to light how divergent frames and competing temporalities conjointly work against sustainability integration. We develop a theoretical model that explains how sustainability professionals use persistent optimal cyclical stretching to navigate these barriers and integrate sustainability into businesses. We show that cyclical stretching constitutes an essential form of strategy work that requires sustainability professionals to continuously and judiciously open and stretch others’ cognitive frames, temporal horizons and practice domains before cementing gains. By unpacking the complex process of cyclical stretching, the study offers new insights into the hard-fought strategy work involved in realizing sustainability transitions and draws attention to how divergent temporal orientations are central to the study of sustainability paradoxes and tensions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • General Medicine


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