Daina Mazutis explores the relationship between strategic leadership and sustainability
Daina Mazutis is the new Endowed Professor of Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) at Telfer, focusing her research on the path to more socially and environmentally conscious organizations. With studies that lie at the intersection of strategy, leadership and corporate responsibility, Mazutis is interested in understanding better the barriers and enablers to successful adoption of sustainable practices.
“Heightened public expectations for corporate citizenship have led, at one end of the spectrum, to “greenwashing”-type initiatives meant to deflect attention away from inaction or worse, misconduct, and at the other end, substantive efforts to match ‘doing good’ with ‘doing well,’” says Mazutis, who teaches a course on the Social Issues of Business. “To achieve more of the latter, we will need our students and future business leaders to approach environmental and social issues facing organizations today as critical strategic issues that require a broader understanding of business’s role in society.”
In addition to her academic background (Ph.D. from Western University and most recently a professor of strategy at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland), Mazutis brings extensive industry and leadership experience to the task. Daina spent over 10 years in advertising, marketing, consulting and sales where she specialized in the strategic planning, research, development and implementation of national marketing campaigns for large multi-national clients. Direct involvement with a variety of strategic initiatives awakened an interest in understanding the important role of “leaders who are more likely to be engaged in sustainability business practices and ethical behaviour…the leaders who are willing to go above and beyond required practices.”
The ability to abolish unsustainable practices within a firm no doubt also turns on company culture and its employees. Employees, for their part, not only fulfill the aspirations of leaders, they can move calls for even more sustainable practices up the management chain. Customers also have, with social media, a much bigger platform to demand change than they had previously. “But finding a match between leadership character and strategy is probably the biggest factor in whether a firm becomes an exemplary leader or a disappointing laggard,” Mazutis says.
“If we want companies to break away from the pack in terms of sustainability, we have to understand the role of leadership and strategy but also these other change agents. How companies get to a better place in terms of sustainability, who or what leads them there, and what become the key motivating factors for firms to transform are all centrally important questions in my research.”
Recent publication: Daina Mazutis and coauthor Christopher Zintel published “Leadership and corporate responsibility: a review of the empirical evidence” in Annals of Social Responsibility. The paper was also presented at this year’s Academy of Management conference in Vancouver (August 2015) and appeared in abstract form in the best paper proceedings.