Knowledge management is the set of processes, technical, and managerial tools, which is aligned for creating, leveraging and sharing knowledge and information within and around an organization. Therefore, knowledge management is the achievement of organizational goals through a strategically driven facilitation and motivation of workers or knowledge to enhance and use their ability to interpret information and data through the process that factor in sustainability for the business. Researchers recommend that a business organization should ensure that knowledge management encompasses the creation, capturing, acquiring, sharing, storing and using knowledge for the success of the organization. Thus, a business organization should integrate knowledge management in a sustainability drive through measurement, accountability, and management of social and environmental performance as well as ensuring the continued success of the financial performance. Therefore, creating and utilizing knowledge capabilities is essential for business organizations when seeking to develop competitive advantages (Schrettle, Hinz, Scherrer-Rathje and Friedli 2014, p.80). The objective of this study is to explore the knowledge management role in integrating a sustainability drive into the business strategy for the organization to ensure strategic sustainable development. The paper will also review comparison, contrasts, and limitation of knowledge management as an integral component of the sustainability drive.
A sustainable drive is a business strategy that ensures development embeds social and ecological systems as well as tackling complex problems in a strategic stepwise process towards a sustainable future. The process of sustainable strategy should be inclusive and engaging as well as be able to utilize both financial and non-financial resources. The sustainable drive provides organizations with guidelines for strategic decision making, concepts, tools, and actions. In addition, knowledge management is integral in developing methods and providing guidance on how to use different tools and concepts for sustainable drive or development. The most essential component of the corporate strategy is developing a vision of the type of knowledge that the organization requires. Knowledge management assists in applying skills and knowledge in productive and organized conditions. Therefore, management must ensure that knowledge management plays an integral part in the sustainable drive. Knowledge management is important for ensuring sustainability as it improves organizational agility and improves the process of decision making. Besides, it assists in quicker problem-solving, increased innovation rate and sharing specialist expertise for sustainable development. In addition, knowledge management is integral for a sustainability drive because it promotes communication and improved business strategies which focus on strategies that create competitive advantage and future survival.
Rita, Juuso and Alina (2016, p.20) carried a study to “examine the role of knowledge management in strategic sustainable development in order to develop a model of knowledge management for strategic sustainable development.” Their analysis shows that the concept of knowledge management is widely discussed in literature but is inadequately adopted in the business world. Despite business organizations recognizing the value of knowledge, knowledge management is not widely applied and there are no structured practices. Rita, Juuso and Alina (2016, p.27) concluded that companies would highly benefit from a strategic knowledge management system when integrating sustainability drive. Rita, Juuso, and Alina (2016, p.28) established that knowledge management is an important component for a sustainable drive as it assists in creating, acquiring, sharing, using and evaluating sustainability strategies and concepts that will ensure an organization attains competitive advantage. Besides, knowledge management according to Rita, Juuso and Alina (2016, p.23) provide a baseline for assessing the current knowledge of an organization and measuring the performance of sustainable initiatives and the overall business strategy.
Knowledge management has been described by Omotayo (2015, p.15) as a “critical component for an organization seeking to ensure sustainable strategic competitive advantage.” Thus, Knowledge management is an important measure of organizational performance as well as an essential tool for ensuring competitiveness, profitability, survival and sustainability of organizations. Omotayo (2015) concluded that management must create, manage, share and utilize knowledge effectively as a vital driver for sustainability (p.27). Therefore, for business to achieve sustainability, organizations must manage knowledge effectively in terms of people, technology, and processes. The organization must reward employees who contribute their expertise in enhancing knowledge management. However, in contrast, Omotayo (2015, p.16) established that the reward initiatives and systems for sharing knowledge are that important information or knowledge comes for the lower level of the organization who have less motivation and initiative to enhance sustainability drive. Besides, organizational culture and corporate responsibility should be changed to incorporate the sustainability strategy in the overall vision of an organization. Thus, Omotayo (2015, p.30) concludes that technology and process alone cannot drive sustainability, but knowledge is an integral pivot for the sustainability strategy success. Management, in contrast, lacks expertise and knowledge to attain, maintain and leverage knowledge to drive sustainability to ensure a competitive advantage for leading higher levels of organizational success.
Driving sustainability goals require application of tools and knowledge for sustainability management (Horish, Johnson and Schaltegger 2014, p. 24). Evidence shows that the role of knowledge as a drive for sustainability is not adequately investigated. Knowledge is identified as a vital driver in promoting sustainability strategy. Despite companies claiming that knowledge management being a positive driver for sustainability, it is clear that organizations are yet to establish a framework for incorporating knowledge management in sustainability strategy. Therefore, management should establish sustainability tools depending on the available knowledge in order to gain a competitive advantage and ensure future survival. Engert, Rauter and Baumgartner (2016, p.15) explored the “integration of corporate sustainability into strategic management.” Organizations should be committed to corporate sustainability through strategic approaches that integrate knowledge as part of sustainability processes and strategies. On the contrary, knowledge management has to be identified as a key driver in sustainability. It is important for management to identify issues that influence the integration of sustainability in the overall business strategy. Organizations should develop a sustainability framework for organizations by taking knowledge management as an integral component in supporting sustainable development. Thus, sustainability framework should be derived from organizational influences from both external and internal factors as well as considering factors which support or hinder the integration of sustainability into business strategies.
According to Yang et al (2015, p.15) organization should build capacities for creating, applying and managing the ever-increasing knowledge in order to deliver tangible sustainability outcomes. The authors believe that there is less research for knowledge management as a driver for sustainability. Organizations should manage sustainability knowledge by integrating various stakeholders in order to facilitate plans and actions for delivering tangible benefits of sustainable development, especially in the infrastructure sector. The authors believe that knowledge management is a valuable tool for promoting innovation and change in diverse industries such as construction. Yang et al (2015, p.16) concluded that there are limited studies in the transport infrastructure sustainability from the perspective of knowledge management which limits the creation of frameworks that can provide a holistic approach for addressing sustainability problems in development. Knowledge management is important for promoting sustainable development and contributing to new disciplinary knowledge dimensions as well as enhancing sustainability outcomes.
Roblek et al (2014, p.7) established that “knowledge management or processes in an innovative economy seem to open up new ideas and ways as well as diverse avenues for exploiting the direction of sustainability.” Besides, new business strategies assume that a business growth rate in the innovation business environment relies on the products and services that use knowledge. Therefore, business models should include sustainable development in the overall business strategy. The strategies should focus on sustainability by incorporating environmental protection for sustainable future generations (Roblek, Meško, Bach, Pejić and Bertoncelj 2014, p.15) Organizations must invest in knowledge management that will provide improved sustainable development. Management must use knowledge to share and maintain sustainability by establishing how the final processes or products impact the environment. Therefore, ensuring that organizations integrate sustainability in their strategies will create an added value for its products as well as create competitive advantage. These advantages are not only important for enhancing society and consumer reputation, but also fulfill the legal obligation of environmental protection for sustainable development.
However, the application of knowledge management as a driver for sustainability faces key limitations which make its use extremely difficult. The field of knowledge management in sustainability strategy lacks sufficient evidence to support its application and develop a framework that can assist in attaining, sharing and maintaining sustainable development. Besides, the key to successful knowledge management as a driver for sustainability is the capacity to understand its limitations. Organizations face challenges such as the inability to establish methods to efficiently capture and record their knowledge as well as motivating people to share, apply and reuse knowledge for sustainable development (Amui, Jabbour, Jabbour and Kannan 2017, p.320). Moreover, organizations are faced with hardship in aligning knowledge management with the overall objectives, goals and a business strategy for sustainable development. The lack of frameworks for knowledge management in sustainability makes it extremely difficult to choose and implement knowledge management technology. Moreover, the exits limits in integrating knowledge management into the existing strategies, processes and information systems. These limitations hinder the ability of organizations to efficiently and effectively develop and implement a sustainability strategy in the overall business strategy. Therefore, for successful integration of knowledge management in a sustainable drive, business organizations should develop and capture as well as record and share business knowledge. This should promote initiatives for sustainable development by creating a corporate culture of sharing knowledge between management and employees as well as setting clear strategies and goals to assist in utilizing collective knowledge (Clark, Kerkhoff, Lebel and Gallopin 2016, p.4580).
The synthesis of the literature review shows that knowledge management is integral to a sustainable drive. However, studies show that there is limited evidence in the field of knowledge management and its application on the business sustainability strategies. However, the literature review has shown that organizations are undertaking technology towards sustainable development which provides a significant opportunity and gap to be explored. The application of knowledge management as vital for sustainable development is important as it opens new business ideas and processes of ensuring sharing and maintaining of information and expertise. Besides, the review shows that knowledge is essential for sustainability as it promotes initiatives for efficiently developing and implementing sustainability strategies that create added value and attain competitive advantage for organizations. Organizations should develop, capture, record and share business knowledge which promotes sustainability as well as training employees and management to develop strategies or initiatives for sustainable development. Future research should focus on the importance of knowledge management in developing frameworks which will provide a holistic approach to addressing sustainability issues in development. In conclusion, organizations should do more from the perspective of knowledge management to drive sustainability which will reduce the limitations faced in promoting sustainable development. This should include the development of knowledge vision which is designed to meet the needs of business and sustainability vision.
Amui, L.B.L., Jabbour, C.J.C., de Sousa Jabbour, A.B.L. and Kannan, D., 2017. Sustainability as a dynamic organizational capability: a systematic review and a future agenda toward a sustainable transition. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, pp.308-322.
Clark, W.C., van Kerkhoff, L., Lebel, L. and Gallopin, G.C., 2016. Crafting usable knowledge for sustainable development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(17), pp.4570-4578.
Engert, S., Rauter, R. and Baumgartner, R.J., 2016. Exploring the integration of corporate sustainability into strategic management: a literature review. Journal of cleaner production, 112, pp.3-50.
Hörisch, J., Johnson, M.P. and Schaltegger, S., 2015. Implementation of sustainability management and company size: A knowledge‐based view. Business Strategy and the Environment, 24(8), pp.5-79.
Mok, K.Y., Shen, G.Q. and Yang, J., 2015. Stakeholder management studies in mega construction projects: A review and future directions. International Journal of Project Management, 33(2), pp.6-45.
Omotayo, F.O., 2015. Knowledge Management as an important tool in Organisational Management: A Review of Literature. P.15-30.
Rita, A., Juuso, L, and Alina, M. 2016. The Role of Knowledge Management in Strategic Sustainable Development: Comparing Theory and Practice in Companies Applying the FSSD. Karlskrona. P. 3-75.
Roblek, V., Meško, M., Bach, P., Pejić, M. and Bertoncelj, A., 2014. Impact of knowledge management on sustainable development in the innovative economy.
Schrettle, S., Hinz, A., Scherrer-Rathje, M. and Friedli, T., 2014. Turning sustainability into action: Explaining firms’ sustainability efforts and their impact on firm performance. International Journal of Production Economics, 147, pp.73-84.