Organizational Communication and Sustainable Development: ICTs for Mobility

Organizational Communication and Sustainable Development: ICTs for Mobility

Anette Hallin (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden) and Tina Karrbom-Gustavsson (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
Indexed In: SCOPUS
Release Date: October, 2009|Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 348
ISBN13: 9781605668222|ISBN10: 1605668222|EISBN13: 9781605668239|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-822-2


Although social, economical, and environmental sustainability has become increasingly important in this era of globalization, little effort has been put forth to investigate the social and cultural impact.

Organizational Communication and Sustainable Development: ICTs for Mobility explores how mobility meets sustainability in contemporary organizational communication. A compendium of chapters written by leading international experts, this defining body of research sheds light on the advantages as well as disadvantages of the use of ICTs for social, economical, and environmental sustainability.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Communicating in multicultural firms
  • Communication in global development projects
  • Gender and Technology
  • Geographical perspectives on regional communication policies
  • Green urban planning
  • ICT and environmental management practice
  • ICTs for business enterprise mobility
  • Philanthropy, CSR, and sustainability
  • Tools for corporate assessment of sustainable development
  • Workplace location and ICTs

Reviews and Testimonials

The overall aim of the book is to develop an understanding of how the different perspectives of sustainable development, globalization and technical development interact, through managerial as well as general human actions, and which measures can be taken to secure sustainable development.

– Anette Hallin, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

Search this Book:



In this book, three different but converging processes are investigated; sustainable development, globalization and technical development. Each process is complicated and multi-faceted, but here, their mutual interaction, effects and possibilities have gained attention and interest.

“Sustainable development” are words of honor in many settings today, due to the world-wide debate on how we shall lead our lives and form our societies so that the generations to come have good possibilities of leading their lives. According to the classic definition in the so called “Brundtland-report”, sustainable development involves economic, environmental as well as social consideration, and in the report, social sustainability is defined as the building of long term, stable and dynamic societies where basic human needs are fulfilled, but where local and regional values, traditions and actions are acknowledged and respected at the same time . And in a time that has witnessed and to a large extent embraced a rapid development of technologies that in some cases seem to threaten these very basic ideas of social and cultural society, there is a pressing need to dig deeper into how technology - her ICTs is related to social and cultural sustainability. Moreover, due to the process of globalization, where the mobility of people, goods and ideas is a general feature, this is a relevant issue world-wide and therefore this book will explore this question by, as previously described, going into the heart of human activities: communication.

This book is thus about the use, effects, potentials and limitations of new technology for information and communication in social settings such as private corporations, organizations, the web, societies and families. The overall aim of the book is to develop an understanding of how the different perspectives of sustainable development, globalization and technical development interact, through managerial as well as general human actions, and which measures can be taken to secure sustainable development. This means that this book, rather than answering the overall question of how mobility can meet sustainability in contemporary organizational communication, discusses and highlights different aspects of the issue.

As will become obvious to the reader, the book contains a variety of perspectives, from different parts of the world, different theoretical fields as well as different approaches. Thus, the book is to be seen as a patch work in the word’s most positive sense, which rather than being the ultimate collection building a coherent theory, brings together a collage of texts on the theme. In this book, different perspectives on organizational communication and sustainable development are displayed, indicating how the central concepts of “organizational communication”, “sustainable development” and “ICTs for mobility” can and are interpreted in a variety of ways.


Reading the chapters, it becomes clear that there is a realm of concepts associated with “sustainable development”, such as “Corporate Social Responsibility”, “sustainable construction”, “green strategies”, “sustainability tools” and “philanthropy” which reflect the wide spread of the sustainability idea into different theoretical and practical settings. It is clear that “sustainable development” as a concept is political, in the sense that there are several related concepts, framing the basic concept differently. At the same time, the chapters in this book also show that sustainable development is not merely a question of rhetoric – the book contains several examples of actions undertaken, aiming at creating a better world for future generations.

Also, it becomes clear that there are more similarities than differences in the usage of ICTs independent of the social setting. Most organizations and corporations use Internet, E-mail, Intranet, digital communities, mobile phones etc – ICTs is a global phenomenon. The variety of information and communication tools and strategies is limited and the arguments for using ICTs are often similar independent on the setting – often cost- and time efficiency as well as environmental-arguments are used. However, several authors in the book also draws our attention to the down sides of using ICTs, such as information overload and the problems of decisions being made from a distance, with little or no knowledge and awareness of local effects. Is that sustainable communication?


There are of course several ways of structuring a book with chapters of such broad scope. We have chosen a thematic structure including four themes: Sustainable Development, Communicating Sustainability, Sustainable Communication and Critical Perspectives. In each section there are chapters ranging from basic research to case descriptions and more visionary texts. Our hope is that by putting the texts together this way, the reading will evoke new insights as well as new, fruitful questions.

The first theme, Sustainable Development, contains chapters about how ICTs can contribute to the work with and for sustainable development in organizations on local, regional, national and international levels. Here, Per Andersson, Susanne Sweet and Christopher Rosenqvist have contributed with a chapter about how the spread and use of mobile phones and wireless services impact the business and development in developing countries. The authors introduce the concept of value, a concept they argue is of increasing importance but difficult to define or measure. They elaborate on a conceptual framework that addresses some contemporary issues of the new emerging, wireless world such as: the ‘value’ created by new wireless applications. The chapter provides an interesting discussion of the value of mobility for economic sustainability.

In the following chapter, Aleksandra Djukic and Vesna Tomic discuss how ICTs can be used in the development of a country that has an unequal distribution of population which, the authors argue, is a sustainability issue since the rapid urbanization leads to the emptying of certain regions, and thus the overthrow and challenge of local values and traditions which instead might help build the country. The case they explore is Serbia, but according to the authors all SEE-countries (South Eastern Europe) share the same challenge today.

The next chapter takes us from the national level to the city level. Here, Özge Yalciner Ercoskun provides a thorough overview of the ‘eco-tech city’ concept and an evaluation of the use of ICTs in cities with the aim of exploring the potential ways of creating sustainable cities. The chapter argues that in this development, urban planners as well as policy makers must take an active role in incorporating ICTs for the construction of sustainable communities, in order to avoid dehumanized communication.

Ercoskun’s chapter is followed by a chapter which illustrates how the work with creating the sustainable city can be carried out in practice. Written by Martin Kreeb, Georg Dold and Hans-Dietrich Haasis, the chapter reports on the ECORadar-Shakti, which is an interactive internet portal aimed at helping and motivating managers of small- and middle sized companies in Hyperbad, India, to work more with sustainability issues. This chapter, being an in-depth description of the project, highlights the problems and success factors of these kinds of initiatives.

Communicating Sustainability is the theme for the second section, which includes chapters that all deals with the possibilities and problems of communicating sustainability, with or without ICTs. The section begins with the chapter by Arun Sahay who sketches the development of how businesses have gone from being philanthropic to corporate social responsible as the CSR-activities of the firm have been aligned with the business strategies of the firm. This way, Sahay shows how sustainability are much older than the concepts we use to denote these kinds of activities today, but how “CSR” and similar concepts have forced companies to adopt these ideas into their ordinary activities and into their strategies in order to be able to communicate them externally.

The chapter written by Cecilia Mark-Herbert and Jonas Rorarius looks at different tools that are used for assessing organizational sustainability. By evaluating the tools according to the framework proposed here, the authors conclude that the different tools are geared differently – some put larger emphasis on economic sustainability, or environmental sustainability, for example – an insight which is important, not only for those interested in selecting evaluation tools for organizational sustainability, but for organizations’ possibilities of communicating sustainability to external audiences.

Elke Perl-Vorbach’s chapter takes an interorganizational approach to the communication of sustainability. Based on an empirical survey of 138 Austrian companies, she draws the conclusion that companies are surprisingly unaware of the advantages of interorganizational cooperation regarding reaching sustainability. This indicates a need both of more research, as well as the dissemination of this knowledge from academia to practitioners.

Sustainable communication is the book’s third theme. Here, the chapters discuss communication from a social and cultural sustainability, departing from case studies in companies, projects as well as businesses of various kinds.

Anders Klitmøller and Jakob Lauring depart from a qualitative study of a number of knowledge intensive companies and suggest that multi-cultural and multilingual firms are faced with certain challenges in the attempt to fruitfully utilize the diverse background of their workforce. They argue that native languages are used strategically by the employees to create social boundaries within the firm and that even though the introduction of English as cooperate language might solve some communication issues, it tends to render the communication less nuanced, thereby reducing the innovative potential within the firm. According to Klitmøller and Lauring ICT does not necessarily solve communication problems within a given company but may instead be used as a social ‘tool’ to uphold social boundaries and fragmentation. It is suggested that it is necessary to expand the notion of performance to include the collectivity of the workplace.

In their chapter Maria Adenfelt and Katarina Hamberg Lagerström provides a better understanding of the management and organization of global development projects (GDP) with focus on communication and coordination. The study is based on a GDP developing and implementing a common IT-system open for local market adaptations. The authors elaborate on the duality of what was actually communicated to the project members and what actually were the intentions from management. Adenfelt and Hamberg Lagerström show that the duality had negative effects on the project outcome. Thus, communication was not to be understood as contributing to social sustainability.

In the next chapter Mattias Jacobsson, Anneli Linde och Henrik Linderoth elaborate on challenges in the construction sector in Sweden. Based on several empirical studies of the construction sector the authors discuss challenges that relate to the construction sector becoming more sustainable. In focus in this chapter is the area of environmental management and its relations to communication and information practise in construction companies.

The authors Per Forsberg and Mikael Lind focus on family-run businesses when illustrating the challenges of ensuring and sustaining cultural competitiveness in family-run businesses in a globalised world where control and management tend to be made at a distance. The authors argue that family-run businesses have a special culture that makes them good at creating and taking part in innovative networks – a culture that is threatened by the implementation of ICTs for controlling and governing at a distance. As a solution to this problem the authors suggest that new technologies of communication have the potential to strengthen the ability to create innovative networks.

Greger Henriksson and Minna Räsänen take a sustainability perspective on travelling. They base their chapter on the assumption that keeping the number and length of business and commuting trips at reasonable levels could contribute to reaching targets of environmental sustainability. The chapter shed light on variation in the use of travel and communications on an individual level in work life and provide some examples of ways in which ICTs may lead to improvements.

The section called Critical perspectives gathers chapters of various kinds raising issues stemming from neglect of all dimensions of the communication process; cultural specificities as well as gender problems when it comes to implementing and using ICTs.

In his chapter, Marco Tortora uses geography of communication as a theoretical framework to understand the issue of organizational communication. After illustrating the framework with an example from Tuscany, Italy, Tortora provides a brief empirical example – also from Tuscany – which points to the difficulties that can arise in the geography of communication due to a mismatch between the local and the regional level. If organizational communication is to be sustainable, argues Tortora, all aspects of the geography of communication must be taken into account; i.e. it is not sufficient only to build infrastructure, for example for ICTs, those that are to use it must become involved so that the infrastructure is filled with relevant content.

Honoré Mimche and Norbert Tohnain Lengha’s chapter takes us to Africa, and discusses the impact of new information and communication technologies (NICTs) on the organization of the family. Despite its advantages, Mimche and Lengha points to the problems of NICTs when it comes to upholding cultural traditions regarding family matters, which can be discussed from a cultural sustainability-perspective. To what extent should we allow the new technologies change our societies is the overall question that this chapter evokes.

The final chapter in this section, written by Michaela Cozza looks at technology from a gender perspective. There is, argues Cozza, a gender digital divide, which is understudied, due to “gender blindness”. This affects the way we perceive new technology, and Cozza’s conclusion is that even though there have been attempts to deal with it, the big question still remains: “how is technology gendered”?


As should be clear from the brief description of the different chapters above, this book encompasses chapters discussing the issue of organizational communication, sustainable development and ICTs both theoretically and practically, and our hope is that this book will be beneficial to a range of different readers; scholars and practitioners, managers and others working in organizations interested in a deeper understanding of the area of sustainable development, as well as politicians and government authorities.


The world is always changing – that is what we call development. During the one year long process of editing this book, the word has changed immensely. Financial systems have broken down, there is a worldwide depression and many people have lost their savings and their jobs. This has of course an impact on the three processes we set out studying in the book: sustainable development, globalization and technical development. The conditions for corporations, organizations and individuals to fulfill their goals and dreams and to develop new and more sustainable ways to communicate have changed. However, the question of how how mobility can meet sustainability in contemporary organizational communication is still highly pressing. What are the advantages of ICTs? Which are its negative aspects? Which problems are solved and which are created?

This book is a timely contribution to researchers, politicians, students and decision makers with a fresh and thought provoking discussion on ICTs in relation to sustainable development and communication, an area of growing importance. This way, our hope is that the book will not only provide answers, but stimulate new questions and studies regarding the cross roads of sustainable development, globalization and technical development.

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Anette Hallin is a researcher at the Department of Industrial Economy and Management at the Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden) where she also teaches. She takes a general interest in the creation of organizational images and the relationship between image-making and organizing and has written on the matter, both in journals as well as in books. She recently contributed to the book, Information Communication Technologies and City Marketing: Digital Opportunities for Cities Around the World, published by IGI Global and wrote an article entitled, “Managing Death. Corporate Social Responsibility and Tragedy” in Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 16:4.
Tina Karrbom-Gustavsson (PhD) is currently working as the Development Director of Flemingsberg – From Brains to Business, a joint initiative by the Stockholm County Council, Huddinge and Botkyrka municipalities, with support from the Karolinska Institute, the Royal Institute of Technology and Södertörn University, to promote and coordinate the development of Flemingsberg, one of the most interesting areas in Europe and Stockholm – “the Capital of Scandinavia.” Dr. Karrbom Gustavsson has previously worked as an associate professor in the Department of Industrial Management at the Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden). Her teaching and research concerns organization and management in general and the management of project organizations in particular.