Knowledge Management for Business Sustainability

Knowledge Management for Business Sustainability

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7452-2.ch002
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Knowledge management is crucial in this knowledge-based society. Further, knowledge is a critical resource when it comes to business competitiveness and sustainability. Hence, to reach the sustainability aims, knowledge management (KM) may be regarded as central for any business organizations. Therefore, adopting an in-depth literature review method with a grounded theory approach, the aim of this chapter is to discuss the role and significance of knowledge management to ensure business growth and sustainability. The chapter also provides a holistic framework of knowledge management for business sustainability.
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An increasing number of companies have started to transform into more sustainable ones (Tideman et al., 2013). Investments in sustainable practices are expected to increase both firm competitiveness and operational performance (Schoenherr, 2012; Iasevoli & Massi, 2012). Regarding the latter, performance is not only considered in terms of economic performance (e.g. savings or profitability) but also in non-economic terms such as eco-efficiency (Iasevoli & Massi, 2012). Given the interconnectedness of economic, business and social issues that form the pillars of sustainability, organizations have to attune to an even stronger involvement of the different stakeholders (Van Kleef & Roome, 2007).

To reach the sustainability aims, knowledge management (KM) may be regarded as central (Gloet, 2006; Seow, Hillary, Robinson, Anumba, Carrillo & Al‐Ghassani, 2006). There are many different perspectives as how to define KM. One of the practical definitions is to see KM as a systematic way of creating, sharing and leveraging knowledge within and around organizations (Bounfour, 2003). This clarifies that KM has a long-term orientation and therefore fits nicely with one of the underlying assumptions of sustainability and sustainable management, namely, durability (Chow & Chen, 2012). KM practices, such as knowledge creation, knowledge dissemination, knowledge storage and knowledge application, are expected to support a continued development of knowledge that is up-to-date and relevant. Hence, KM can be regarded as a strategic lever to ensure business sustainability; where the primary role of KM is to treat current and future knowledge resources sustainably by considering social, economic and business aspects (Ch, Holland, & Fathi, 2010). This brief discussion also leads us to the importance of formulating suitable KM strategies to achieve the aims set. It would also underline the critical need of having incorporated these KM strategies in the overall company strategy (Hansen et al., 1999).

In today’s dynamic competitive environment, KM research and implementation have grown rapidly in recent years. Even though several disciplines have studied KM from their own perspectives, there are only limited systematic efforts to study the interfaces of KM from an interdisciplinary perspective. Against this background, it might be interesting to study how the KM can enhance business sustainability.

More precisely, we are interested in the adoption of KM approaches supporting and improving business sustainable practices. Having this in mind, the aim of this chapter is to review existing research on KM activities in the context of business sustainable practices to establish the current body of knowledge. The main research question is: RQ1. What is the role of KM for enhancing business sustainability?

The above research question has been addressed through a structured review of the extant literature on the above topic. The review allows the establishment of the current body of knowledge and, on this basis, to identify gaps in our understanding. Based on this, the present chapter will list a number of promising future research avenues.

The remainder of the chapter is organized as follows. The next section briefly summarizes extant literature on KM. Then, in Section 3, the main focus is on the link between KM strategies and business sustainability. Section 4 provides a critical discussion and presents the main findings. Section 5 discusses the solutions and recommendations and provides future areas for research. The final section terminates with the conclusion of the chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge: The fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association, acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique, the range of one’s information or understanding, the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning or the fact or condition of having information or of being learned. Knowledge is acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition, familiarity or conversance, as with a particular subject or branch of learning including acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, research or report.

Decision-Making: A rational and logical process of choosing the best alternative or course of action among the available options.

Sustainability: Sustainability is the ability or capacity of something to be maintained or to sustain itself.

Impact: To have effect on, effect of coming into contact with a thing or person; the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology, the impression made by an idea, cultural movement, social group, it is to drive or press (an object) firmly into (another object, thing, etc.) so as to have an impact or strong effect (on).

Knowledge Management: The systematic process of finding, selecting, organizing, distilling, and presenting information that improves the comprehension in a specific area of interest. It is used also as a synonym for content management or information management, but incorporates communities of practice, learning from experience, and knowledge retention and transfer.

Information technology (IT): The umbrella term that encompasses the entire field of computer-based information processing: computer equipment, applications, and services, telecommunication links and networks, digital databases, and the integrated technical specifications that enable these systems to function interactively. IT is study or use of systems (especially computers and telecommunications) for storing, retrieving, and sending information.

Imperative: Absolutely necessary; urgent; compelling; a rule; principle; or instinct that compels a certain behavior.

Knowledge Exchange: The act, process, or an instance of exchanging acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation for and including general erudition creating, involving, using, or disseminating special knowledge or information.

Knowledge Development: The development of knowledge includes not only processes of external knowledge procurement (i.e., through cooperative efforts, consultants, new contacts, etc.) or the creation of specific knowledge resources like research and development departments. The formation of personal and technical knowledge networks is also part of the development of knowledge.

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