Emerald & EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards

Winner's story

The 2021 winner of the Emerald and EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards is Alfonso Hernandez-Vivanco who won for his research about how innovation and integration of management systems contribute to corporate sustainability.

Dissertation title: Understanding Innovation within the context of the Integration of Management Systems
Institution: University of Barcelona
PhD obtained at: University of Barcelona

As the quest for sustainability transforms the competitive landscape, companies must rethink their products, processes, and business models. This includes how companies innovate and manage systems in a way that effectively serves multiple stakeholders.

Although these aspects have been studied previously, little empirical research has been conducted on them. An award-winning study now conducts an empirical investigation to better understand how integrated management systems and innovation interact with corporate sustainability.

Companies are the basic building blocks of modern economic life, and their success in converting natural resources into usable goods has shaped the world we live in. However, traditional organisational values are not sustainable and must be significantly redefined. The transition to sustainability, thus, calls for a change in how companies function and implement organisational practices.

One aspect that can address this need for profound change is 'innovation.' A new innovation paradigm is needed, one that looks beyond the economy to include environmental and social change, while catering to a wide range of stakeholders, including individuals, businesses, governments, and societies. Another aspect that contributes to sustainable change is transforming the way companies manage their systems. There are several specific management systems in companies, such as those for quality, the environment, and occupational health and safety. Converging these individual management systems into one, referred to as 'Integration of Management Systems (IMS),' will make systems more sustainable, streamlined, and productive. Therefore, innovation and IMS are crucial to sustainability. The interaction of these two aspects to pursue 'corporate sustainability' has, however, received little empirical attention.

To this end, Dr. Alfonso Hernandez-Vivanco has taken up the challenge of addressing this issue by presenting an empirically supported study that connects innovation and IMS to the ultimate goal of sustainability. Speaking about his personal motivation for the study, he said, "My two main interests that prompted this research are innovation and its potential contribution to responsible management. I also want to thank my thesis directors, Dr. Merce Bernardo and Dr. Claudio Cruz-Cázares, who were instrumental in laying the groundwork for my research." This pioneering study won the 2021 Emerald and EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award, an international honour for doctoral research in responsible management.

Dr. Hernandez-Vivanco put forth a hypothesis relating the study's objectives to two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 'SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure' and 'SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.' Data from both primary and secondary sources, including databases and surveys, were analysed to test the hypotheses. In addition, various data treatment techniques such as data cleaning and econometric modelling were employed to ensure data completeness.

According to the study's findings, integrating management system principles and reaping their benefits do not necessarily require holding multiple certifications. Rather, top management participation is essential to achieving higher IMS levels. Furthermore, IMS engages with 'open innovation' to accelerate innovation through synergetic knowledge inflows and outflows. Likewise, IMS supports innovation by optimising the quality and environmental aspects of innovations, resulting in increased innovation efficiency. This in turn contributes to greater company performance via increased productivity.

The findings imply that innovation and IMS work together to form a responsible management approach that provides companies with benefits that go beyond purely operational. This approach assists businesses in adopting greener manufacturing technologies and thus developing environmentally safe products.

The study demonstrates that IMS, in conjunction with innovation, openness, and stakeholder involvement, is a potential means of addressing the growing need to effect change. Dr. Hernandez-Vivanco concludes, "These responsible management practices can be applied to other SDGs as well. Our concerns about climate change and workforce inequalities would be much more manageable if all organisations around the world implemented these management practices. As a result, these practices can be extremely valuable to society as a whole."

Hopefully, this study will prompt us to rethink and achieve the type of organisational change that sustainability rightfully demands.


In pursuit of sustainable development: the interplay of innovation and integration of management systems

How do innovation and integration of management systems work together to achieve sustainable corporate development?

Accessible version of the infographic copy

In pursuit of sustainable development: the interplay of innovation and integration of management systems

Transitions toward sustainability often aim to achieve profound and far-reaching change

Drivers of change

  • Innovation
    • Internal and external stakeholders
    • Open innovation
  • Integration of management systems (IMS)
    • Quality
    • Occupational health and safety
    • Environment
    • Others
  • Corporate sustainability
    • Economic
    • Environmental
    • Social

Although innovation and IMS are closely related to sustainability, prior studies empirically investigating this relationship are scarce.

How do innovation and IMS work together to achieve sustainable corporate development?

An empirical study exploring the role of innovation and IMS in sustainability

Innovation – IMS – Corporate sustainability

Associated sustainable development goals (SDGs)

SDG 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production

Companies can achieve higher levels of IMS regardless of certification

  • Top management is critical to the process

IMS is a responsible management approach that helps companies grow through innovation

  • Social: Adoption of cleaner production technologies
  • Economic: Improvement of innovation efficiency
  • Environmental: Development of sustainable products

Higher levels of IMS encourage process and product innovation

  • Open innovation fosters collaborative relationships among stakeholders

This thesis offers new perspectives on how to manage integrated systems and innovate in the pursuit of sustainability

Emerald and EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award-winning Research in Responsible Management
Understanding Innovation Within the Context of the Integration of Management Systems

Hernandez-Vivanco (2018) ; University of Barcelona Advisors: Dr. Merce Bernardo and Dr. Claudio Cruz-Cázares