As a result of global industrialization, the environment is deteriorating, making environmental issues a colossal concern for humanity. The growth of the population, consumption, and the use of non-renewable resources are responsible for environmental problems worldwide. Environmental protection and sustainability are immense challenges for global organizations; hence, it is imperative to deal with them by adopting curative measures (Sulphey and Faisal 2021
). The term “sustainability” gained popularity as the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations sparked a discussion on sustainability. The commission took a broad, long-term, and considered stakeholder-inclusive view on sustainable development. Three pillars of sustainable development were recognized. The three pillars were economic, social, and environmental. The commission was concerned with environmental deterioration and its social impact on economic growth (Brundtland Commission 1987
). Businesses began to consider sustainability in response to all of these issues. Thus, sustainable societal development is only possible if a business incorporates sustainability into its organizational agenda (Wagner 2015
). The business world can move toward sustainable business development by becoming more aware of environmental and social issues (Schoenherr 2012
; Ehnert et al. 2016
; Faisal 2023
). Therefore, organizations must include environmental objectives and economic goals during strategic formulation. However, this awareness fascinates the business world to be proactive in dealing with it.
In this modern dynamic business environment, the role of human resource management (HRM) is in a transformation phase. Only those organizations that inspire their employees and foster a great workplace culture can stay alive in the competition. HRM now provides people- and environment-focused economic and social solutions to build a long-lasting corporate culture, in contrast to only recruiting individuals with high potential who can enhance work processes in line with business goals (Faisal and Naushad 2020
Sustainable HRM is a new approach to human resources management which integrates functions of HRM with corporate sustainability and accomplishes organizational objectives along with environmental objectives (Ehnert 2009
; Kramar 2014
). The term “sustainable HRM” is one of the elements of the growing organizations that are publicly revealing their sustainability endeavors (Ehnert et al. 2016
). Organizations need to incorporate social and environmental goals into their economic aims, be change agents (Aguilera et al. 2007
), and engage in sustainable development that balances current and future demands. Stress at work, employee burnout, health problems, and balancing work and personal responsibilities are all common problems nowadays (Mariappanadar and Kramar 2014
; Stankevičiūtė and Savanevičienė 2019
). Many researchers are sure sustainable HRM could solve these problems because it considers human factors (Ehnert 2009
; Ehnert and Harry 2012
; Hahn et al. 2015
). The sustainable part of HRM creates a work environment that keeps current and potential employees interested enough to work willingly and well for the organization (Ehnert et al. 2014
). As a result, employees can balance work and life well without feeling stressed or having health problems. Jackson et al.
) and Ehnert and Harry
) say that human resource management (HRM) is a crucial part of making an organization last. The HRM sustainability perspective is vital when discussing sustainability in society and business. Several researchers (Hahn et al. 2015
; Ehnert 2009
) think sustainable HRM’s implications could help to solve problems such as job burnout, stress, and work–life balance because they take the needs of people into account.
Bibliometric analysis has become incredibly popular in business research because of the use of different bibliometric software such as VOSviewer, Gephi, Leximancer, and Biblioshiny and with availability of scientific databases such as Scopus and Web of Science (Khan et al. 2021
). Researchers use bibliometric analysis to discover emerging trends, collaboration patterns, documents, and sources of information on a specific research topic. It is an advanced approach that scans, extracts, and presents information in a clear and understandable form by illustrating it with maps, charts, and tables (Khan and Muktar 2020
; Choudhary and Datta 2022
). There were many bibliometric studies conducted on human resource management and connected fields. Examples include the intellectual structure of HRM research (García-Lillo et al. 2017
), Human Resource Training (Danvila-del-Valle et al. 2019
), the bibliometric keywords network analysis of human resource management (Chae et al. 2020
), human resource management in performance measurement and management (Garengo et al. 2022
), HRM studies in the hospitality and tourism domain (Pelit and Katircioglu 2022
), HRM and blockchain (Mohammad Saif and Islam 2022
), and green HRM (Khan and Muktar 2020
; Bahuguna et al. 2023
; Fachada et al. 2022
; Choudhary and Datta 2022
); for sustainable HRM the only bibliometric study was conducted for the period of 1982 to 2019 by Kainzbauer and Rungruang
). A comprehensive review of the literature reveals that a fair understanding of sustainable HRM emerged from 2003 onwards, and research interest in this field increased tremendously from 2019 to 2022. As a result, earlier studies could not cover this growth phase, so the current study focused specifically on the last two decades for this bibliometric study. Therefore, the current work fills the research gap.
Research on sustainable HRM has increased during the last four years. Current research reviewed different earlier studies to understand the conceptual framework of sustainable HRM. This paper further intended to enlighten and answer different questions through bibliometric analysis. First, what is the total number of studies conducted in this exciting field from 2003 to 2022? Second, what are the different keywords used in the studies to conceptualize sustainable HRM? Third, which authors mainly contributed to this field and were recognized worldwide through high citations? Finally, which journals have the most citations and significant impact on sustainable HRM?
2. Literature Review
The roots of sustainable HRM are related to strategic human resource management (SHRM) and are referred to as an extension of it (Ehnert 2009
; Mariappanadar 2019
; Kramar 2014
). Sustainable HRM is directly associated with sustainability, while SHRM’s focal area is the strategy and HRM (Boxall 2012
; Mariappanadar 2019
). However, the theoretical framework of both is the same. Numerous authors have explored the definition of sustainable HRM; Table 1
describes its details.
Based on the above definitions, it is clear that most definitions are about an organization’s long-term viability and business performance. Therefore, the long-term perspective of effective HRM practices connects it with strategic human resource management (SHRM).
In an organization, employees are vital resources, which is why sustainable HRM creates better employment relationships to attain sustainable corporate development. In addition, many researchers opined that HR functions play a vital role in achieving sustainability (Boudreau and Ramstad 2005
; Faisal and Naushad 2020
; Kramar 2014
2.1. Theoretical Framework of Sustainable HRM
Stakeholder theory (Freeman 1984
), a resource-based view (RBV) (Wernerfelt 1984
), and ability, motivation, and opportunity (AMO) theory (Appelbaum et al. 2000
) serve as the foundation of sustainable HRM. However, AMO theory was primarily applied in earlier studies. First, as per stakeholders’ perspective, the relationship between sustainable HRM and sustainability is established by the interaction of various players such as stakeholders, environmental agents, and the government. It clearly explains the HRM strategies as not just caring about the interests of employees but also trying to fulfill stakeholders’ expectations. Thus, this approach considers the collective concern of employees and stakeholders. The RBV theoretical framework identifies the development of employees in the form of capacity building and task accomplishment, as well as the protection of natural resources, as essential elements for creating a competitive advantage (Arulrajah and Opatha 2016
). The AMO framework is based on three criteria that seek to improve the firm’s sustainable performance. The “ability” is concerned with fostering green competencies among staff members to support an environmentally friendly environment inside and outside of the organization. ‘Motivation’ deals with encouraging employees to participate in social activities and is a shared responsibility between the organization and the employees. Employee participation in sustainable practices is part of their job duties, and employers should recognize and reward such behavior. The opportunity deals with providing suitable working conditions and an organizational culture that promotes employee involvement in green activities.
2.2. History of Sustainable HRM
Concerning the short history of sustainable HRM, the idea is taking shape as more and more research papers have been published in this field over the last four years. The early evolution of the sustainable aspect of human resource management began near to the year 2000 onwards; many researchers (Gollan 2000
; Zaugg et al. 2001
; Wagner 2015
; Wilkinson et al. 2001
) underlined the importance of sustainability in managing human resources based on earlier studies related to environmental management, HRM, and organizational sustainability. Ehnert and Harry
) described the brief history of sustainable HRM, and they categorized the development of the initial literature in the form of three approaches (Swiss, Australian, and German). It was an effort to provide a summary of the evolution of the field. The Swiss approach focused on economic, social, and human sustainability rather than the industry’s ecological sustainability. It was mentioned that human resources should be more used (consumed) rather than adequately trained (developed); hence, this approach defines sustainable HRM as fostering employability, encouraging individual accountability, and maintaining proper work–life balance. The Australian approach to sustainable HRM strongly emphasizes the sustainability of human resources within the framework of a highly participative work environment where employees can be involved in decision making (Gollan 2000
). On the other hand, the German approach to sustainable HRM emphasized the organization’s economic, ecological, and human resource sustainability (Kramar 2014
). The organization primarily depends on the resources to accomplish its goals. This approach specifies how organizations must create survival strategies in business environments.
Following that, various researchers made significant contributions to conceptualizing sustainable HRM through their influential work, such as Ehnert
) and Ehnert et al.
), who established a link between sustainability and HRM practices and conceptualized the sustainable management of HR, sustainable leadership (Avery 2005
; Hargreaves and Fink 2012
) linkage of sustainable HRM with strategic human resource management, and sustainable HRM (Mariappanadar 2003
). De Prins
) developed a holistic sustainable HRM model. The model was further elaborated by Mazur
), who explained that a sustainable HRM framework involves a psychological perspective, a sociological perspective, a strategic perspective, and a green perspective. Sustainable HRM focuses on fully employing and valuing people in the organization and connecting them to strategic policies and the environment.
2.3. Types of Sustainable HRM
The different authors discussed the various types of sustainable HRM. In line with existing literature, Stahl et al.
) discussed three types of sustainable HRM, namely “green HRM”, “socially responsible HRM”, and “triple bottom line HRM,” that can meet the sustainability agenda of the organization. Along with the three types already mentioned, Aust et al.
) added a fourth type called “common good HRM” and explained how it might help the organization achieve its sustainable goal.
A socially responsible approach to human resources is known as socially responsible HRM; it includes HRM and corporate social responsibility (CSR)-related personnel policies (Shen and Benson 2016
). It is linked to several benefits, including fulfilling social expectations of workers regarding fair career opportunities and work–family integration. It increases job satisfaction and negates turnover intentions (Kundu and Gahlawat 2015
; Faisal and Naushad 2021
). The triple bottom line highlights that environmental, social, and economic goals need to be accomplished to attain sustainability. The triple bottom line strategy seeks to minimize the adverse environmental effects caused by an organization’s operations. (Davies and Crane 2010
). Green HRM refers to strategies used by businesses to hire staff who are environmentally conscious, provide them with green training, evaluate their performance against the organization’s green standards, and provides them with green rewards for achieving their green goals (Faisal 2023
). A good company encourages its staff to work toward the common good. Creating goods and services through collaborative efforts is the common good for an organization. “Common good” in the context of human resource management means using HRM policies and practices that help all employees. It involves the participation of employees in decision making, proper grievance handling, job security, and providing help to employees in cases of need. Different researchers used all these dimensions in their research work, as shown in Table 2
2.4. Importance of Sustainable HRM
With this notion of how effectively an organization manages people in alignment with sustainable principles, the importance of sustainable HRM can be understood. Many researchers have opined that sustainable HRM contributes to the acquisition and retention of a talented workforce through competency mapping, employee involvement, knowledge management, employee health and safety measures, organizational justice, and the adoption of CSR initiatives (Ehnert 2009
; Mariappanadar 2003
; Kramar 2014
; Anlesinya and Susomrith 2020
; Lopez-Cabrales and Valle-Cabrera 2020
; Wikhamn 2019
). Big corporations are currently implementing sustainable HRM to achieve their green organizational objectives, especially in developed countries (Sulphey and Safeer 2017
; Faisal 2023
). Yong et al.
) mentioned that when employees and organizations work together on green projects it helps the environment and makes the organization more competitive. Businesses need to use green practices effectively in order to achieve sustainability (Pham et al. 2019
). Although firms in developed countries are adopting sustainable HRM practices, developing nations must deliberately incorporate sustainability into HRM functions to effectively deal with environmental challenges.
In order to answer research questions, the present study used bibliometric analysis as it provides detailed information about the identified topic (Van Eck and Waltman 2017
). Before bibliometric analysis, researchers adopted various tools such as meta-analyses, expert interviews, and observations (Creswell 2009
). Bibliometric analysis is a process that applies different statistical and material methods to draw meaningful information from the selected literature within the discipline (De Bakker et al. 2005
; Gutiérrez-Salcedo et al. 2018
). This study used three methods of bibliometric analysis (co-occurrence, citation, and bibliographic coupling). This analysis allows researchers to conceptualize sustainable HRM and understand past trends. Therefore, it sheds light on the subject’s accomplishments and opens doors for future investigation. The researchers adopted the following procedure to address research questions.
3.1. Selection of the Database
The present study used the Saudi Digital Library platform (SDL) depositary of leading databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, and EBSCOhost. To conduct a well-planned bibliometric analysis, the first step was to identify the appropriate and reliable database to support the accomplishment of the analysis. Finally, the present study selected the Scopus database because of its broad coverage of publications and its detailed continuing assessment system for scientific journals, which contributes to maintaining the standard of research (Schotten et al. 2017
3.2. Scope of the Search
The scope of the present search includes only studies related to sustainable human resource management. The focus area of the present research is limited to sustainable HRM only; hence, other related terms such as leadership, performance, and organizational development are excluded.
3.3. Criteria Adopted for Searching Articles
Different keywords were used to search for the relevant articles from the Scopus database. During the search process, the following keywords were used to include only the articles and review articles. (TITLE-ABS-KEY (sustainable human resources management”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (“sustainable HR”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (“sustainable HRM”)) AND (LIMIT-TO (DOCTYPE, “ar” OR LIMIT-TO (DOCTYPE, “re”).
3.4. Generation of Results
After extracting data from the Scopus database, they were saved into an excel file. The data contain the document title, author name and affiliation, abstract keywords, and citations detail. This excel file was also used for the author’s own analysis and further data elaboration. The VOSviewer (bibliometric mapping software) was used for bibliometric analysis and is one of the widely accepted bibliometric mapping tools developed by Van Eck and Waltman
). Most researchers used this software (Khan and Muktar 2020
; Kainzbauer and Rungruang 2019
; Fachada et al. 2022, Bernatović et al. 2022
) in their studies to construct bibliometric networks. Figure 1
indicates the step-by-step process of the present research.
The present study conducted a bibliometric analysis of the scholarly articles on sustainable HRM published between 2003 and 2022, extracted from the Scopus database. This article thoroughly summarizes the studies on sustainable human resource management so you can find research trends and related topics. This study can help academics or scholars who want to learn more about sustainable human resource management. It also provides historical data and an analysis of the current situation, which enables predictions for future developments. The present study revealed through bibliometric analysis the growth of sustainable HRM literature from 2019 onwards and, as per current trend estimates, the continuance of further growth for the next few years as sustainability is gaining acceptance worldwide. The keyword co-occurrence analysis using VOSviewer indicates that sustainable HRM is linked to HRM, and the long-term goals are CSR and organizational development with sustainability. Furthermore, for all stakeholders, the end goal is environmental sustainability, in line with the results of the bibliometric study conducted by Kainzbauer and Rungruang
) and the systematic review conducted by Anlesinya and Susomrith
). As per the above discussion, it is clear that sustainable HRM is important to CSR and considers various resource holders’ interests; hence, stakeholder theory is fully applicable. Mariappanadar
) mentioned that the adverse externality of increased work might dramatically worsen stakeholders’ psychological, social, and occupational health issues, specifically for employees and their families. In this context, managers should implement HRM policies that protect their most important stakeholders.