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Special Issue "Social Responsibility and Sustainability: Work-Life Challenges"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2022) | Viewed by 3059

Special Issue Editor

Faculty of Economics, University of Porto, 4099-002 Porto, Portugal
Interests: human resource management; work-life; privacy; gender and diversity; higher education; sustainability

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Although based on different paradigms and traditions, both corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability have their roots on the view of the organisation as an open system bearing a responsibility to society and acknowledging the legitimate interests of different stakeholders. These developments challenged the traditional shareholder-centric view of the corporation and the management entirely devoted to financial performance indicators and to shareholder wealth maximization. The consideration of other stakeholders and the generation of societal value represent a conceptual shift and an opportunity to go beyond economic performance taking also into account environmental and social outcomes, and the relationship between the organization and society.

Corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability share the same underlying assumptions and are sometimes used interchangeably. Traditionally focused on the social dimension, corporate social responsibility is driven by the moral imperative to balance or reconcile the competing demands of different stakeholders and ultimately aligning the interests of the business and society. Corporate sustainability, on the other hand, evolved mainly concerned with the environmental dimension and the organization’s harm on the natural systems and aiming to align the short and the long-term goals and value. The long-term orientation, a central feature of the sustainability concept, is particularly challenging to the management given the excessive focus on short-term results (at the expense of long-term interests) that has prevailed in business organizations in the last decades.

A common feature of the social responsibility and sustainability frameworks is their prevailing orientation towards external stakeholders, mainly social and environmental outcomes. A growing amount of attention is now also being paid to the internal factors: the workers, either with employment contracts or non-standard work arrangements. In both cases, the workers play a critical role: (1) in the implementation of social or environmental initiatives, such as the promotion of green organizational cultures and employees’ pro-environmental behaviours, as reported in the extensive “green HRM” literature; (2) as the main recipients and beneficiaries of social responsibility and sustainability initiatives targeted to the internal stakeholders.

Recent attempts to conceptualise socially responsible HRM and sustainable HRM acknowledge that HR policies and practices also have human, social and environmental outcomes disputing the strategic view of HRM that has dominated the field since the 1990s. Managing the workforce aiming at gaining competitive advantage, as posited by the mainstream HRM framework reflects a somewhat narrow and short-term perspective focused on the economic benefits to the organization while neglecting its impacts on society, the natural environment, and the short and long-term effects on employees’ health and well-being. These effects can be quite significant, particularly when resulting from “less humane” HRM practices such as work intensification, overwork, numerical flexibility, long-hours journeys, the “always-on” culture with the expectation of 24h/7d connection, and many other efficiency-oriented practices normally associated with high-performance and internal market systems.

Besides the negative effects on the workers’ well-being, some HRM practices also have a significant impact on work–life relations, raising tensions that lead to “conflicts” and “interferences” at this increasingly permeable border, and extending the negative impacts to their families and their communities. Technology developments and digitalization represent an additional challenge to the notion of work and private spheres, further blurring the temporal and spatial work–life boundaries and taking them to a stage of “integration” and “boundarylessness”. The recent increase in the use of remote working illustrates the positive, as well as negative, impacts on work–life relations that might coexist as a result of these developments.

Building on the long tradition of work–life balance and family-friendly policies, there is a growing interest in the literature on social responsibility and sustainable HRM in work–life matters, but the meaning and content of sustainable working life policies that consider the whole human being—rather than the “employee”—remain somewhat overlooked. Either designed to boost the organization’s reputation and enhance the employer branding, or driven by a legitimacy-seeking rationale, work–life initiatives play a decisive role promoting the employees’ sustainable working life. However, such initiatives also have some grey areas. There is evidence of positive impacts on individuals and organizations, but work–life initiatives also risk being perceived as organization’s attempts to interfere or to exploit the employees’ privacy and have some detrimental effects on the work attitudes and organizational identification of the intended beneficiaries. 

This Special Issue seeks to bring together studies from different theoretical perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds and welcomes conceptual and empirical studies using quantitative or qualitative methodologies, mixed-methods and case studies examining policies and practices of socially responsible or sustainable HRM with work–life contents. This Special Issue welcomes contributions addressing the topic from the viewpoint of either the management, the employees, their family members or closed ones potentially affected by sustainable working life policies.

The following is a list of indicative, but not exhaustive, topic areas and questions that could be addressed:

  • Sustainable work systems, green HRM, and sustainable working life policies: differences and commonalities, tensions and trade-offs
  • Organization’s reputation for sustainable working life: employer branding; relevance and impact on job seekers’ attraction and expectations;
  • Sustainable working life policies: contents and impacts on employees’ work engagement, performance, health and wellbeing, loyalty, trust in employer, and willingness to keep a long-term employment relationship;
  • Employees’ voice and participation in sustainable working life policy definition;
  • Sustainable working life policies: impacts on employees’ sustainable behaviour in daily work activities, ethical behaviour, and green behaviour;
  • Sustainable working life policies: relevance to employees’ family members and impacts on the employees’ family life and social life;
  • Effectiveness of sustainable working life policies in the mitigation of the effects produced by “less humane” and efficiency-oriented HR practices;
  • The grey side of work–life initiatives: privacy threats and risk mitigation.
Prof. Dr. Carlos Cabral-Cardoso
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • “always-on” cultures
  • employees’ privacy
  • employer branding
  • green HRM
  • HR impact on work–life relations
  • long-hours work journeys
  • right to disconnect
  • socially responsible HRM
  • sustainable HRM
  • sustainable working life policies
  • work intensification
  • work–life balance

Published Papers (1 paper)

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23 pages, 2828 KiB  
Systematic Review
Work-Family Interface in the Context of Social Responsibility: A Systematic Literature Review
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 3091; - 07 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2004
The literature on internal social responsibility, in which the work-family interface can be included, already has a robust tradition in scientific research. It is, therefore, important to systematize the path that has been taken and what the future may hold. This article aims [...] Read more.
The literature on internal social responsibility, in which the work-family interface can be included, already has a robust tradition in scientific research. It is, therefore, important to systematize the path that has been taken and what the future may hold. This article aims to systematize the literature that simultaneously focuses on the work-family relationship and on the context of social responsibility and sustainability, with the purpose of mapping the research that has been produced on these intersections. A systematic review of the literature was conducted between the period 1968 and 2021. The search was performed on the SCOPUS database, and the analysis was conducted using the VOSviewer software, with 333 articles having been identified and subjected to a bibliometric and content analysis. As a result, 88 articles were analyzed in depth, focusing on the Work and Life Space dimension and the work-family relationship. The results indicate that corporate social responsibility has a positive effect on the work-family relationship, where an efficient balance between personal and professional life is often measured based on the adequacy of the adjustment of factors such as working hours and social and family commitments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Responsibility and Sustainability: Work-Life Challenges)
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