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Impact of human and financial factors on sustainability

18 January 2021

In her doctoral thesis carried out at IQS School of Management, Dr. Nour Chams shows the impact of the human factor and financial indicators on sustainability performance in a group of companies with an international perspective.

Dr Nour Chams and Dr Josep Garcia-Blandon

Throughout recent decades, and due to the aftermath of the industrial revolution, sustainability performance has been a "common" concern among legislators and regulators, scientists and academics, and professionals and business leaders. Consequently, a drastic metamorphosis and a strategic shift have been taking place across the business world and within various organisations to adapt to the emerging need for sustainable performance and to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Nour Chams recently defended her doctoral thesis “A Holistic Approach to Sustainability Performance: The Impact of Human and Financial Factors”, in which she conducted in-depth research on the impact of the human factor and financial indicators on sustainability performance. Her thesis was supervised by Dr Josep Garcia-Blandón, a professor with the IQS School of Management.

In her research, Dr Chams employed both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the sustainability performance of a group of multinational companies, both from an organisational and a transnational perspective and from multidisciplinary perspectives such as, for example, sustainable management of human resources, corporate governance through Boards of Directors, and financial performance in liquidity and fair market valuation.

Her thesis first carries out a systematic literature review to identify the importance of Sustainable Human Resource Management1 (SHRM) in order to facilitate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Key indicators have been found both at the individual level, such as behaviours, competencies, and values with a strong sustainability component, and at the organisational level, such as collective identity, proactive leadership, and flexible organisational culture.

Her research then delves into an empirical analysis through the use of a logistic regression model, which relates the characteristics of Boards of Directors (BoDs) with the achievement of the SDGs. In addition the research found certain differences between European and non-European organisations: in European organisations, demographic criteria – such as management's age or gender diversity – are perceived as precursors to sustainability. However, in non-European companies, the structure and composition of the management committees, as well as their size and the number of committees, are considered catalysts for sustainable organisational practices.

Finally, the thesis investigated the link between Financial Indicators (free cash flow and Tobin's Q ratio) and ESG performance (environmental, social, and governance indicators) using a "lag model". Organisations with high capital flows, that is, with a greater level of liquidity, tend to place greater commitment towards and investment in sustainable activities. Conversely, the research shows a moderate effect of the influence of TQM management on ESG performance, while the combined interaction between TQM and Tobin's Q does reveal a positive and highly significant relationship with companies' ESGs.


1  Chams, N., and García-Blandón, J. (2019). On the importance of sustainable human resource management for the adoption of sustainable development goals. Resources, Conservation & Recycling.

2  Chams, N., and García-Blandón, J. (2019). Sustainable or not sustainable? The role of the board of directors. Journal of Cleaner Production.