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Sustainable workplaces as innovation

Degenerative or socially toxic work environments have returned to public and scholarly attention since the great recession of 2008. Business scholars and management experts have increasingly called for new strategies to build more sustainable work systems that better promote employee well-being as well as long-run productivity. Our research examines interview narratives by the owner-operators of 60 small businesses identified as innovative enterprises in their community. Respondents identified the building of a positive work environment for their employees as a key condition necessary for innovation. Although this was an unanticipated finding in our study of business innovation, an examination of the emerging literature on workplace toxicity and sustainable human relations management revealed significant consistency between our respondent-identified strategies and recommendations for building a regenerative work environment. These findings suggest that small innovative businesses may offer a fertile arena for the development of sustainable work systems.