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A critical evaluation of the role of human resources in the transition towards sustainable business practices in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.

Richard-Osu, Oluchkwu Jane



Sarah Buckler


Heightened pressure on those organisations that are to be held accountable for the impact of their processes on the societies and the environment in which they operate has resulted in sustainable business practices (SBPs) becoming a major area of focus in sustainability debates. Amidst growing research into various ways of achieving SBPs within organisations, relatively little consideration has been given to what role (if any) Human Resources (HR) can play in the transition towards SBPs implementation. This study addresses that concern by focusing on the understanding of HR's current involvement in sustainability from an organisational context, and their potential role(s) in supporting the transition towards SBPs implementation in oil and gas organisations in Nigeria. The oil and gas industry in Nigeria - an important case in the sustainability discourse, given their business activities have a high-level impact on the environment and the communities in which they operate - is utilised as a case study. In the process of exploring the issue of SBPs within the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, this research takes a multidisciplinary approach to provide a holistic view of the understanding of how such practices are undertaken. The arguments of this research are therefore supported by viewpoints from the perspectives of ennvironmental science, management and sociology. An initial pilot questionnaire survey, focusing on Nigeria and the UK, was conducted to explore the level of knowledge about sustainability within the oil and gas industry among HR personnel. This was then followed by 18 semi-structured interviews, which were conducted across two data collection exercises in Nigeria. The data were analysed using thematic coding. Data were obtained using a qualitative approach due to the explorative nature of the research questions and the need to provide a comprehensive view of the research context. The sociology of organisation theory was used to underpin the study. Some of the research findings include: a) respondents had different perspectives of SBPs / sustainability and this can influence action taken with regards to SBPs implementation; b) the dynamics within the Nigerian oil and gas industry are complex, and HR need to be aware of this; c) there are three major actors within the industry, whose actions can either enable or hinder SBPs implementation; d) data indicate that HR appear to have a vital role to play in the sustainability discourse and in the transition towards SBPs implementation in Nigeria; e) there is currently no HR function focused on sustainability in Nigerian oil and gas organisations. A conceptual model – HR sustainability model – was developed from the results of the research, intended as a guide for HR professionals in supporting their organisation in transitioning towards SBPs implementation. Finally, this research contributes to the scarce (but growing) literature on sustainability in organisations through the lens of HR, by supporting the acceleration of SBPs implementation in oil and gas organisations.


RICHARD-OSU, O.J. 2022. A critical evaluation of the role of human resources in the transition towards sustainable business practices in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 6, 2023
Keywords Environmental sustainability; Sustainability; Corporate social responsibility; Oil and gas industry; Human resources; Nigeria
Public URL
Award Date Dec 31, 2022


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