Sustained in a competitive environment: organizational capabilities and Sanlam, 1918–1945

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2 Citations (Scopus)


To enter a competitive industry and sustain the organization over a century demonstrates distinct success. A century-old organization is doing something right in a context of sustainability. Sanlam, a South African insurance company, established in 1918 negotiated a competitive industry since the beginning of the twentieth century to sustain itself for almost a hundred years. This article aims to determine what made the organization sustainable over time by focusing on the foundations of firm-level competitive advantage. This competitive advantage was grounded in its organizational capabilities such as management style, leadership, strategy and routines, and the organization’s ability to adapt to a changing internal and external environment. The focus of this article is the period 1918–1945, during which the new insurance company established a competitive advantage in the market. This paper investigates the organizational capabilities applied to succeed in the market. The key findings identify the management style of Sanlam, mainly focusing on organizing and control as management traits; understanding and utilizing organizational capabilities and routines; and governance and appreciation of the internal and external environment of the organization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-275
Number of pages25
JournalManagement and Organizational History
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015


  • competitive advantage
  • dynamic capabilities
  • entrepreneurship
  • external and internal environment
  • leadership
  • management
  • organizational capabilities and routines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • History
  • Strategy and Management


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