Business and sustainability, from the firm to the biosphere

Simon Levin, Martin Reeves, Ania Levina

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Businesses have traditionally focused on maximizing short-term financial returns at the expense of enduring success and collective robustness and sustainability. There are many warning signs that this traditional model is no longer working, including growing income inequality, increasing risks and costs of climate change, and an emerging backlash against technology and globalization-all of which are now beginning to threaten the viability of the current model of corporate capitalism. While there have been many efforts to adopt more enlightened approaches and mitigate such externalities, limited overall progress has been made on key issues like plastics pollution, CO2 emissions, and income inequality. Such issues are challenging because of delays between action and impact, a disjunction between private costs and collective benefits, intergenerational and intragenerational distribution issues, and the scale of coordination required to mitigate. Several perspectives from systems science and biology can help shape a new paradigm, including recent thinking on: nested complex adaptive systems, system robustness and longevity, system leverage points, and the effectiveness of bottom-up solutions. Leveraging these, we propose some principles for a new paradigm for corporate strategy, including: setting enterprise strategy in a broader system context, a greater emphasis on resilience, building corporate statesmanship, and developing a new approach to sustainable business model innovation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSustainable Investing
Subtitle of host publicationA Path to a New Horizon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages17-43
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781000097931
ISBN (Print)9780367367336
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)

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