Reflections on ‘true’ business sustainability

The concept of business sustainability has been investigated, reviewed, and criticized by a plethora of scholars. What constitutes the essence of business sustainability – and its relationship to the actual state of our planet – is still an integral part of the discourse on business-society relations.

Recently, Dyllick & Muff (2016) have reviewed literature in order to uncover what constitutes ‘true’ business sustainability, explaining the apparent absence of a coupling between corporate sustainability initiatives and the state of the planet and explore how this coupling can be strengthened. As such, the authors provide many relevant pointers for answering the question: when is business truly sustainable?

This paper aims to respond both critically and constructively to Dyllick & Muff’s article by addressing three points: the somewhat confusing conception of what actually comprises ‘true’ business sustainability, the authors’ choice not to address the underlying economic model and the model of consumer behavior, and the types of sustainability intelligence that, in our view, business needs to develop to truly become a force for spurring sustainable development. In doing so, this paper aims to add to a firm-centered conceptualization of the business-society interface in a constructive way to stimulate further discourse on the concept, and to make a theoretical contribution with respect to coupling mechanisms in the realm of business sustainability.

Author: Prof. Dr. Lars Moratis

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