Businesses today, as never before, are being challenged by the unrelenting and ever-increasing demands to address the concern of a wide range of critical stakeholders, including shareholders, customers, employees and communities.
While businesses grow and prosper worldwide and though hundreds have been brought out of abject poverty and deprivation, poverty persists in many parts of the world.
Increasingly businesses are realising that the search for sustainability is not only about cutting costs. It is about creating business value and inventing models which deliver societal and market success.
Experts point out that:
In the 21st century, rather than focusing singularly or even primarily on the “financial bottom line” and the financial assets they process, sustainable companies are looking at themselves and their future through the lens of the “five capitals models” of natural, human, social, manufactured and financial capital.
Managers trained to believe that profits are the primary purpose of their business often find it difficult to believe that the financial bottom line can improve through social responsibility and environmental initiatives.
According to The Sustainable Enterprise Field Book “leaders in sustainable enterprises choose to purposely engage with people inside the organisation as if it were a living system, while recognising that they are simultaneously operating in the larger ecosystem of the world”. A shift from viewing an organisation as a machine to seeing it as a living system opens up vast possibilities for organisations, society and the world.
Sustainable development has been defined as “development that conserves natural resources, protects and enhances the environment, supports communities and maintains economic growth.” It has also been defined as “a commitment to act responsibly while taking into account the concerns of the stakeholders”.
The famous definition by The UN World Commission on Economic Development says:
Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable-to ensure that it meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
This carries a number of implications and a number of challenges to the business world.
Surveys indicate that many employees and staff are already concerned about sustainability issues. There is a need to release the creativity, initiative and goodwill of all people within and outside the organisation. Within the organisation top management can no longer be the sole source of innovation and influence. These must come from all levels.
Teaching Business Sustainability Volume 1: From Theory to Practice, though intended more for management students, could be an invaluable resource for training organisations in companies to inspire and guide teachings in sustainable business.
It will help to reinvigorate internal management education programmes to factor in corporate responsibility and sustainability issues.
The book, which contains essays from 23 different experts covering the whole area of sustainability, answers several questions regarding sustainable development. It highlights the fact that:
Organisations are coming to realise that bad performance in environmental protection, labour practices and human rights is no longer a soft issue but one that can hit the bottom line with a vengeance.
The book helps to explore various means in which theoretical value of business sustainability can result in value added practical outcomes. It attempts to bring together theory in a way that makes it relevant for practitioners in the field.
Teaching Sustainability is still in the developing stage. Teaching Business Sustainability Volume 1 along with its companion Volume 2: Cases, Simulations and Experimental Approaches is an essential resource for both educators and company managements seeking guidance on issues relating to sustainability. Taken together they are an excellent guideline for sustainability practitioners. A very valuable addition for those involved in the teaching of sustainable development in Indian business schools and in organisations aspiring to earn the crown of sustainability.
The original version of this review can be found here.
Suresh Kr Pramar
AVAILABLE NOW: Teaching Business Sustainability edited by Chris Galea, Saint Francis Xavier University, Canada. Buy the bundle of volumes 1 and 2 direct from Greenleaf to recieve a £30/€45/$55 discount.