The real business case for sustainability requires more radical, fundamental and difficult change than most are ready to consider, but anything less ignores the real problem and may, in fact, contribute to it.
Management literature today abounds with stories about the business case for sustainability. Yet, the author suggests, much of business’s efforts in the name of sustainable development at best only temporarily slow society’s continuing drift toward unsustainability. Indeed, he argues, that the term “”sustainable development”” has become an oxymoron. The problem really stems from management’s failure to see unsustainability as a deep-seated systems failure and to appreciate the extent to which radical thinking and action are required to embark upon a sustainable trajectory. Over time, the business community has gotten in the habit of ignoring the source of the problem, and now it risks gradually losing the ability to think deeply about it in order to produce the right kind of solutions. Drawing on systems dynamics, philosophy, psychology and social theory, this article seeks to answer a critical question: Can anything be done to radically transform the way that businesses work?