The goal of “sustainability” demands fundamental changes in the way we practice, manage, and even conceptualize business. This thesis addresses the opportunity-oriented business case for sustainability. Based on a list of “top 50” topics in sustainable business, the nine chapters cover each of the core disciplines of business administration: ethics, strategy, organizational behavior, operations, quantitative analysis, accounting, marketing, economics and finance. When viewed through the lens of entrepreneurship, these disciplinary topics serve as a springboard for expanding the business case for sustainability.
The environment is in bad shape, due in part to human impacts. Achieving sustainability requires fundamental changes in the systems and institutions that guide our behavior. Our economic system is one such system that needs changing, and market failures are the source of many of the environmental (and social) problems we face. Government policies and regulations are attempts to resolve some of these market failure-driven problems. Such regulations are often perceived as a threat by business, a perspective that unnecessarily limits proactive business responses to the environmental crisis.
A shift in perspective, from threat to opportunity, elucidates a number of profitable sustainable business strategies that exist presently, within the current “rules of the game.” However, those rules must change if true sustainability is to be achieved. Entrepreneurship is a critical element of this institutional change, resulting when entrepreneurs seek to change the rules in favor of their solutions, or create new solutions and make new rules in response to exogenous change.
The importance of entrepreneurship is heightened when ecological and societal systems shift along phases of the adaptive cycle, particularly in shifts from the longer more stable periods of aggregation and conservation, to the shorter periods of release and re-organization/renewal, which demand innovation and entrepreneurial sense-making. Lastly, the inevitability and unpredictability of change requires societies to seek greater resilience by promoting diversity and flexibility, which are also fundamental outcomes of entrepreneurial activity.