The Fourth Wave, Sustainability and Change
Andrew John Hoffman
The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan
John R. Ehrenfeld
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Ross School of Business Paper No. 1196
Over the past 50 years, the notion of corporate environmentalism (later corporate sustainability) was born, grew, and evolved. Today, sustainability has become commonly accepted within both the academy and the corporate sector. Within the academy, what began as a modest offshoot of management science in the early 1990s has grown into a maturing area of study, one that encompasses a wide range of related disciplines. Within business practice, sustainability has entered most domains of corporate activity. Corporations print annual "Sustainability Reports," insert the term into press releases and CEO speeches, create new positions such as the Chief Sustainability Officer, and gather for conferences on the "sustainability challenge." But, in spite of the myriad of new programs under the rubric of sustainability, problems of social and environmental sustainability continue to worsen. Sustainability has been integrated into corporate practice without serious dislocations to core beliefs, such that the solutions as presently configured do not go far enough. It is important to examine the next iteration of corporate sustainability that is now emerging: what problems it seeks to address, what changes it entails, and what it means for the corporate organization and the market system as a whole. This next iteration is part of the ongoing progression that involves the redefinition of the role of the corporation within society. This chapter will present the evolution of sustainability practice and thought as a process of punctuated equilibrium passing through three waves between 1960 and the present. The fourth wave is emergent and glimpses of its details can now be explored.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: Sustainability, Management Science, Punctuated Equilibrium
JEL Classification: M14, M1, M10, M19working papers series
Date posted: August 29, 2013
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