Theory and Practice of Business under Sustainability Principles
Edited by Geoffrey Wells
Chapter 3: The sustainable firm as an ethical construct
All analysis of business enterprise rests on ideas about the firm. These ideas can be explicitly developed, as in the traditional theory of the firm, or they can be a looser set of unstated assumptions. It is not always easy to discern the particular idea of the firm being advanced. However no systematic discussion of business, at any level, can proceed without it. This observation is particularly relevant to the analysis of sustainable business. Historically the idea of sustainable business has emerged in large part from a questioning of the assumptions that underpin traditional theories of the firm. This chapter examines some of those assumptions. It does not attempt to make a contribution to the traditional theory of the firm (Kantarelis 2007; Ricketts 1994). Rather it explores the theoretical and conceptual categories that are required for any systematic discussion of the sustainable firm and its activities. In that sense, to employ a traditional term, it can be considered a prolegomenon to a formal theory of the sustainable firm.
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