New Perspectives in Research on Corporate Sustainability series
Edited by Rolf Wüstenhagen, Jost Hamschmidt, Sanjay Sharma and Mark Starik
Chapter 1: Sustainability, Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Introduction to the Volume
Rolf Wüstenhagen, Sanjay Sharma, Mark Starik and Robert Wuebker1 OVERVIEW Sustainability is back on the global agenda. After intense debates in the late 1970s and early 1980s about limits to growth, rising oil prices, forest dieback (Waldsterben) and the like, environmental and social issues received less attention in European public opinion during the 1990s. In the US, the timing was diﬀerent, with an increasing level of attention to sustainability issues across businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) occurring in the 1990s. With a new focus on climate change, we have recently seen the discussion about sustainable development return with increased intensity. The threat of uncontrolled changes in the atmosphere has led to an unprecedented wave of public attention to environmental challenges. At the same time, there is also increased awareness of social challenges such as high unemployment rates, increasing inequalities and poverty in developing countries. Global policy makers and corporate leaders are expressing the need for action. Governments have started to embark on ambitious emission targets. Corporate sustainability seems to have become a mainstream issue, at least on paper. At the same time, though, it becomes apparent that the magnitude of the sustainability challenge calls for more than just incremental changes to existing patterns of production and consumption. Just as global greenhouse gas levels have embarked on a steep path of discontinuous change, we seem to be in need of fundamentally new solutions in the way we do business and govern our economies. And even if we succeed in...