Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Paula Kyrö
In 1987 the World Commission on Development and the Environment of the United Nations published the report Our Common Future. It defines sustainable development as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’ (WCED, 1987: 8). Hereby, the World Commission recognizes interdependencies between the natural environment, human social welfare and economic activity, and the need to establish and maintain a dynamic balance between the three elements. During the 1990s the definition of sustainable development gained wide recognition and support. However, production and consumption patterns remain unsustainable (United Nations, 2002). The scale and nature of human and economic activities exceeds what the planet can physically sustain (World Resources Institute, 2005). Traditionally, entrepreneurship was associated with economic development and wealth generation (e.g. Schumpeter, 1942; Kirzner, 1973), while environmental and social problems were widely neglected. At the nexus of sustainable development and entrepreneurship, Hart and Milstein (1999) were among the first to emphasize the potential of entrepreneurship. They applied the concept of creative destruction (Schumpeter, 1942) as a precondition and the central force for the transition to a sustainable society. They claimed that ‘innovators and entrepreneurs will view sustainable development as one of the biggest business opportunities in the history of commerce’ (Hart and Milstein, 1999: 25). Whereas sustainable development was often seen as a cost factor impeding competition, the authors provided a new perspective on sustainable development as a source for entrepreneurial opportunities.
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