The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function
Edited by William M. Lafferty
Chapter 8: Partners for Progress? The Role of Business in Transcending Business as Usual
8. Partners for progress?: the role of business in transcending business as usual Audun Ruud Initiated by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987), and enforced by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in 1992, environmentally innovative firms started to question whether environmental efforts could be better capitalized in commercial terms. Through enhanced productivity and competitiveness many firms converted environmental achievements into commercial values and corporate profits (Schmidheiny 1992; Willums and Golüke 1992). Some of these firms have undergone a profound reorientation in their expressed attitudes towards environmental management and the integration of environmental concerns into traditional commercial practice (Roome 1998; Kolk 2000). The interpretation of their role in governance for sustainable development remains, however, open. Corporate efforts are often within the realm of ‘business as usual’ strategies, primarily concerned with the reduction of environmental hazards at processing plants or specific products. A concern for total environmental loads generated during the production and consumption of products is rarely addressed. In general, principles of justice, precaution and inclusiveness – as generic to the concept of sustainable development (Lafferty and Meadowcroft 2000) – are still not on the corporate agenda. In many cases this also holds true for those front-running firms that have made a pro-forma commitment to environmental values. The present chapter dwells on selected recent corporate environmental initiatives, analysing how these efforts, nonetheless, may make a significant contribution to the ecological governance for sustainable development.1 According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development...
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