Sustainable Business
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Sustainable Business

Theory and Practice of Business under Sustainability Principles

Edited by Geoffrey Wells

Recent surveys of international CEOs confirm that companies increasingly see sustainability as critical to their business strategy. The rigorous academic framework for the field of sustainable business required to respond to this need is now emerging. This book presents important new work in the theory of the sustainable firm, in the application of sustainability principles to key management disciplines, in sustainable business in practice, and in the international challenges that are critical to sustainability demands.
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Chapter 3: The sustainable firm as an ethical construct

Geoffrey Wells


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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