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A critical reflection: is there a role for sustainability in business?  

Written by James Hay

Business & Environment

One of the most interesting and thought-provoking arguments for me was the paper by Heikkurinen (2016). However, I have to question the feasibility of technological releasement as a way to stimulate degrowth. How would we co-ordinate enough people to engage in this practice, considering the capitalist and techno centric society we appear to live in today? Perhaps unfortunately, this question comes at a time where there is so much emphasis on striving for economic growth, and further developing the technology that helps to facilitate it (Jackson, 2009).

Coming from an environmental background prior to starting this course, I took what some might perceive to be a very pro-Friedman view of firms; that their sole intention is to make as much money as possible, seemingly at the expense of everything else (Friedman, 1970). However, the course has taught me to question my initial beliefs, and critically analyse different perspectives a lot more; it is good to see that companies such as Fairphone are excelling in a consumer-driven market where opportunities to engage in sustainability are often spurned in favour of economic progress (Wright and Nyberg, 2017). Surely this demonstrates that more needs to be done to get businesses to recognise the role sustainability has the potential to play in business practice. Sadly, it appears that too many businesses have a habit of wanting to make incremental strides towards sustainability, without committing to the underlying transformative change that is arguably needed to create truly sustainable industries and corporations (Linnenlueke and Griffiths, 2010).

Reference List:

Friedman, M. 1970. The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York: New York Times.


Heikkurinen, P. 2016. Degrowth by means of technology? A treatise for an ethos of releasement. Journal of Cleaner Production.


Jackson, T. 2009 Prosperity without growth? The transition to a sustainable economy. London: Sustainable Development Commission.


Linnenluecke, M.K. and Griffiths, A. 2010. Corporate sustainability and organizational culture. Journal of world business. 45(4), pp.357-366.


Wright, C. and Nyberg, D. 2017. An inconvenient truth: How organizations translate climate change into business as usual. Academy of Management Journal. 60(5), pp.1633-1661.


James Hay

MSc Sustainability and Consultancy 2017/18