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Sustainable Development In Business: Sustainable Development

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Discuss about the Sustainable Development in Business for Sustainable Development.




Sustainable development has now become one of the vital components for businesses and received great response from the companies. With the changing business environment and context, the phenomenon received growing recognition, though many businesses have still not been able to grasp the concept at all. Sustainable development assists an organization to develop and adopt strategies through which it can fulfill the needs of the business as well as the stakeholders and simultaneously protecting the future needs of the company by sustaining natural and human resources. Thus, it is the responsibility of an organization to not to deplete natural resources by exploiting them in order to protect the future needs of the company. The mining companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have been involved in exploiting of the natural resources to increase their profitability and have also caused air, water and land pollution that makes an area inhabitant for the residents. Apart from this, there are garment companies such as H&M, GAP that have been accused of involving into child labor practices.

Thus, the businesses must aim to develop sustainable approaches that meet the three goals of environmental protection, economic development and social wellbeing. Sustainable development is beneficial to a business and offers opportunities to the suppliers and developers who are involved in producing products that are eco friendly. The process also benefits organizations that are involved in social well being for the society.

Thus, the report would present a literature review of sustainable development for a business in order to gain an insight of the various authors and scholars on the subject. The paper would try to discuss the concept and framework of sustainable development within an organization and what role do stakeholders play in environment management. This would help to understand the three pillars of sustainability that must be embedded within the objectives of an organization.


Literature Review

Pillars of Sustainable Development

The author Murphy (2012) stated that sustainable development aims to attain balance among the three pillars of sustainability including social, economic and environmental. Social pillar has still remained ambiguous, though it has been categorized as one of the most elusive pillars of the process and the organizations have been consistently struggling to be able to balance it. The author Cuthill (2009) clearly stated that the integration of social pillar has not been justified by the companies. The authors Vavik and Keitsch (2010) are of the view that the organizations have been able to address only some of the issues that are being debated by the scholars. The authors are also of the view that the components of social pillars in sustainable development indicator sets indicate the control and authority instead of policy adherence. According to Gough et al (2008), there must be a connection between the environmental and social pillars. The author Murphy (2012) identified the four social concepts as public awareness, participation, social cohesion, participation and equity that are connected to the environmental aspects. The author also identified that the horizon of social pillar could be extended to include environmental, international and intergenerational dimensions. He also elaborated that the framework would also assist to gain an insight of the social pillar and its interconnectivity with the environment imperatives.

The author Welford (2013), stressed on how the large organizations have responded to sustainable development. He stated that the companies are always after reducing their costs to increase their profitability that compels them to carry out unethical activities such as firing employees when not needed, hiring employees at very low wages, making them work for beyond working hour limits and other activities. Now the employees when receive this treatment and when being fired from their jobs, they tend to incline towards unethical activities that influences society at large.


Corporate Social Responsibility

According to Moon (2007), corporate social responsibility has a great contribution in the sustainable development of an organization, though the authors have argued that the two concepts contradict each other and are incompatible with each other. The author presented his own argument by saying that no organization would claim itself as socially irresponsible and sustainable at the same time and therefore must be very strategically aligned together. Corporate Social Responsibility was emphasized by the author that could include community participation, socially responsible employee relations and socially responsible products and processes. CSR rewards company in terms of market image, employee satisfaction, investor attractiveness and innovation. CSR has acquired a distinct position within the organization and the companies have developed specific teams to manage the CSR activities and then broadcast them through media. Further, there has been a shift in the attitude of consumers who are now demanding socially responsible products and processes from the companies. Another market driver for CSR is the awareness among the employees who are also demanding a job that ensures work life balance for the staff through ethical and concerned HR policies of the organization. Apart from market drivers, there are social drivers that are pushing the companies to adopt CSR based model and there is a consistent pressure from media attention, society at large, business investors and NGOs. Government requirement is another driver for the incorporation of CSR activities within an organization and has shown its complete support to encourage the businesses to consider the social issues at large. Thus, the author construed that for the sustainable development of an organization, the leaders must incorporate CSR activities within their companies and must focus towards attaining long term goals and objectives.

The authors Kolk and Van Tulder (2010) stated that corporate social responsibility supports an organization to become economically profitable, socially supportive, ethical and law abiding. The author Kolk (2009) illustrated about the triple P concept of People, Profit and Planet in order to emphasize on social, economic and environmental aspects of corporate activity. The authors Dunning & Fortanier (2007) argued that the multinational corporations have not effectively implemented sustainability and the subject needs to be introspected to gain an internal insight. The author Frynas (2008) claimed that the issues related to sustainable development could be resolved by encouraging the corporations to participate CSR activities and then creating awareness through evidence. The author Verbeke (2009) presented a different view on the subject and stated that corporate social responsibility has become significant phenomenon among the organizations and has received positive response as the companies have realized that it leads to growth, profitability and long term survival. The authors Porter & Kramer (2006) strongly stated that corporate social responsibility is one of the potential strategies to attain competitive advantage in the market.

The authors Hall, Daneke and Lenox (2010) have strongly presented the potential future of an organization by integrating sustainable development. Entrepreneurship is considered as a solution to introduce sustainable products and processes in the market. In spite of consistent promises of enterprises regarding the sustainable development, the organizations have faced numerous challenges of uncertainty that hinders the process of incorporating sustainability. The authors identified that a large gap exists between the knowledge of scholars and practitioners that how could sustainable development help an organization to increase profitability and long term survival. The authors carried out a research to understand the reasons of existing gap and stressed on abandoning the use of non-renewable resources and increase the use of renewable resources. It was argued that environment and economy dimensions could not be placed at equal level and are separate realms. The author Robinson (2004) argued that sustainable development demands slowing down the pace of economic growth that is something the organizations are unwilling to do and thus, sustainable development is an oxymoron issue. The authors Balakrishnan et al (2003) further argued that sustainability contradicts the model of capitalism by stressing on the uncontrolled growth. The author Friedman (2009) suggested that sustainability brings societal transformation through innovation and is more likely to increase economic growth by creating jobs. The author Elkington (1998) also presented his view in favor of sustainable development by stating that almost every firm has a vice president level employee who is responsible for bringing sustainability within organization by using “triple bottom line” that takes into account the financial, social and environmental performance of the organization. The authors Clelland et al (2000) also stated that an effort towards waste reduction and substituting the resources is appreciated and represents corporate citizenship. The authors Ambec and Lanoie (2008) stated that when an organization makes an effort to take care of the environment then it is more likely to discover opportunities for increasing profitability. The authors Hall and Vredenburg (2003) on the other hand stated that sustainable development leads to creative destruction and offers opportunity for the potential entrant because of market failure. 


Supply Chain Management

The authors Seuring and Muller (2008) have stated that an organization has several processes for production of the products that are being dispersed across the globe. It becomes the responsibility of the focal companies to take care of environmental and social concerns throughout the supply chain management process maintaining the value of the product simultaneously. The authors described focal companies as those companies that are responsible for managing the supply chain and provide customer leads. During the study, it was revealed that the garment industry that has giants players including Nike, Levi Strauss, Adidas, Benetton, C&A and Disney, was involved in forced labor where workers were not only forced to work for beyond maximum working limit, rather they were also compelled to work under inhumane working conditions that could lead to their death. The authors focused on the conceptual framework that included three components: triggers for sustainable supply chain management, supplier management for risks and performance and supply chain management for sustainable products. The triggers were identified as customer, government and stakeholder. The supporting factors were identified was management systems, company-overlapping communication, monitoring, evaluation, reporting, sanctions, training and integration. The authors construed that in order to develop a sustainable supply chain, an organization must consider broader issues to be able to perceive the overall outlook of the supply chain. Further, it was also inferred that an organization cannot ignore social and environmental dimension of the supply chain and must integrate these dimensions while formulating objectives.

According to the authors Gold, Seuring and Beske (2009), a sustainable supply chain management process acts as a catalyst to develop valuable inter-organizational resources. This gives the organization an edge in terms of sustained inter-firm competitive advantage by linking the social issues with the environmental imperatives. The authors construed from the research that strategic collaboration is the key to attain inter firm competitive advantage. Strategic collaboration implies that an organization must make efforts to support its suppliers in order to build a sustainable business model that ensures social, environmental and economic performance of the product. Since sustainable business model is difficult to be imitated by the competitors because of its complexity, therefore, an organization could easily get competitive edge by aligning its objectives with the social pillars of sustainability.


Stakeholder Participation

The author Reed (2008) is of the opinion that stakeholders have a role to play in environmental decision making because of the complex and dynamic nature of environmental challenges. The organizations have also benefitted from the participation of the stakeholders in the decision making process, yet there has been a misconception that the stakeholders are let down when the things do not work out in planned manner. The author was able to successfully evaluate that the involvement of stakeholders in the decision making process enhances the quality of decisions as they consider each and every element of environment and follow a complex process. The author also emphasized on the eight features of best practices that could be used for stakeholder involvement. The process of stakeholder’s involvement should be based on trust, equity, empowerment and learning model instead of a tool kit approach that stresses on the relevant tools for the job. After thorough research and analysis, the author inferred that involvement of stakeholder should be institutionalized by reinforcing a culture that promotes negotiation of goals and the results could be uncertain. Though, it was argued that the process is very risky but if it is constructively designed then the perceived risks could be eliminated.


The paper has thus successfully minutely observed the significance of sustainable development in business. Sustainable development is an important component of any business that leads to long term survival of the business and also addresses the social, economic and environmental dimensions. Social, economic and environmental were identified as the three pillars of sustainable development. The previous research and investigations presented a contradictory statement on sustainability as some of the scholars still viewed sustainable development as a hindrance to the growth and profitability of the business. Thus, the enterprises were still found to go through a hard time to be able to completely grasp the concept of sustainability in an organization as it reduced their growth and profitability. Further, corporate social responsibility was identified as an increasing activity among the organizations and its contribution to the growth of an organization was found to be quite imperative. The market drivers assessed for corporate social responsibility were government, social, customer demand and globalization. Thus, an organization is always under constant pressure to incorporate sustainable practices within its system. Supply chain management is a process that needs to be emphasized by the organizations to integrate with sustainable activities in order to eliminate unethical practices from the society. The participation of stakeholders was also evaluated as an essential element as it leads to quality decision for an organization.



Ambec, S., Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives 22 (4), 45–62.

Balakrishnan, U., Duvall, T., and Primeaux, P. (2003). Rewriting the bases of capitalism: reflexive modernity and ecological sustainability as the foundations of a new normative framework. Journal of Business Ethics 47 (4), 299–315.

Clelland, I.J., Dean, T.J.,and  Douglas, T.J. (2000). Stepping towards sustainable business: an evaluation of waste minimization practices in US manufacturing. Interfaces 30 (3), 107–124.

Cuthill, M. (2009). Strengthening the social in sustainable development: developing a conceptual framework for social sustainability in a rapid urban growth region in Australia. Sustainable Development, 18(6), pp. 362–373.

Dunning, J. H., and Fortanier, F. (2007). Multinational Enterprises and the New Development Paradigm: consequences for host country development. Multinational Business Review, 25(1), 25-45.

Elkington, J. (1998). Cannibals with forks: the triple bottom line of sustainability. Environmental Quality Management 8(1), 37 – 51

Friedman, T.L. (2009). Have a nice day. New York Times.

Frynas, J. G. (2008). Corporate Social Responsibility and International Development: Critical Assessment. Corporate Governance, 16(4), 274-281.

Gold, S., Seuring, S. and Beske, P. (2010). Sustainable supply chain management and inter?organizational resources: a literature review. Corporate social responsibility and environmental management, 17(4), pp.230-245.

Gough, I., Meadowcroft, J., Dryzek, J., Gerhards, J., Lengfeld, H., Marandya, A., and Ortiz, R. (2008). JESPsymposium: climate change and social policy. Journal of European Social Policy 18(4), pp. 325–344.

Hall, J., Vredenburg, H. (2003). The challenges of innovating for sustainable development. Sloan Management Review 45 (1), 61–69.

Hall, J.K., Daneke, G.A. and Lenox, M.J. (2010). Sustainable development and entrepreneurship: Past contributions and future directions. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), pp.439-448.

IISD. (2017). Sustainable Development. IISD. Available at: [Accessed Online 10 May 2017].

Kolk, A. (2009). Trajectories of sustainability reporting by MNCs. Journal of World Business.

Kolk, A. and Van Tulder, R. (2010). International business, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. International business review, 19(2), pp.119-125.

Moon, J. (2007). The contribution of corporate social responsibility to sustainable development. Sustainable development, 15(5), pp.296-306.

Murphy, K. (2012). The social pillar of sustainable development: a literature review and framework for policy analysis. Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy, 8(2).

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Robinson, J. (2004). Squaring the circle? Some thoughts on the idea of sustainable development. Ecological Economics 48, 369–384.

Vavik, T. & Keitsch, M. (2010). Exploring relationships between universal design and social sustainable development: some methodological aspects to the debate on the sciences of sustainability. Sustainable Development 18(5), pp. 295–305.

Welford, R. (2013). Hijacking environmentalism: Corporate responses to sustainable development. Routledge. Seuring, S., and Muller, M. (2008). From a literature review to a conceptual framework for sustainable supply chain management. Journal of Cleaner Production, 16, pp. 1699-1710.


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