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Social, Ecological, and Economic Sustainability – Risks, Challenges and Strategies

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Sustainable development is about planning for a future that can be. A sustainable society, as well as a sustainable organization, is about running economies that do not systematically erode the social and ecological fabrics on which society is based. No trend will put higher demands on strategic leadership than this challenge.

Today, global human society is moving deeper and deeper into a “funnel” of declining opportunities to sustain prosperity, and in the end civilization itself. Our habitat, the biosphere, is exposed to ever higher concentrations of “left-over-matter” in the biosphere, smaller areas of remaining ecosystems, shrinking biodiversity, and fewer healthy cultures where people are glued together by trust in each other and by vital stories of meaning. To successfully avoid hitting the walls of the funnel is more about understanding and competence amongst leaders of business, than about their values. It's about enlightened self-interest.

Today, most organizations are part of the un-sustainability problem, systematically contributing to pollution, encroaching on ecosystems, and eroding the social fabric. Soon there will be 11 billion people, no longer 6, laying bids on the remaining natural resources in the biosphere. It can be shown, with scientific rigor, that this leads inevitably to increased financial risks for those who are part of the problem rather than the solution. The risks are associated with costs for natural resources, waste management, insurance, taxation, and flawed investments. And vice versa. Systematic innovation and design to provide human services without contributing to the funnel problem implies systematically lowering risks of hitting its walls.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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