In 2008, MIT’s Peter Senge et al. wrote that the Industrial Age bubble was ending and that, especially due to climate change, a “Necessary Revolution” was needed to create a sustainable flourishing world in the decades ahead. Since then, many business organizations have moved toward sustainability to some degree, and many other organizations have emerged, mostly non-profits, to help business and/or prod them to pursue ethical strategies. This report explains how the revolution is unfolding, by briefly mapping some 140 organizations that are driving the greening of capitalism, and grouping them in several meaningful categories: Business-Led Groups, Ethical Groups, Broadened Accounting Groups, Certifying Organizations, Green Investing Groups, Sustainability Consultants, and Green Business Publishing. Each of these groups is important in facilitating the revolution, especially those promoting corporate social responsibility, broader accounting practices, certification, and green investing. Among groups that list their beginning, the median start-up date was 2003—thus a doubling in 13 years.
This revolution certainly appears to be well underway, leading to a contest between 21st Century Green (or Sustainable) Capitalism, valuing the triple bottom line of People/Planet/Profit to some degree vs. 20th Century Industrial Era Capitalism that adheres to a single bottom line and narrow accounting measures. But the revolution is a quiet one that is underappreciated, due to fragmentation and lack of leadership. Hopefully, if well-publicized and widely discussed, the January 2017 Better Business, Better World report of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, making a strong all-win business case for pursuing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, could provide a large boost to the necessary revolution. In turn, this could energize the larger system of more than 1000 sustainability-related organizations that are identified in the August 2016 Interim Draft of The Security & Sustainability Guide. We are not yet winning the struggle for sustainability in our era of great and intensifying uncertainty and danger. But with cities and responsible business taking the lead, and with more horizontal thinking that includes broad consideration of security issues, the necessary revolution can become more visible and thus accelerate.
The full report is available here: Greening Capitalism Final, May 2017, 46 p.
First published in CADMUS, 3:3, May 2017, 150-166.
Michael Sales (firstname.lastname@example.org) Principal of the SSG, he is co-founder of Art of the Future consultants for uncertain times, co-creator of the Structural Dynamics Strategic Leadership Development Process, and co-author of Life-Sustaining Organizations. He served as co-chair of the Society for Organizational Learning, North America. Received an Ed.D. from Harvard University, for research in the field of Organizational Theory and Intervention Practice.