I recently attempted to edit the English Wikipedia corporate sustainability page to say corporate sustainability does not have an established definition. An editor rejected this statement because, “ We don’t begin articles by saying they don’t exist.”

The academic literature suggests corporate sustainability doesn’t exist. Montiel & Delgado found seventeen definitions of corporate sustainability in academic articles. Bansal & Song traced the concept’s shifting meaning over three decades, most recently converging with corporate social responsibility.

We remain in a situation where it seems sustainability means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. …


Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman published an essay in New York Times Magazine titled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits” (pdf). The essay argues business managers who spend their companies’ money on social responsibility projects shareholders, employees, and customers don’t want to address are stealing from those stakeholders. Managers must instead use the firm’s money to maximize profit for shareholders. (Left unaddressed: what managers must do about wages for employees and prices for customers). Friedman’s (1970) argument remains influential and widely used both inside and outside academia. …

We need specific solutions, not vague calls for change.

Scrabble tiles spelling out “change the system” sit on a wooden table.
“Change the System” by burrows.nichole28 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Preventing catastrophic climate change requires one thing: reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And doing that requires us to decarbonize our economy. How do we decarbonize?

Many call for “system change” as the solution to the climate emergency. Climate strikes call for complete system change. Investors and business groups call for system change investing. In response to a report’s question about what system change meant, Greta Thunberg demanded Germany revise its plans for producing fossil fuels.

But calling for system change is simply not enough given the urgency of the moment. …

Changes in several major stock indices since the pandemic arrived in the United States suggests a structural shift in the underlying economy favoring large technology companies (NASDAQ) and punishing smaller businesses (Russell 2000).

Over the past year, the Russell 2000 tracking small businesses is up 3.4%. The DOW is up 7% S&P500 is up 16%. NASDAQ is up 42%.

Percentage change in Russell 2000, DOW, S&P500, and NASDAQ over past 12 months.

The four indices closely tracked one another before the pandemic hit the United States.

Once the pandemic took hold in the United States, the indices diverged, with the technology-focused NASDAQ quickly exceeding the previous peak. …

The 2020 Academy of Management Annual Meeting occurred virtually from August 7–11. This essay shares my reflections on lessons from the Meeting for online teaching, moderating, and conferencing. Though official attendance data are not available, rumors put registration near 5,000.


  1. Online, it’s still about the people.
  2. Live bests recorded.
  3. Interaction bests information.
  4. Assertive moderation improves sessions.

Online, it’s still about the people

Online networking sessions proved one of the more valuable aspects of the conference, yet they face some awkwardness compared to in-person networking. Perhaps the most meaningful difference is the lack of one-on-one conversation. Networking events wisely split the audience into smaller breakout rooms, usually…

Originally published May 8, 2020 at the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.

Why do companies have an easier time setting sustainability goals than achieving them? Modern corporations create astonishing wealth and innovation, but they have so far struggled to transform themselves to operate within the sustainable boundaries of natural resource systems, such as the atmosphere, forests, fisheries and soil systems.

In 2014, the New York Declaration on Forests saw a coalition of 52 companies, 66 nongovernmental organizations, 42 national governments, 9 financial institutions and 43 other actors set goals of cutting global deforestation in half and restoring millions of…

Flying produces about 2% of global carbon emissions. Despite articles implying the possibility of sustainable flight, there’s currently no viable solution to flying without fossil fuels.

So what are airlines doing now that social pressure is increasing to address flying’s unsustainability?

Strategies so far:

  • Use biofuels
  • Increase efficiency
  • Shift responsibility from airlines to consumers
  • Offset emissions

Biofuels are plant-based fuel to power aircraft. Biofuels exist, but making them produces carbon emissions from agriculture, so they’re not carbon-free. …

In December 2019, Rodrigo Bustamante published a post on Patagonia’s blog about the company’s goal to become “carbon neutral across our entire business, by 2025.” The post describes some of Patagonia’s approaches to achieving that goal.

Patagonia is a privately-held company in the clothing industry. About 95% of the company’s carbon emissions come from its supply chain connecting “the crops grown to make yarn, to shipping finished clothes to warehouses, stores and our customers’ front steps.” The post appears to exclude post-consumer use and disposal from Patagonia’s supply chain, which is not uncommon in supply chain conceptualization. However, “downstream transparency…

Today Anthropocene Magazine published “ Contrary to popular belief, fish stocks are not declining in all parts of the ocean,” by Emma Bryce. The article describes a new study claiming that ocean overfishing is not as widespread a problem as people might think.

the study showed that wherever fisheries are being scientifically monitored, there has actually been an average increase in abundance over the past few decades. The researchers put this down to improved management in these monitored fisheries — which allows stocks to recover and replenish, thanks to measures including catch limits designed to curtail overfishing.

Regions with intensive…

Nicholas Poggioli

Academic working on sustainable organization(s).

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