The purpose of this chapter is to tell the story of how corporations have managed for sustainability, responsibility and stakeholder inclusion over time. Rather than providing a comprehensive overview, however, my objective here is to show how the debate has evolved through different historical phases and how the developments in these phases have informed current practices in the field. I start by discussing three historical phases in the evolution of corporate responsibility and sustainability: (1) the rise of philanthropy prior to the 1970s; (2) the institutionalization of CSR and the rise of sustainability concerns in the period 1970–89; and (3) the internationalization of CSR and the intensification of sustainability concerns in the period 1990–2009. In the subsequent section I discuss the current state of the debate, showing how CSR and sustainability have increasingly become blended in a single common concept of ‘corporate sustainability’. Here I show how the increased standardization of what counts as sustainable business behavior, combined with the increased availability of relevant data, has enabled us to see more clearly how corporate sustainability is embedded in market mechanisms (e.g., in the context of financial markets). The final section takes a look into the possible future of corporate sustainability. In this section I argue that future research on sustainability needs to take greater account of the extent to which social and environmental problems are embedded within larger systems that involve multiple interactions, potential synergies, and inevitable trade-offs.
|Title of host publication||Was heißt unternehmerische Verantwortung heute? : Reflexionen zum 100. Geburtstag Reinhard Mohns|
|Editors||Reinhard-Mohn-Institut für Unternehmensführung|
|Number of pages||17|
|Place of Publication||Gütersloh|
|Publication status||Published - 2021|