Introduction to Sustainable Development

Radha R. Sharma

“Sustainability” has a long history with multiple perspectives, but sustainable development garnered the attention of the global community when United Nations created the Brundtland Commission in 1983 to suggest various ways to save the human environment and natural resources and promote economic and social development. The Brundtland Commission developed the most cited definition of sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).

The United Nations’ sustainable development goals provide a framework to translate these into solutions through responsible business and investment by incorporating the ten Principles of the UN Global Compact into strategies, policies, and procedures and establishing a culture of integrity. This is expected to bring out transformative change and create enabling environment for doing business and unlocking market potential across geographies. Thus, corporate sustainability, to a large extent, would depend on the capability of the firm to function over a long period with sustainable relationships with the stakeholders. The question then arises who the stakeholders are.

Freeman (1984, 46) defines stakeholders as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organisation’s objectives.” There are various types of stakeholders mentioned in the literature (Benna, Abratta, and O’Leary, 2016). Clarkson (1995, 106-107) categorizes them as primary and secondary stakeholders. According to him, primary stakeholders are essential and engage continuously with the organization. They are in a reciprocal and an interdependent relationship, such as employees, suppliers, and customers, whereas the secondary stakeholders do not directly interact with the organization but affect or are affected by the organization such as professional associations, media, trade organizations, and so on. He posited that a stakeholder need not be only an individual but an organization as well, which can also be treated as an entity. In view of the importance of stakeholders in the organizational functioning, firms require appropriate systems to assess if they are addressing their concerns and are communicating effectively with the stakeholders for sustainable development.

Sustainable development is a way of organizing that an organization can function in the long term. The awareness about this idea developed as the result of industrial revolution and economic activities that had significant impact on environment and society in the second half of the nineteenth century. The cascading effects of globalization in the form of changing business environment, economic uncertainties, the economic meltdown, and the recent pandemic have brought about unprecedented challenges before industry and organizations across the globe and also in India. Management education, which prepares human capital for the industry, is expected to address some of these challenges along with intensifying competition, advancing technology, and accelerating complexity. However, the current management education is largely based on traditional capitalism where focus tends to be on profits and competitiveness rather than towards a balance among profitability, responsibility, social accountability, and sustainability. Hence, there is need for paradigm shift in management education to be more responsible and sustainable, which addresses the needs of the stakeholders in the normal as well as challenging times.

The Handbook of Sustainable Development: Strategies for Organisational Sustainability is an endeavor to provide a comprehensive perspective covering salient aspects of sustainable development in eleven chapters contributed by experts from various countries.

Chapter 1 on A Manager’s Role in Triple Bottom Line: Global Compact and Responsible Value Creation by Steven D. Olson deals with the evolution of social and moral expectations about business and discusses the Guiding Principles and Assessment Tool that provide managers with the diagnostic categories and criteria for beginning that transformation. Chapter 2 by Bhutani, Nair, Groen, and Dess discusses the science and practice of organizational design and offers frameworks for ‘Designing and Developing Sustainable Organization’. In Chapter 3, Beal argues that privileging profit maximization is incompatible with sustainable development; hence, there is need for Generating Knowledge for Sustainable Development. The purpose of the modern corporation is to create value; hence economic value, once created, flows to capital, consumers, and/or labor. In Chapter 4 Corporate Citizenship for Responsible Management Loza and Mion explain the concept of corporate citizenship and discuss its contribution to responsible, sustainable, and humanistic management. Chapter 5 by Griffin discusses the importance, and multiplicity, of corporate impacts Focused on Co-creatingValue with Multiple Stakeholders. In Chapter 6, Bilimoria and Chantal focus on managing diversity responsibly. Chapter 7 by Rastogi and Sharma makes a case for Ecopreneurship for Sustainability: Role of Entrepreneurial Bricolage, Design Thinking and Creative Self-Efficacy, under resource-constrained environment. In Chapter 8 on Walking A Tightrope Between Business & Sustainable Development, Bandyopadhyay and Ray discuss the tensions between sustainability and market needs and highlight the role of social entrepreneurs in combining sustainable products and services with a viable business model. Chapter 9 on Developing Positive Synergy by Daniela highlights the importance of positive synergy in humanistic management, and flourishing relationships greatly needed in the present scenario. Chapter 10 by Chantarasap on CSR Reporting posits that CSR has transformed into CSR reporting, which has translated into sustainability reporting, the way forward for which is to look at the “Integrated Approach to Sustainability.” Chapter 11 by Bachani throws light on the need for Organizational Transformation for Sustainability by offering a number of suggestions including tapping into the individual creativity as a source of ongoing advantage.

The hope is that the book will serve as a resource to students, faculty, and researchers in management education and to professionals and practitioners in the corporate world for promoting sustainable development.

A true teacher is a learner for life inspired by quest for self-actualization.

Radha R. Sharma

May 2021


Benna, S., Abratta, R., and O’Leary, B. 2016. “Defining and Identifying Stakeholders: Views from Management and Stakeholders.” South African Journal of Business Management 47(2).

Clarkson, M. 1995. “A Stakeholder Framework for Analyzing and Evaluating Corporate Social Performance.” Academy of Management Review 20(1): 92-117.

Freeman, R. E. 1984. Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Boston: Pitman.

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press.

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