Skip to main content

Managing sustainably

Published on July 4, 2010 Reviewed on October 31, 2018   44 min

Other Talks in the Series: Managing Organizations

0:00
Welcome to "Managing Sustainably". My name is Suzanne Benn, and I'm the director of Aries, which is the Australian Research Institute and Education for Sustainability in the Graduate School of the Environment at Macquarie University.
0:15
In this lecture, we will firstly look at various discourses of sustainability. The different ways that sustainability is interpreted and described. We will then look at how these discourses play out in the organizational context. We will then look at the big question as, is sustainability possible? We will use some casing examples to illustrate these points and we will conclude with a short discussion on the various debates and challenges surrounding sustainability.
0:46
Current understandings of sustainability derived from the so called Brundtland definition. That is, sustainability that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The two points for consideration emerged from this definition. Firstly, sustainability crosses social, environmental, and economic dimensions. Of course, ideally these dimensions are in balance. This is what organisations in attempting to be sustainable, are trying to achieve. In practice, this is difficult. The organisations and governments tend to trade off one-dimension against another. In this video, you can see an example of an organisation which has integrated very well these three different dimensions. Being successful in each of them. The well-known Green Mountain Coffee. If we look at the second for consideration. Sustainability discourses referred to the different ways we understand and describe the relationship between human society in the natural environment. They're often interpreted along a continuum from strong to weak, depending on the relationship between these three dimensions, social, economic, and environmental. We say that weak sustainability allows for the depletion or degradation of natural resources. So long as such depletion is offset by increases in the stocks of other forms of capital. For example, by investing royalties from depleting mineral reserves into factories. Depending on the particular discourse we ascribe to, we have different expectations of how organisations should deal with nature and what should be classified as responsible action. Changing sustainability discourses over time reflects shifts in these expectations and the historical domination of a particular discourse has direct implications for what we understand at that time as appropriate standards of corporate responsibility and sustainability.