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Business and Sustainability: New Business History Perspectives
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History. Umeå University.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1087-9656
2017 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This working paper provides a long-term business history perspective on sustainability. For a long time, the central issues in business history concerned how business enterprises innovated and created wealth, and patterns of success and failure in that process. There now exists, after a lag, a compelling stream of research focused on the environmental consequences of that growth. This working paper reviews this new stream of research which focuses on two related but distinct themes. The earliest theme to be explored, in a literature dating from the 1990s, is the story of how and why some conventional industries sought to become less polluting. Research has dated this phenomenon back to the late nineteenth century, showed it gained momentum from the 1960s, and resulted in a mainstreaming of sustainability rhetoric , and sometimes practice, in large corporations from 1980s, primarily in Western developed countries. A more recent research theme is the story of how for-profit entrepreneurs developed new product categories such as organic food, and wind and solar energy, which were explicitly focused on sustainability. Again this process has been traced back to the nineteenth century.  With the rise in green consumerism and public policy support in some Western countries for sustainability during the 1990s, these two historical trends met, as the concept of sustainable development spread to large conventional corporations and visionary green firms scaled or were acquired by conventional big businesses. The problem was that concept of sustainability became socially constructed in a sufficiently broad fashion as to permit even the most unstainable and dirty industries to firms claim to be sustainable. The working paper concludes that the emergent business history needs to be more fully incorporated in wider management and economics literatures on sustainability, while calling for the mainstreaming of the subject in the discipline of business history.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Boston, 2017. , p. 36
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Economic History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-140834Local ID: 881253OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-140834DiVA, id: diva2:1150757
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilAvailable from: 2017-10-19 Created: 2017-10-19 Last updated: 2019-02-15

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Bergquist, Ann-Kristin

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf