n Journal of Contemporary Management - Corporate sustainability : a social-ecological research agenda for South African business

Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1815-7440



In this paper we consider the increasingly prominent expectations that business can and will significantly contribute to sustainable development. We use the framework of social-ecological systems, and the principles thereof, as a lens to evaluate the corporate approach to sustainability management through a review of the literature and a number of cases. South African business is realising that changes to the health of supporting ecosystems pose risks to business operations and long-term sustainability. From the evaluation we propose that a core limitation preventing business from making meaningful contributions to sustainability is that they are unable to sufficiently address risk and uncertainty with the reductionist toolset currently available. A social-ecological systems approach, in which a business understands that it is an integral component of the system, could help the business understand the resilience of the system in which it operates and how to adapt to risk to ensure sustainability. We propose a research agenda that addresses the underlying lack of integration between the natural and business science, as well as some of the practicalities of enhancing corporate sustainability management through tool development.

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