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Beckmann, Markus
Pies, Ingo
Diskussionspapier No. 2004-12
Wittenberg-Zentrum für Globale Ethik, Lutherstadt Wittenberg
It is the nature of powerful ideas that they can summarize a ground-breaking concept in a plain and simple message. In this sense, the concept of sustainability is one such idea. It translates into a compelling orientation towards the future. It is this orientation towards the future that is needed today in order to understand and address the challenges of tomorrow. However, many critics object that sustainability is not (yet) a clear-cut concept for definite implementation. They argue that although we have already learned a great deal about sustainable development, the concept itself still fails to provide us with a straightforward manual for solving everyday problems in society, management, or politics. Companies in particular are said to still lack a clear understanding of how to put sustainability into practice. Although the sustainability debate has already brought about considerable conceptual progress, a pivotal dimension to sustainable development has so far been widely neglected. This article argues that in addition to the ecological, economic, and social dimension, sustainability critically depends on the moral dimension of institutional legitimacy. As conventional models of creating and legitimizing institutions are increasingly challenged, it is business that is to play an ever more important role in contributing to fair and functioning institutions. “Corporate citizenship” as an economic concept will be discussed as a useful starting point for this new understanding of the business of business. In effect, the underlying objective of this article is to present a theoretical link between the concepts of sustainability and corporate citizenship. The central thesis is that private enterprises who cooperatively take responsibility for their institutional environment strengthen the moral dimension of institutional legitimacy: they actively contribute to empowering sustainability by corporate citizenship…
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