Organisations beyond Brundtland: A Definition of Corporate Sustainability Based on Corporate Values

  •  Jan Thomas Frecè    
  •  Deane L Harder    


Although a plethora of alternatives exist, companies often base their sustainability efforts more or less explicitly on the definition of the Brundtland Commission. There are, however, conceptual problems when this definition is removed from its original context, in which it addresses social policies and state institutions. In particular the notions of “needs of the present” and “future generations” reveal the qualitative differences between the socio-political context of the Brundtland Commission and the corporate context. In this paper, we explore the entailing dilemmas, argue why current approaches to solve them are insufficient and analyse common practices for sustainability-related statements of 50 companies in Switzerland. The results support the argument that companies tend to avoid a specific definition of corporate sustainability or transpose the Brundtland definition, instead. Both approaches are inappropriate as guiding principles for corporate policy. Instead, we propose basing the concept of sustainability on the broad premise that “the future is a better, healthier place than the present”, specified and substantiated using functionally formulated corporate values. These corporate values and the vision of a “better place” derived from them gear corporate sustainability efforts towards restitution and/or compensation.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.