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BusinessandEnvironmentalSustainability - B USINESS...

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BUSINESS & PROFESSIONAL ETHICS JOURNAL, VOL. 24, NOS. 1 & 2 Business and Environmental Sustainability Joe DesJardins Introduction This paper is about what some have called "the next industrial revolution." I My starting assumption is that in the early years ofthe twenty-first century humanity is faced with a cluster of significant economic, ecological, and ethical challenges. Extreme poverty, exacerbated by a cycle of political repression, war, famine, disease, and natural disasters, confronts hundreds ofmillions ofpeople on a daily basis. Throughout the world, hundreds of millions of human beings struggle just to get the basic necessities of life: clean water, nutritious food, shelter, health care, education,jobs. Population growth guarantees that these problems will only intensify in the immediate future. lustice and common decency, as weIl as self-interest, requires that these problems be addressed by those living in the economically developed world. Addressing these challenges will require significant global economic activity, integrated with social and political leadership. However, the earth's biosphere, ultimately the only source for all this economic activity, is already under severe stress from just the type of economic growth that many assume is the solution to these challenges. These factors wi 11 require that business in the twenty-first century be practiced in a way that is economically vibrant enough to address the real needs of billions of people, yet ecologically informed so that the earth's capacity to support life is not diminished by that activity and ethically sensitive enough that the human dignity is not lost or violated in the process. © Business & Professional Ethics Journal 2005. Correspondence nlay be sent to Joe DesJardins at: Dept. ofPhilosophy, College ofSt. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN 56374; or via email at: [email protected] This document is authorized for use by Robert Fleishman , from 10/19/2010 to 1/19/2011, in BADM 053: Management, Organizations & Society - Radin (Fall-2 2010), George Washingto n Any unauthorized use or reproduction of this document is strictly prohibited.
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36 Business & Professional Ethics Journal To get us to the heart of what I would like to say about the role of business in this, I need to take a number of things as given. First, I will assurne that, in fact, the earth's biosphere is under significant threat to its ability to support life. A second assumption 2 is that the present configu- rationofeconomic and business activity-the reigning paradigm ofbusiness andeconomics-is incapable ofadequately addressing these challenges and, in fact, is partially responsible for causing these problems. The failure of this conventional wisdom to address these challenges revolves around two significantly misguided assumptions. The first is that unqualified economic growth is the best means for addressing global poverty and the social problems that accon1pany it. The second is that business and economics can operate independently of environmental and ethical concerns. I want to
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