The Fourth Wave, Management Science and Practice in the Age of the Anthropocene

By January 29, 2015Library

By: Andrew J. Hoffman, in Corporate Stewardship: Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness, (Sheffield, UK:  Greenleaf Publishing): 228-248 (with John Ehrenfeld) (2015)
ABSTRACT: Sustainability has become mainstream in both management practice and management research. Firms incorporate sustainability strategies into their core mission. University administrators promote sustainability as central to their curricula. Scholars pursue sustainability as a bona fide field of research inquiry. Given this level of attention and action, the world should be on the road to a sustainable future. But it is not. Environmental and social problems continue to get worse. This paper presents a model for understanding the progression of punctuated social change within the market that has taken us to the present reality, moving through three waves from 1970 to the present. We then present an assessment of where we may be going in the fourth wave, a punctuated shift that is predicated on the notion that we are now living in the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch in which human activities have a significant impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. We present six elements of change within management systems that are reflected in the Anthropocene: systems thinking, which leads to new forms of: partnerships, materials use and supply chains, domains of corporate activity, organizations, and the economic models and metrics that are used to measure them.

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