Capitalism, the sustainability crisis, and the limitations of current business governance

Benjamin J. Richardson, Beate Sjåfjell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Citations (Scopus)


Impetus for a new direction This book investigates the limitations of corporate governance and some related business laws, and their potential reform in furthering environmentally sustainable development, or ‘sustainability’, as this term is more conveniently known. The central idea is that promoting sustainability cannot be left solely to corporate volunteerism, but also requires enabling legal frameworks that go beyond conventional environmental regulation to ensconce within company law the necessary standards and procedures. While the book is strongly motivated by the threat of global climate change, which challenges the traditional assumptions and purpose of business enterprise over the long term, along with many other domains of human endeavour, a range of other environmental problems such as the loss of biodiversity also suggests that a different approach to business activity is needed. Arising from the work of the Sustainable Companies Project, led by Professor Beate Sjåfjell at the University of Oslo, this volume offers multi-jurisdictional perspectives from scholars of business and environmental law. Over eight chapters, a mosaic of analyses, spanning company law, accounting standards, and financial markets regulation, identify both the barriers to and the opportunities to promote sustainability in the context of corporations and their financial investors. The book concludes with some ideas to further ‘sustainable companies’, a phrase intended to capture the ideal of corporations and other business entities acting within environmentally sustainable parameters. The focus of the book is to deepen our understanding of the barriers to creating sustainable companies, rather than outlining a blueprint for reform. The path to reform largely hinges on better understanding of the source and nature of the problems, and recognition that the tools and strategies for such reform will vary somewhat across societies and jurisdictions. Creating sustainable companies has never been more urgent in a world beset by the intertwined crises afflicting global financial markets and the planetary environment.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCompany law and sustainability
Subtitle of host publicationlegal barriers and opportunities
EditorsBeate Sjåfjell, Benjamin J. Richardson
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781107337978
ISBN (Print)9781107043275
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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