Organization Management Journal


In 1987 the publication of Our Common Future by the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development proposed the concept of sustainable development as an ideal for the global economy and corporations. In seeking sustainable economic growth and sustainability at the enterprise level, a number of “sustainability principles” or codes of conduct emerged. A great deal of intellectual effort, managerial resources, and publicity are devoted to these principles. While these principles have created some dialogue, and helped to lead some organizations in the direction of sustainability, their practical effectiveness remains uncertain. This paper provides an overview of sustainability principles within the context of evolving literature on sustainable development. It describes their purpose and content, the rationale for their creation, and who adopts them. We explore what functions these principles serve, and how they can be made more useful and compelling for businesses, governments, non-profit organizations, investors, and concerned people in general.