The Death of Sustainable Business

An exploration of corporate metaphysics in an age when culture, technology and nature are morphing into one.

Part 1 / 3

The Death of Sustainable Business

In an age when technology, culture and nature are morphing into one, all businesses have a new top-priority agenda. Their urgent task is to reimagine a renewed relationship with nature and create a business model fit for the post-natural world.

The environment we once knew is gone. The planetary-scale screw-up is done mostly by corporations – the engines of modern value creation and destruction – and the culture of mass consumption that keeps on feeding them. The harrowing truth is that there are just a handful of companies that are psyched about living in unity with nature and its inhabitants. Most businesses are simply too occupied to sustain themselves at the dead center of the escalating climate crisis, consumer market chaos and business reality-warping.

It’s not that no one is trying, quite the contrary. Currently, every progressive business that desires to thrive in the long-term is busy creating itself a halo of benevolence – big enough to please its stakeholders and translucent enough to satiate its shareholders. The problem, however, is that only a few have the audacity to act on those worthy principles and the results, such as interactive responsibility reports and pixel-level sustainability branding, are miles off from the deep strategic rejigging required to make business genuinely pro-nature.

To make things much worse, it’s increasingly evident that even the most heroic corporate sustainability vision or fervent social mission might not suffice anymore – not even when doubled with rock-solid execution. The epic environmental and societal challenges ahead are likely to require a next-level response, perhaps driven by a more advanced corporate entity altogether, one that operates with a sophisticated, state-of-the-art 21st century business paradigm.

It is this persistently expanding gap between corporate intent and required action that is likely to become the deal breaker for the decade-long affair between business and sustainability. More often than not, the problem is not sustainability or social responsibility per se. The problem is the corporation, a rigid old organization with a 20th century worldview, often incapable of dealing with the 21st century sustainability vision that requires the corporation to cut back most negative externalities, go carbon positive, ditch planned obsolescence altogether, and produce way, way less stuff.

This is the tragic paradox of the 21st century business in a nutshell. The corporation knows, deep in its planning processes, that eventually it needs to find a way to operate in accordance with the surrounding natural, cultural and technological systems. But it simply doesn’t know how to do that, at least not by following the aforesaid frightening path laid by the environmental champions nor by pursuing half-hearted positive corporate impact through social innovation or technological transformation.

The only way out might well be a post-natural business paradigm – one that is grown with natural principles and lives in a symbiosis with culture and technology. This new business paradigm should be auto-tuned for adapting to the changing environment and deeply philosophical about its relationship with nature, instead of just trying to conserve the mythical wilderness.

This is the first post in a series about 21st century corporate metaphysics in an age when culture, technology and nature are morphing into one. The resulting multi-part business intelligent dispatch aims to propose both epic questions and speculative answers for the contemporary corporate condition.

You can find the second and third post here:

The original publication, Gardening Manual for Post-natural Corporation, can be read & downloaded at

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