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Environmental ethics for business sustainability

Laszlo Zsolnai (Business Ethics Center, Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to derive operational principles from environmental ethics for business organizations to achieve sustainability.


The paper analyses different levels on which business affects the natural environment. Individual biological creatures are affected by business via hunting, fishing, agriculture, animal testing, etc. Natural ecosystems are affected by business via mining, regulating rivers, building, polluting the air, water and land, etc. The Earth as a whole is affected by business via exterminating species, contributing to climate change, etc.


Business has a natural, non‐reciprocal responsibility toward natural beings affected by its functioning. At the level of individual biological creatures, awareness‐based ethics is adequate for business. At the level of natural ecosystems, ecosystem ethics is relevant for business. At the level of the Earth as a whole, Gaian ethics applies to business.

Practical implications

A business activity system can be considered acceptable if: its aggregate impact on animal welfare is non‐negative;, its aggregate impact on ecosystem health is non‐negative; and its aggregate impact on the living planet is non‐negative. By satisfying the above criteria, business can performs its duty: not to harm nature or allow others to come to harm.


The paper uses principles of environmental ethics to redefine business sustainability in an ethically meaningful way.



Zsolnai, L. (2011), "Environmental ethics for business sustainability", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 38 No. 11, pp. 892-899.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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