Integral Ecology and Sustainable Business: Volume 26

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(20 chapters)


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Part 1 Introduction


Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (Praised Be: On the Care of Our Common Home) is an excellent opportunity for building a conversation between spirituality, ecology, and sustainable business.

Integral ecology integrates concerns for people and the planet. It sees the world as systemically linked ecology, economy, equity, and justice accessible through natural and social sciences, arts, and humanities. Integral ecology shows a path to sustainable business functioning through frugal consumption, acknowledging the intrinsic value of nature, and seeking holistic management knowledge.

The book collects chapters from economists, business scholars, philosophers, layers, theologians, human scientists, and practitioners from Europe, North America, and Asia and highlights the meaning of sustainability in relation to human and non-human life and introduces new approaches to sustainable business practices and sustainability leadership.

Part 2 Sustainability and the Meaning of Life


Authenticity and sustainability seem to be unlinked concepts. While sustainability refers to the ability of ecosystems to endure and to flourish, authenticity refers to the ability of the human person to develop its “true” or real self. Some will say that nature as a complex, self-directed evolutionary bio-system remains indifferent to the subjectivity and self-interest of human beings. But the modern search for authenticity is one of the causes of the decreasing sustainability of our ecosystem.

The chapter first explores how the modern concepts of the self and the world have disconnected the human subject from nature. The Cartesian disconnection of human subject from nature made it possible not only to transform nature into a semi-mechanical system but also to consider the self as a rational and autonomous being. Hence, realizing the self and being authentic in the Cartesian context meant becoming independent from and master of nature.

The chapter presents the life and philosophy of Albert Schweitzer as a new experience-based foundation for ethics and found it in the principle of “Reverence for life” (Ehrfurcht vordem Leben) conceived as an unconditional and inclusive respect for life in all its manifestations. Schweitzer’s philosophy implies a new sense of authenticity no longer based on the modern ego-centric notion of autonomy but on the alter-centric notion of respect for life.


The essence of the ecological crisis is not that resources are out of reach, but that the relationship between living beings has deteriorated. For this reason, ecology cannot simply be seen as a scientific matter but rather as a genuine social problem that requires social actions.

The law in its present form falls short of managing ecological problems despite the fact that the right to a natural environment is recognized in most jurisdictions as a basic one and that international covenants have been created to protect the natural environment. Environmental law ought to bring about a reverence for life and promote the cooperation of biotic communities. A legal system given to innovation could offer foresight-based regulation, integration of the ensemble of living beings, and cooperation in the living world. One of the main challenges the law has to meet is the exploration of a theoretically established and practically viable basis for extending its influence to address the problems of future generations.


Quality of life is a relevant concept in philosophy, psychology, and economics. It is also relevant in both Western and Eastern contexts. Distinguished scholars in different disciplines and cultures agree that quality of life is not an egocentric concern, rather it is a question of being in harmony with something bigger than one’s own self – and that could be nature, humankind, the planet, or the whole universe. Quality of life is not achievable if the Earth is sick and human communities are strained. In addition to harmonizing the relationship with the outer world, it is also necessary to develop a harmonious contact with the inner world and break out of “ego” and become part of “eco.”

Individual change is a prerequisite for change in the economic system. By reversing the tendency to focus on a narrowly defined ego, as in egocentrism, we suggest that the individual should follow a path that leads him or her to what is natural and real. When individuals consider themselves part of nature, and not apart from nature, their quality of life will increase. Scientific research shows that the separation between people and nature is one of the most important obstacles to achieve happiness and meaning of life.


The encyclical letter of Pope Francis, “Praised Be: On the Care of Our Common Home” (Laudato si’), presented an excellent opportunity to spark a conversation between economics and faith-based discourses on sustainability. The encyclical underlined the human origins of the ecological crisis and proposed fundamental changes in organizing our economic life. Among the important suggestions put forward by the Pope are increased frugality in consumption and acknowledging the intrinsic value of nature.

Frugality implies rebalancing the spiritual and material values in economic life. This may lead to the rehabilitation of the substantive meaning of the “economic” and the revival of the corresponding logic of sufficiency. Despite their different ontological and anthropological conceptions, the ecological position of the Pope’s encyclical has close links with Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics. Both Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics point out that emphasizing individuality and promoting the greatest fulfillment of the desires of the individual together lead to destruction. Happiness is linked to wholeness, not to personal wealth.

Mainstream economics fails to acknowledge the intrinsic value of nature. It is happy to put value on environmental goods and services merely on the basis of a market value determined by competing economic actors. But price, for sure, is an inappropriate model for assessing the value of natural entities. There is no algorithmic solution to nature’s allocation problems. Decisions and policies related to nature require making qualitative and multiperspective considerations and the proper use of our wisdom, knowledge, and experience.

Part 3 Toward Integral Ecology


After nearly 12,000 years living in the Holocene geological age we have now arrived in the Anthropocene. Now, instead of an integral ecology that considers the world as having its ecology, economy, and justice systematically linked, we are confronted by an ecology dominated by a profit-driven economy.

Since its very first beginnings, Western philosophy has reflected on humanity’s relationship with nature. Is the history of Western philosophy, then, merely a reflection of the evolution of humanity from the Holocene to the Anthropocene? Or did Western philosophical thought, along with industrialization and economic development, play a far bigger part and was it, indeed, the regulator of this evolution?

Our spontaneous care for nature – not at any price or exclusively – has led to an elegy. However rereading Western philosophy can help us to discover that the evolution toward the Anthropocene could challenge man to descry meaning behind nature. The way man regulates nature can be oriented toward rediscovering meaning behind nature. And the question of transcendence cannot be avoided.


Pope John Paul II named Saint Francis as the “heavenly patron of those who promote ecology.” Revisiting the Franciscan values, as lived by St. Francis, could be of great help in solving our ecological, economic, and social problems. St. Francis can show the way to deal with Mother Earth for the sake of the future of the planet. His passionate love for creation, his adoration of seeing God in everything and everywhere, and therefore the adoration of the beauty of creation, his experience of God in the world as an incarnation theological principle, and his ways and actions of compassion give witness to a brotherly love toward everybody and everything. A Franciscan approach to integral ecology includes vulnerability, being connected, voluntary poverty, compassion, solidarity, contemplation and attentiveness, justice and peace, and prophetical wisdom.

The chapter presents a real life project in the “Klostergarten” of the Capuchin Franciscans in Muenster, Germany. To reestablish biodiversity and knowledge of how to use and preserve rare and old agricultural species, traditional varieties of regional apple trees, a good number of herb and vegetable strains have been reintroduced in the garden of the Capuchin Franciscans in Muenster. The importance of biodiversity and a holistic-spiritual approach toward nature is made clear to people visiting the garden through documentation, guided tours, and educational programs.


Despite the boom corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability are enjoying nowadays in the agendas of both small and big companies, we still have difficulties in providing a clear definition of the concept of sustainability. There is no consensus on the criteria to be used to define and enhance responsible management that creates sustainable development.

After a systematic revision of the literature, authors have been mapping the limits of the research already done at different levels, dimensions, and horizons, so we do have a 360° map of the research on sustainability. Future developments are also explored to enrich and align the diverse approaches demanded to define this wide, complex, and by now, equivocal concept and the conclusions reveal the many gaps not yet covered in the research field, signposting key issues for further work.


The worldwide environmental crisis has also influenced the field of literary studies. Posthumanism and ecocriticism is a new way of reading in which the anthropocentric approach and the binary oppositions such as human/non-human, wild/tame and natural/cultural are overcome. Posthumanism pays attention to all sorts of non-human life, animals, for sure, but aliens and robots are included too, while ecocriticism is concerned with the role and function of nature in literary texts. The chapter offers an ecocritical approach of Robinson Crusoe (Defoe) and Friday (Tournier). Rereading these novels we see that nature, or the elements, make up an ‘actant’ equal to the human characters and a special interest is created in the mutual conflicts which arise between nature and the human characters.

Robinson Crusoe (Defoe, 1719) is considered by many as an appropriate book to allow pupils to escape from or be shielded from the negative influence of civilization. Like Robinson on his island pupils should learn from experience. Defoe’s work was so popular it inspired a whole series of imitations called ‘Robinsonnades’ and many of them were edited specifically for children. But is Robinson Crusoe a valuable book from an ecological point of view? How does Robinson relate to nature? Does the novel focus on nature or rather on the human hero seeking to control and tame the environment?

In 1967, the French author Michel Tournier reworked the Crusoe myth in Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique (Friday or the Pacific Rim), followed by a parallel text for children Vendredi ou la vie sauvage (Friday or the Wild Life, 1971). In both novels Robinson’s black servant, Friday, initiates his colonial master into alternative ways of living, dismantling civilization and restoring nature. That same deconstruction of the idea of Western superiority fits well with the postcolonial philosophy that attacks the logic of domination and its hierarchical dichotomy: white above coloured.


Emergent practices today in business organizations point toward potential development of ecological consciousness and responsible and meaningful economic activity aimed at finding alternatives to economic growth using the principles of ecological economics.

The conception of self offers a basis for introducing a complexity-based understanding and apprehensible knowledge about business actors. The study of the self is connected with a place of agency to shape the future. This is related to the process of development in business leadership involved in driving and changing the business arena toward the development of ecological underpinning in the implementation of responsible business.

The study of the self allows us to identify emergent ethical considerations in relation to a long-term future. Long-term perspectives of the individual allow us to explore the commitment and motivational basis for alternative ways for economic development in line with responsibility for change. Those are grounded in technological development for wellbeing of communities both from a local and a global perspective beyond mainstream strategies based on economic growth.


A world renowned spiritual leader and mother Mata Amritanandamayi explained recently to a gathering that “education without any emphasis on values, sophistication without any emphasis on culture, development without any concern for nature, and lifestyle that disregards health” are the root causes of many of the problems faced by humanity today. More and more people are realizing that the problems which face us in current times are interlinked systemically. A compartmentalized approach to solving each problem has given way to looking at it as a whole system. This change in vision and approach has a fundamental transformative effect especially when the worldview is inclusive and holistic. In this chapter, we will present the thoughts and frameworks available in the Indian system to develop an inclusive worldview, which we call Shakthi Worldview, which sees the interconnectedness of things and events around us thereby making us conscious of how we interact with the environment and help us to take decisions which positively lead us to a sustainable future. Shakthi in the Indian context refers to the fundamental energy that permeates all things around us, animate and inanimate. Being in tune with this energy has been the way of life of many indigenous cultures. This chapter highlights the aspects of Shakthi Worldview and how the actions that come out of this worldview can create a sustainable future.

Part 4 Practicing Sustainability


Affluence and material goods of varying types are portents of a millennium age consumer culture that encourages the masses to voluntarily participate in the need to buy, buy and buy! This trend to spend creates a purchasing fervour that preoccupies many consumers with the ongoing yearning to shop until they drop. Clever marketing tactics such as enticing smells, catchy jingles, prize-draw entries, lucrative sales, discounts and the recruitment of celebrities to advertise a range of different wares are just some of the ploys adopted by vendors and retailers to maintain the sustainability of this cycle of consumer spending. This scenario promotes what could be perceived as a never-ending desire to procure yet more products and merchandise, which can create social dilemmas such as personal debt due to, for example, impulse buying, excessive spending and unnecessary borrowing.

Retailers and manufacturers are driven by a quest to sell so constantly tout their goods to tempt consumers including those with a need for personal and social respect, to take the bait in order to encourage them to keep buying. This, coupled with the rapid advances in technology over recent decades, has made it easier for consumers to shop, order, obtain and pay for their goods from the comfort of an armchair or via handheld devices, and all at a tap of a button. In essence, technology has added to, or even exacerbated, the materialistic consumer trend as witnessed across many global societies today – from the east and the west to the north and the south. But what impact does consumerism have on the well-being of humankind and, in turn, the environment? This chapter adopts a comparative approach to answer this question by exploring the implications of consumerism as a means for broadening the topic’s framework and to contribute to debates regarding consumerism, well-being, social dilemma, sustainability and techno-economics.


The mechanisms of all life and ecosystems on Earth have a spiritual dimension of interconnectedness. We refer to such patterns as the process of dynamic, awareness-driven clustering, which applies as much to the microscopic molecular world of energetic connectivity that formed the earliest and smallest forms of life, as to the complex world of DNA programmed species which includes the human being. This clustering subsequently develops beyond the definition of the molecular composition and behaviour of any living creature. Each human being, for instance, consists inside of billions of interrelated life forms that sustain the person through symbiotic interaction within our intestines. In fact, we can consider any human being as a uniquely clustered living inner universe of its own.

In a broader context, every human being itself relates with its environment with the same awareness-driven dynamic clustering principles as our inner world. Through this natural activity, we feed, grow, protect, procreate and evolve. Most of this clustering we do as a natural condition of our being. Our evolutionary breakthrough into the conscious world of cognitive perception, auto-reflective awareness, interpretation and communication, has made us a unique self-reviewing, learning, creative species, capable of organising itself out of progressive self-interest. This unique level of evolution has brought us where we stand today, the sixth force of mass destruction of all life forms on Earth, including our own, since our planet has existed, and the first destructive force that is equally characterised as a miracle of wit and creativity among all living species. This relatively sudden, extremely dangerous paradox of wit versus destruction has given rise to a new evolutionary, spiritual breakthrough with newly oriented awareness-driven dynamic clustering, the participation society, or awareness-driven human ecosystem.


This chapter focuses on the care of our “common home,” emphasizes the complexity of the crisis, and suggests the path to overcome it through renewed environmental, economic, anthropological, and social ecology. Starting from the premise of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Sì (Pope Francis, 2015), the chapter discusses the role of leadership models based on virtues and moral constructs to promote a new business culture. Which leadership models and which business models are necessary to guide companies toward the integral development?

After a review of the Encyclical Letter, the chapter traces the theoretical framework of leadership theories connected with the emergence of a sustainability-oriented business model. The empirical analysis explores three cases of exemplary Italian companies which show how entrepreneurs can promote cultural reorientation, can help others to unlearn the bad habits of “turbo-capitalism,” and place value on humanity, relationships, and the love of the place in which they do business.

This chapter contributes to the development of leadership approaches and models incorporating the orientation toward the common good. Accordingly, it highlights the “roots” of entrepreneurial and managerial behavior which appear to inspire a profound rethinking of business conduct. From the business examples analyzed, the chapter shows models that make integral development possible.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is intimately related to culture and ethics of the country in which the company is located. It is difficult to define “culture.” It is a combination of values, belief, and morality law in a society. Society is a group of people who follow common set of values and norms. Usually individuals in a society are bounded with specific religion. This bondage depends on nature of the religion (e.g., Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam). The norms are inherent within the values which determine such items as individual freedom, democracy, women’s freedom, social justice, and collective responsibility. Sometimes culture and religion also determine the formation and break down of nation states. India-Pakistan and Rwanda-Burundi are examples. Social structure depends on religious values and occupational system.


The chapter discusses two aspects of the theory of the firm. One is the question of what is a regenerative firm, and how the traditional view of the firm changed when one adopts an integral transdisciplinary worldview. The second is what are the consequences when we leave the assumption of the extrinsic value of the nature.

The central question is: How can firms transform themselves from a mainly extrinsic to a more intrinsic value orientation to nature? She is defending the necessity to transform anthropocentric business models into more ecocentric ones. Shifts to business models in which nature has an intrinsic value have fundamental consequences for the theory of the firm.

The chapter compares ‘creative destruction’ in which the value creation follows out of destruction of other values with the ‘law of seed’ where the natural cycles of continuous creation and regeneration carry out life. The latter can contribute creating value-based spiritual economic structures which bring together the rich diversity of man and nature. The regenerative firm can be an important driver for building an integral transdisciplinary world.


Technology is one of the crucial topics for the understanding of the content and meaning of creativity in management. More than ever knowledge and science determine technology and in turn technology determines the economy and management. The range of necessary creativity therefore risks to be highly determined by the evolution of technology. This will bring us to the crucial question whether in the future the diffusion of creativity is still possible when human-made environments are more and more determined by technology. Opdebeeck argues that the question about transhumanism and posthumanism on the relationship between technology and the enhancement of the human person is crucial for humanity and nature as well. With Jurgen Habermas he states that the problem is not modern science and technology per se, but the fact that the reified models of the science and technology migrate into the management life-world and gain power over our self-understanding. The solution must, therefore, rather be sought in keeping the distinction between the sphere of science and technology and the sphere of the human person.


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