Business Unusual: Corporate Responsibility in a 2.0 World


  • Note: This article is excerpted and adapted from SEE Change: Making the Transition to a Sustainable Enterprise Economy by Sandra Waddock and Malcolm McIntosh. Sheffield, UK, Greenleaf: 2011.


The imperatives of a growing consensus on human-induced causes of climate change, an increasing gap between rich and poor, and the misguided incentives in the economic, business, and financial models that dominated the last quarter of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first century along with the emergence of Web 2.0's transparency have highlighted the need for a new approach to capitalism. Looking around the world, we can witness the emergence of numerous new forms of enterprise that are part of a broader movement that we are calling change to a sustainable enterprise economy (SEE Change). This article details the broad outlines of the emerging shift, highlighting the new types of enterprise that constitute the SEE. First, we set the context in which business unusual is evolving, a context of “wicked problems”uncertainty, and sustainability problems. Then we provide an overview of new types of enterprises that are already emerging to cope with these changes, enterprises of the cloud (interlinked, web-based enterprises that rely on the “cloud” of computers that store data such as social media, eBay, and Google). Next, we outline how such enterprises are permitting processes of dematerialization and “servicization” (the shift from product to services) to create new forms of enterprise that are less dependent on physical resources. From here, we explore what we term enterprise unusual, corporations that incorporate pro-social goals into their very essence, for example, for-benefit corporations, the B Corporation, and conscious capitalism companies, along with a few entities that are shaping their product development along the lines of biomimicry. All of this change, we argue, has created a blurring of sector boundaries evidenced in the rapid emergence of social enterprise, of which explore a variety of types, and what is being called the fourth sector, where business purpose and pro-social activity are combined.