Towards Sustainable Companies: Identifying New Avenues

The 1st Sustainable Companies Conference Oslo, Norway, 29 and 30 August 2011  

“Business as usual” is arguably unsustainable. Many policy-makers, academics and others believe that we urgently need to alter the direction of our businesses towards a balance between achieving profit and contributing to social development within the non-negotiable ecological boundaries of our planet. It is time to provide jobs, revenue and welfare in a sustainable manner. What are the barriers to making the necessary changes today? And how can we find new and fruitful avenues to make companies and thereby our economies sustainable?

The Sustainable Companies project invites scholars from different branches of academia, practitioners and decision-makers from business and government to participate in a high-level discussion of these questions, in a multi-jurisdictional and cross-disciplinary context.

Climate change is the case in point for the Sustainable Companies project. The project is dedicated to the development and refinement of efficient tools to realize the significant potential within companies to make independent, creative and active contributions to mitigate climate change. Climate change provides a powerful example to illustrate broader challenges in promoting corporate environmental responsibility through company law reform. We believe that if it is possible to induce a company to act more responsibly on climate change issues, the company may extend its heightened environmental awareness and commitment to other environmental issues. Focusing on climate change can provide a catalyst for wider corporate engagement with the environment, with a potential knock-on effect on the social dimension of sustainable development.

But there is considerable debate regarding how companies should be governed to promote sustainability and economic prosperity. Is traditional external regulation of companies, notably through environmental law, sufficient for this purpose? Alternatively, the hypothesis of the Sustainable Companies project is that a fundamental commitment to environmental sustainability in the operation of companies is necessary. If this approach is appropriate, how might it be effectively achieved?  Do company law and financial market law have a role to play? Or are there other and better means of integrating environmental concerns more effectively into the internal workings of the company?

We invite contributions that analyse:

  1. The assumption of the limited effectiveness of external regulation of corporate environmental behaviour.
  2. The hypothesis of the necessity of integrating environmental sustainability into the operation of companies.
  3. Methods and models for incorporation of sustainability into company decision-making.

The University of Oslo-based project Sustainable Companies has as its goal to find out how to integrate environmental protection in the decision-making in companies, to contribute towards sustainable development. The project receives funding from the Research Council of Norway. Thanks to this funding and the contribution of valuable research time from a dedicated project team, consisting of scholars from many countries in different regions of the world, the project covers a broad set of research questions in a comparative and multi-jurisdictional context, examining relevant practices, reforms and debates in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa, including emerging economies. The Sustainable Companies website gives an overview of the project team and previous project publications, and will provide updated conference information.

The conference will be held at the Faculty of Law in Oslo, in the beautifully restored buildings from the 1850s. .


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Published Mar. 29, 2011 2:25 PM - Last modified June 29, 2011 5:21 PM