Inequality, Dignity, and the Sustainability Challenge

Sandra Waddock
January 1, 2017
Europe, North America
Ethics & Social Justice
21 pages
corporate responsibility, sustainability, inequity, dignity, CSR
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The world is facing significant threats from inequality and climate change, both of which are potential sources of societal and civilizational instability. Sustainability crises will most likely affect the poorest in the world much more than the wealthy. Furthermore, a fundamental reason why poverty and growing gaps between the wealthy and the poor are problematic is that poverty too often has the effect of violating the dignity of the poor. Today’s business system fosters ever more materiality, consumption, and product churn, externalizing whatever costs it can and thereby placing those costs into societies and the natural environment. This article argues that greater attention to the dignity of humans and, indeed, of all beings, along with systemic changes that incorporate new measures of progress and performance, the internalization of currently externalized costs, the provision of decent work, and the consideration of ecological costs, among other shifts, could help businesses transition the world to a more equitable and sustainable context.