Understanding the mechanisms of sustainable capitalism: The 4S model

John, Anna; Coetsee, Johan and Flood, Patrick C. (0202). Understanding the mechanisms of sustainable capitalism: The 4S model. Business Ethics, the Environment & Responsibility, 32(S1) pp. 15–24.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/beer.12495


Neo‐capitalistic approaches to value creation have sometimes developed a bad reputation in terms of sustainability and care for the environment. Yet, there are examples to the contrary emphasising a concern for sustainable capitalism. Our literature synthesis suggests that there is a lack of understanding of the sustainability mechanisms—ways of working helping companies to achieve their leadership in sustainability and maintain it over time. We contribute by addressing this deficiency and specifying four discrete mechanisms which we call the 4S model. Specifically, we apply this model to the cases of two leading exponents of sustainability—Unilever and Patagonia—to explain how companies can operate as forces to change business practice and improve sustainability having regard to people, planet, and profits.

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