Due to your incredible response, I will now certainly gain a balanced research-based perspective on the dark side of sustainability.

I look forward to discover the wisdom embedded in your comments, which will certainly find its way to my next work on the Social Contract with Business – and in particular the area marked in red in the attached essay.

As a courtesy to your generosity, herewith a summary of all the comments:


I found “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins very illuminating on how businesses enslave developing nations through promises of economic vitality.  Earth Democracy by Vandana Shiva highlights the social consequences of globalism.  When Corporations Rule the World, and others by David Korten address the economic inequities of our current systems and dig deeper into the systems we’ve bought into. Finally, the work of Pachamama Alliance shows another possibility { http://www.pachamama.org/}.  


I found this article very interesting. It think it's worth a scan:

Vitali, Glattfelder & Battiston. 2011. The network of global corporate control: http://bit.ly/1dmm2DG



A special issue of Organization Studies  on the Dark side of Organization (co-edited by Steve Linstead, Ricky Griffin and I)  will come out in the next few months. 




I’m not sure if you’ve already read it, but Bobby Banerjee’s book CSR: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly quite a bit of stuff concerning your interests. http://www.amazon.com/Corporate-Social-Responsibility-Good-Ugly/dp/1848444540




inter alia, see the work of aaron mccright and riley dunlap on organized support for opposition to attitudes and policies to deal with anthropogenic global climate change . . .




I don't know of research on "dark forces" opposing sustainability - but I'd suggest that the reasons why people do not behave in sustainable ways are much less nefarious or sinister than that.  Simple externalities explain why people don't behave sustainably.  We don't directly bear the costs of our own behavior, and we don't want to incur cost in order to prevent harm to others.  No conspiracy theories or dark agenda needed!  

Internalizing externalities would be the way to go, but it is often hard to figure out how to do that. And even harder to get politicians who are going to be up for reelection to implement the policies that would accomplish it when we know what they are.  

What you might look at carefully is what differs between Europe and North America, that the EU has been willing to require its members to take some steps to live more sustainably, whereas the US & Canada have not.  




We have two collections of peer-reviewed case studies that will aid you in your research. The Dark Side: Critical Cases on the Downside of Business and The Dark Side 2 are compilations of shortlisted contributions from the Critical Management Studies (CMS) Interest Group of the Academy of Management (AoM) “Dark Side” case-writing competition. The cases cover bad practice in the extractive industries, the energy industry, consumer products, pulp and paper, movies, media, municipal affairs, academia, banking, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Please see here for more information: www.greenleaf-publishing.com/darkside2 and www.greenleaf-publishing.com/darkside.  




You can look at a few of my recent papers on CSR … they typically outline this a bit more. … 

Web 1 (Academic, General): http://uts.academia.edu/TimothyDevinney

Web 2 (SSRN papers): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=283089

Web 3 (Academic, UTS): http://datasearch.uts.edu.au/business/staff/marketing/details.cfm?StaffId=4213



One place to start might be the Earth Institute at Columbia University.  A second would be the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment, also at Columbia University.  Karl Sauvant, an AIB Fellow, is connected to both




Dr. Keith Hart, University of Cambridge, might have something on this subject – there may be a link between his work on informal economy (published) and your question.




1.I am happy to know you are interested in global sustainability. The inquiry you have made is very vital and am sorry to inform you that from the best of my knowledge I am yet to come across any empirical findings that goes in depth to shed light on the nature and dynamics of forces opposing global sustainability.

2. Currently, I am having the distinct privilege as a PhD research scholar  at Taylor's University, Lakeside campus, Malaysia carrying out the doctoral research "Enhancing global sustainability: the empirical study of organizational commitment in international nonprofit organization".Subsequently, I had written a book titled Mastering the art of global sustainable competitiveness - which proposes organizational commitment as true driving instrument in spurring productivity and efficiency. 

3. With both capacity am happy to suggest that your inquiry could be optimized as a vital eye opening point to further empirical research and insight to global sustainability . And in this case it call in appropriate timing with dire need and demand.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your pursuit for excellence and I am pleased to be contact in any areas I can help you actualize this humble quest for purpose.




Your mail brought back to my mind what I read a few years back and noted it down for further thought.

Here are two websites that I saw then:



and a comment article by Bill Willers (1994)


These might not be full-length researches but it shows that scholars have been aware of the dark side of sustainability since quite some time.

Please share what other colleagues share with you. I would be interested in knowing more about the dark side.




I worked with a Prof Amos Thomas from Singapore in Namibia was doing a bit on this. He taught IB and was doing some research. I am not sure where he is now but maybe he wrote about this.




Thank you very much, Jopie, I'll make good use of it in my classes. I hope we all together find a way to counter this dark actors.


Clearly there is a field here that I didn't know existed.  That's why we're on listservs, to learn about things we didn't know before.  I hope your research goes well!



In conclusion:

You are most welcome to join an ongoing discourse amongst thought leaders at my LinkedIn Group, titled: The Social Contract with Business



Collegially yours,


Jopie Coetzee


[log in to unmask]


23 August 2013



From: Jopie Coetzee [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 19 August 2013 09:06
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Research into the dark side of sustainability?


Dear Colleagues, perhaps you may be able to assist me.


I would like to know if any credible research has been done regarding the nature and dynamics of forces opposing global sustainability in direct and indirect ways, such as transnational crime and arguably ALEC (American Legislative Exchange council)?


The reason for my enquiry is to gain a balanced research-based understanding of who are ‘they’ and ‘them’ that keep society locked-up in a world of destructive globalization.

And, how do ‘they’ go about their dark art?

And, what ‘us’ can do to counter/mitigate ‘their’ dark agenda?


If you can assist me in any way, I would be most grateful.


Yours sincerely,



 Dr. Jopie Coetzee

[Johannesburg, South Africa]

[log in to unmask]


The Social Contract with Business: beyond the quest for global sustainability




AIB-L is brought to you by the Academy of International Business.
For information: http://aib.msu.edu/community/aib-l.asp
To post message: [log in to unmask]
For assistance: [log in to unmask]
AIB-L is a moderated list.