Sustainable business models? Historical and institutional dynamics of corporate (ir)responsibility

Don't miss this conference on sustainable business models! We will discuss how historical and institutional development of business models can be interpreted in light of what we today call the concept of ‘sustainability’ and how both contractual practices and regulation create incentives and obstacles to sustainable business behaviour. The presentations follow the paths of business firms from sixteenth century Europe to the future.

Peter Rindisbacher

Conference background

Business organisations are based either explicitly or implicitly on a ‘business model’, specifying how an enterprise creates, delivers and captures value and how it tackles the negative externalities created in its operations. Contemporary business organisations face the dual expectations of being profitable while at the same time promoting sustainable development. Achieving sustainable performance is challenging for modern businesses from an organisational point of view, and it implies aligning or balancing the pursuit of profitability with social and environmental goal attainment.

Though existing business models are based on path-dependent evolution, modern concepts of corporate sustainability and development are poorly suited to analyse past enterprise models.  The modern concepts apply to post 1970s history; to analyse sustainability in earlier periods, adjustments must be made. Concerning for instance early modern history, the term ‘sustainability’ is certainly anachronistic. This does not mean, however, that it cannot be used; after all, ‘company law’ and ‘commercial law’ are anachronisms as well, but useful ones.

The globalisation of the economy, backed by global market and free trade ideologies has increased the impact of multinational corporations through global business groups and tax havens. However, the most important features of multinational corporations; outsourcing, contractual networks and complex value chains, have not changed as can been seen when studying the earliest examples of multinationals such as the Dutch East Indian Company and the English East Indian Company.

On the other hand, ethical considerations have historically been dominant in many business forms. Partnerships and mutual private entities have had far-reaching ethical responsibilities, often with full mutual solidarity. From the 1800s different forms of cooperatives and saving banks, with their member-based organisations, active members, local ‘ownership’ and links to local communities, have been a dominant business model with developing profit-making companies. During the last financial crises, we have experienced the resilience and revival of cooperative organisations and alternative business models.

This conference discusses how the historical and institutional development of business models can be interpreted in light of what we today call the concept of ‘sustainability’ and how both contractual practices and regulation create incentives and obstacles to sustainable business behaviour. Both historical and institutional aspects of sustainable and unsustainable business models are considered. The presentations follow the paths of business firms from sixteenth century Europe to the future.

 

Tentative programme

Tuesday 28 November

 

08:30

Registration

09:00

Dean Dag Michalsen: Opening

09:30

Keynote

Heikki Pihlajamäki, University of Helsinki:

Separating ethics and business: Towards pure commercial law in Early Modern Europe

10:45

Break

11:00

Session 1

 

Alfonso Martínez-Echevarría, Universidad CEU San Pablo:

Sustainability and business models: Chartered companies and mutual companies – the experience of history

 

Tom Johnstad, Norwegian University of Technology and Science:

Corporate responsibility and irresponsibility – Historical and institutional Dynamics

 

Panel discussion

12:30

Lunch

13:30

Keynote

Hagen Henrÿ, University of Helsinki:

Cooperative law for sustainable development: The challenge of democratic participation

14:15

Break

14:30

Session 2

 

Rodrigo Lozano, University of Gävle:

Re-conceptualising sustainable business models

 

Arne Nygaard, Kristiania University College and Norwegian University of Technology and Science (with Robert Dahlstrom, Miami University):

From linear to circular organization: Towards an Ecological Theory of the Firm

 

Panel discussion

15:45

Break

16:00

Panel discussion after the first day

16:45 – 17:30

Drinks reception

17:30 – 18:30

Tour of the University Aula

19:00

Dinner for Speakers and SMART team members

 

Wednesday 29 November

09:00

 

 

 

 

 

09:50

 

10:00

Keynote

Andrew Johnston, University of Sheffield (with Blanche Segrestin and Armand Hatchuel, MINES ParisTech):

From the balanced enterprise to the hostile takeover: How the law forgot about management

 

Technical break

 

Irene Lynch Fannon, University College Cork
The Creation of the Multinational Group – how did this happen?

10:30

Break

10:45

Session 3

 

Beate Sjåfjell, University of Oslo:

Are we close yet? Near 50 years of EU company law from a sustainable business model perspective

 

Jukka Mähönen, University of Oslo:

Nordic business models from historical perspective

 

Guðrún Johnsen, University of Iceland:

Pillars of society: how the financial system can sustain or undermine (un)healthy businesses - the Icelandic case

 

Panel discussion

12:15

Lunch

13:15

Session 4

Eivind Merok, Eastern Norway Research Institute/ Norwegian University of Technology and Science (with Tom Johnstad, Norwegian University of Technology and Science):

Heroes in hiding: Co-operative business forms and sustainability in Norway

 

Ellen Stenslie, Norwegian University of Life Sciences:

Chameleons by law: An Institutional inquiry into the community interest company in practice

 

Panel discussion

14:45

Break

15:00

Panel discussion after the second day

15:45 – 16:00

Beate Sjåfjell: Closing

16:00 – 16:15

Break

16:15 – 17:45

SMART Steering committee meeting (SMART scholars only)

 

 

Registration and contact information

Please register by 14 November.

Questions regarding this event may be addressed to Professor Jukka Mähönen.

 

SMART week

This event will be preceded by and followed by internal Meetings and workshops for SMART partners. A tentative program is available (requires log-in). For more information, please contact administrative coordinator, Eli Rudshagen.

 

Published June 29, 2017 2:25 PM - Last modified Nov. 3, 2017 10:15 AM