The SET management approach has much in common with the “Cultural Re-Enlightenment” archetype described by leading management scholars Andrew Hoffman and Devereaux Jennings in their recent book “Re-engaging with sustainability in the Anthropocene era.” Both approaches share an emphasis on the need to go beyond sustainable development, to focus on flourishing rather than on materialism and self-interest, to replace reductionist thinking with a sense of transcendent connectedness, and to highlight the role of localized entrepreneurs. And, just like SET management is based on virtue ethics rather than mainstream utilitarian ethics, Hoffman and Devereaux observe that "the logics of science in Cultural Re-Enlightenment will be balanced by new logics of ... religion, philosophy, and others, ones that are congruent with one another.”
A recent study interviewed owners of over twenty SET businesses in Winnipeg, Canada. Preliminary analyses of the data pointed to 5 themes evident in many SET businesses in the sample: 1) rather than compete, SET firms choose to cooperate with other organizations that offer similar goods and services (because they share the goal of improving overall well-being); 2) rather than operate with a traditional corporate culture, SET firms tend to treat employees, customers and even suppliers like family, developing a sense of community within the firm and among its stakeholders; 3) rather than hire people with the “best” resume or skills, SET firms hire employees who understand and support the organization's values and goals, and often hire people who may find it difficult getting a job elsewhere; 4) rather than burdensome and stressful, work in SET firms is typically engaging and energized (e.g, because of shared values); and 5) rather than emphasize globalization and industrialization, SET firms often harken back to times when workers, customers, and suppliers lived in the same community, and technologies were friendlier to the environment.
For a fuller review of the findings, and a list of the organizations in the study, please click here.
There is some agreement that, in addition to sustainable organizations, cities are key to addressing the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations regarding things like climate change, poverty, and inequality. Research suggests that cities enjoy lower pollution and higher voluntary environmental standards when they have: 1) more corporate headquarters located in them (consistent with ideas related to place-based organizing), 2) more nonprofit environmental organizations (consistent with the idea that information and action changes structures and system), 3) better educated citizens, and 4) lower economic inequality between rich and poor.
Rousseau, H.E., Berrone, P., & Gelabert, L. (2019 in press). Localizing sustainable development goals: Nonprofit density and city sustainability. Academy of Management Discoveries.
The increase in economic inequality—within and between organizations and countries—reduces overall well-being, societal trust, safety, and mental health. The emphasis on shareholder wealth maximization is an important contributor to economic inequality, because it works to maximize the economic resources distributed to shareholders and executives, and minimize the resources distributed to other stakeholders (e.g., employees, governments, community, suppliers).
In addition to shareholder wealth maximization, this paper highlights "the bidirectional relationship between societal economic inequality and organizations, and eight mechanisms that drive this relationship."
Bapuji, H., Ertug, G., & Shaw, J. D. (2019). Organizations and Societal Economic Inequality: A Review and Way Forward. Academy of Management Annals.