Thriving on sustainable development: sustainable autopoietic organisations

von Rettig, Hans Robert 2013. Thriving on sustainable development: sustainable autopoietic organisations. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Law

TitleThriving on sustainable development: sustainable autopoietic organisations
TypePhD thesis
Authorsvon Rettig, Hans Robert

This doctoral thesis theorises on how business organisations have reacted to the legal principle of Sustainable Development. The proposition is that Sustainable Development is an event-driven principle of becoming where the present depends both on the organisation’s environment and its internal operations. The starting point of the research is the observing of decisions made in relation to Sustainable Development covering a period of around ten years. This is based on four distinctions resulting in a structural, processual, motivational and functional understanding of the organisations in question. The theoretical framework is based on Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems, emphasising his theory of organisations, contributing new knowledge on how organisations react to their environment, the consequence of a-centricity, poly-contexturality and the un- steerability of society. Firstly, the thesis demonstrates that, for the companies involved, Sustainable Development has resulted in a better use of resources, both natural and human and consequently capital. Secondly, the result cannot be attributed only to internal industry decisions but significantly also to the direct or indirect involvement of NGOs and other irritants. Thirdly, Sustainable Development can be highly attributed to law but when the environment of law is not satisfied, rules of behaviour outside the legal framework are created by organisations such as NGOs. The research shows that Sustainable Development is not a recipe for success in itself but, without it, long-term profit is not possible. There is a structural coupling between NGOs, businesses and legislators and this can be seen in the way they communicate with each other. It is clear that although relevant, law is not the only mechanism and, in some cases, not even the best. Rather than forcing businesses into a specific legal framework the best available solution, consistent with theory and application, is for business organisations to reduce difference between themselves and their environment through self-steering when it comes to Sustainable Development and to increase difference when it comes to organisational differentiation.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Permalink -

Share this

Usage statistics

120 total views
118 total downloads
These values cover views and downloads from WestminsterResearch and are for the period from September 2nd 2018, when this repository was created.