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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Corporate Sustainability: The Potential Contribution of the Humanities

Dexter Dunphy.

Each century has a central unifying theme that forms the focus of economic, political and social debate. Last century it was economic growth. Communism, fascism, socialism and capitalism all agreed that economic growth was good. The conflict between these ideologies emerged primarily over the best ways to pursue it and how to distribute its benefits.
This century’s focal debate will centre around sustainability, that is, how the burgeoning world population can survive and thrive on this vulnerable planet and create a just social order fit to live in.
This critical issue of survival has been brought about by multiple causes but one important contributing factor is the rise of powerful corporations. Corporations are the fundamental cells of modern economic life and their phenomenal success into transforming the earth’s resources into wealth has shaped the physical and social world in which we live. Corporations have brought an abundance of goods and services but they have also brought ‘bads’ and ‘disservices’. We cannot continue to conduct business as usual.
Does the current model of the corporation and its way of doing business need modifying to contribute to the continuing health of the planet, the survival of human species, the development of a just and humane society and the creation of meaningful and fulfilling work? And if so, how?
This paper examines characteristics of the organization of the future that functions as an instrument for the fulfilment of human needs – that is, the sustainable and sustaining organization. Nothing less than this is worthy of our humanity, our intelligence and our ingenuity.

The paper also defines steps on the path that will advance corporations systematically to the ideal outlined. The paper concludes by examining the role of the humanities in assisting in the process of corporate transformation - the reclaiming of the corporation for the human spirit.


Dexter Dunphy  (Australia)
Distinguished Professor
School of Management
University of Technology, Sydney

Dexter Dunphy is Distinguished Professor, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. He has BA(hos), M.Ed(hons) from Sydney University and a PhD (Sociology) from Harvard. He has held professorships in the Faculty of Commerce UNSW and the Australian Graduate School of Management and visiting professorships at leading universities throughout the world. He is the author of 18 books and over 70 articles/chapters. His major areas of interest are sustainability, organizational change and cultural change.

  • Sustainability
  • Corporations
  • Humanities

(60 min Workshop, English)