The European Union promotes sustainable development. But not every European knows what that means, Finnish researchers argue.
Writing in the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, the researchers found that EU rules send a “blurry message” to folks seeking to build sustainable businesses.
“If sustainable development is a serious matter and the end goal is to actually have impact across 28 nations, EU policy needs more focus,” said the study’s lead author, Virva Salmivaara, a post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University, in a press release.
EU rules promote three kinds of sustainable businesses: those who benefit economically from sustainability, activists seeking sustainable solutions to problems and “opportunistic operators” whose interests coincidentally intersect with sustainability.
That’s an ambiguous message, said study co-author, Ewald Kibler, an entrepreneurship professor at Aalto University.
“Policy…ends up suggesting that sustainable development is not, in fact, a pressing problem that businesses need to tackle, but rather an optimistic change that offers new business opportunities,” said Kibler. “These are two very different understandings of what entrepreneurs can – and should – do.”
European leaders should re-craft the message they send to their constituents, the authors concluded.
“If the aim is to develop a more sustainable economy and society, EU policy needs to engage in a deeper debate and address how to balance both business interests and sustainable development,” said Salmivaara.
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