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Future Earth Finance Economics

Future Earth is a major international research platform providing the knowledge and support to accelerate transformations to a sustainable world. Launched in 2015, Future Earth is a 10-year initiative to advance global sustainability, build capacity in this rapidly expanding area of research and provide an international agenda to guide natural and social scientists working around the world. (

Since September 2016 Laszlo Zsolnai serves as Co-Chair of the Future Earth Finance and Economics Knowledge-Action Network.

For Future Earth Finance and Economics Knowledge-Action Network the main departure point is the new reality of the Anthropocene, where humanity is altering the biogeochemistry of the planet itself, destabilizing climate and influencing co-evolution at the planetary level. Human perturbation already overcomes four of the nine planetary boundaries (climate change, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, and land system change).

Business (including finance) is the definitive player in the Anthropocene and is mainly responsible for the degrading state of the biosphere. The key problem is the nature, form and scale of business operations. The operating models of today’s mainstream business and financial institutions do not fit in the reality of the biosphere. Business models vary but almost none of them are consistent with the flourishing life on Earth (including human, non-human and future life).

The Future Earth Finance and Economics Knowledge-Action Network addresses these problems in a holistic, transdisciplinary, action-oriented way. Key topics include: Climate Finance, Sustainable Investing, Ecological Economics, Business Sustainability and Ethics, Social and Environmental Accounting, Organization and Environment, Integrated Risk Governance, and Sustainable Financial Markets. The overall goal is to reinventing business and economic models for the Anthropocene. How can business and economic organizations become ecologically conscious agents which operate within planetary boundaries, that is, use only a “fair earth share” and contribute to the richness of life on Earth?

Economics as a Moral Science

With Peter Rona (Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford) and Laszlo Zsolnai edits a book for Springer under the title “Economics as a Moral Science” to be published in 2017.

The book is an attempt to reclaim economics as a moral science. It argues that ethics is a relevant aspect of all levels of economic activity, from individual and organizational to societal and global. Taking ethical considerations into account is needed in explaining and predicting the behavior of economic agents as well as in evaluating and designing economic policies and mechanisms.

The book employs the personalist approach that sees human persons with free will and conscience as the basic agents of economic life and defines human flourishing as the final end of economic activities. The book intends to demonstrate that economics can gain a lot in meaning and also in analytical power by reuniting itself with ethics.

The unique feature of the book is that it not only analyses ethics and economics on an abstract level but puts behavioral, institutional and systemic issues together for a robust and human view of economic functioning. Economic “facts” are interwoven with ethical contents. Utility calculations and moral considerations co-determine economic behavior and outcomes.

Progressive Business Models

Eleanor O’Higgins (University College Dublin) and Laszlo Zsolnai direct a research project which collects and analyzes exemplary cases of progressive business. Progressive business is understood as ecologically sustainable, future respecting and pro-social enterprise. The collected cases aim to show the best to be expected from business in the 21st century.

The purpose of each case is to delineate the business model of the selected case and how it creates an enterprise that is ecologically sustainable, future respecting and pro-social. Since business models are basically stories about how enterprises work, case studies lend themselves very well to telling a story. The case study is essentially a structured descriptive narrative that depicts the past, present and potential future of the enterprise, how it came to develop and implement its business model and how it works. Issues and challenges faced by the enterprise and its business model will be presented in the case study. The cases will conclude with generalizable insights offered by the case. These insights will provide a basis for pedagogical analyses which can be applied to the material and used by instructors with students as appropriate.

Companies ranging from small single unit enterprises to large global multinationals will be represented in the book. The companies following progressive business practices are also representative of a variety of industries and countries as follows: Triodos Bank (ethical and sustainable banking, The Netherlands/transnational), Béres Co. (preventive and natural medicine and organic wine making, Hungary), Illy Café (artisan coffee production and distribution, Italy/international), DKV Integralia (inclusion of disabled people into society and the workplace, Spain), Sonnentor (organic food, Austria), Novo Nordisk (pharmaceutical products, Denmark/multinational), Armor (printer accessories and cartridge recycling, France), Lumituuli (clean technology, Finland), John Lewis Partnership (co-operative model governance in retailing, UK), Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (responsible hospitality, Norway/international), and Unilever (consumer goods, UK/Netherlands/global).

Last modified: 2019.03.11.