Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability: The Concept in Context

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1482
Reading time:
6 min


The concept of Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) has a potential of being just the right ideology that is needed to battle existing environmental problems and various societal dysfunctions. This research paper discusses the existing issues along with potential solutions and the importance of one’s values in their implementation. It explores the relevance of ERS in application to a particular case, explaining how they work in relation to influences gathered in one’s social environment during upbringing.


Born and raised in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, I am keen on tradition and conforming to morals and values that I consider important. I have strong aversion to violation of societal norms and I am profoundly convinced in the preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people I come into contact with. I firmly believe that both a personal and a larger scale – societal security are major contributors to increased quality of living standards at whole, as safety of one’s immediate environment promotes a bigger change. Self-direction, freedom of action and thought are of major importance as well, as evidenced by my style of work. My tendency lies in encouraging creativity and initiative in those who I am supervising; I actively promote them to take action and, consequently, the responsibility for it, and to cultivate their ideas and solutions to a certain problem.

Taking Responsibility at Larger Scale

Robbing the unborn of Earth’s resources

The topic of responsibility is of crucial importance to my personal beliefs and ethical principles. Aside from it being one of the three core ideas of this course, this topic could not have been avoided in this discussion, as it has resonated with me deeply. An interesting paradigm unfolds in conversation about the humanity’s careless and senseless consumption of Earth’s natural resources for the past couple of centuries.

In his article, Monbiot discusses these questions from a compelling perspective. He describes contemporary big landowners, as those who are stealing from the generation yet unborn, depriving them of natural resources available to humanity now (2019). This irreversible process has been happening since the beginning of industrialization, when the Anthropocene era started (Rockstrom, et al, 2009). Potential solution may lie in installment of “planetary boundaries”, proposed by Rockstrom, which “define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to Earth system” (Rockstrom et al., 2019, p. 472). In support of this idea, Monbiot renders the capitalist system incapable of being just; while also noting current state of the matter contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Monbiot, 2019). This raises a question about equality and justice, however also addresses the problem of responsibility that each member of human society is willing to take.

Contradictory nature of capitalistic ideology and possible solutions

Capitalism is built on a notion of boundlessness, which contradicts the natural order. The core idea is that “you are entitled to as great a share of the world’s resources as your money can buy” (Monbiot, 2019, p. 2). The absurdity of the mechanism of natural wealth acquisition becomes evident, however, they are still in power because of being profitable. This is the reason many people are convinced business is unethical at its core – although it is true only when “business practices lead to the exclusive pursuit of self-interest” (Duska, 2000, p. 112). Thus, raising awareness about ethical behavior and practices is just as crucial to the cause as understanding the level of responsibility.

Having said that, it is imperative to realize that one cannot change the present system momentarily. Instead, the most beneficial strategy would be modifying it to suit an adequate level of responsibility. One possible solvent may be the concept of Circular Economy (CE), a model which emphasizes reuse, recycling and reduction of production and its components. However, in theory a vast number of solutions may seem ideal, but “it should not be disregarded that sustainability patterns not only require innovative concepts but also innovative actors” (Ghisellini et al., 2015, p. 2). In this way, many aspects need to be taken into account, including ethics, morality, responsibility and humaneness, as well as technical details of implementation.

Personal Priorities in ERS Context.

From the 13 individual level marker values chosen in your SVS exercise, which three values mean the most to you? Why do you believe this value is important to you? Reflect on a moment in your life when you lived this value. What behaviour did you exhibit that supports the value? How does this value link with your sensemaking of ethics, responsibility and sustainability?
1. Conformity It is important to me because I like rules and was raised in that manner, also I avoid upsetting or harming other people. Following rules, regulations and procedures at work, and in school. Also showing empathy and trying not to upset people and when I do I show remorse. I care about conservation and maintaining the status quo as I believe rules are set to make things better.
2. Benevolence I like being dependable, reliable and showing commitment to the welfare of the members of any group I am in. I think where I was born also has a part to play in this. Being a trustworthy and dependable team member at my place of work and also amongst my family members. I show concern for others and as such this is seen in all spheres of my life. Engaging people and being dependable is very key as it in turn could change our environment for the better.
3. Achievement Personal success and achievement of set goals are key to me in all spheres of my life. My role models have a part to play in this. Demonstrating competence and key skills at work to ensure goals set are met and my career is a success. I believe achievement equals responsibility as such I ensure I am continually upskilled and demonstrate the necessary competence level.

My values reflect how I make sense of ERS because I care about conformity and tradition, I show concern for people around me, and hold my values greatly prioritised. As Sagiv et al. put it, there is a high level of “impact of values on pro-social behavior –actions intended to protect or to enhance the welfare of others” (2017, p. 11). I think it is important to understand how personal values work, so that one could employ them successfully in the future, namely in the framework of ERS. This way, “Rokeach (1968) argued that values underlie most aspects of society, whilst Schwartz (1996) identified that motivations for action are based on the interplay of a combination of values” (as cited in Williams & Preston, 2020, p. 2). These are the reasons I wish to study my own personal beliefs, as I express them in the workplace and when socializing in general – which inevitably, makes a difference in society and I want it to be in align with ERS.

Background and personal beliefs in connection with ERS

Background and personal beliefs in connection with ERS

The image above is Lagos, Nigeria, my hometown. I value tradition and the country is a constant reminder of what I learned growing up and values I would like to pass on. I can be characterized as devout, holding to religious faith and belief, polite, respectful of elders. Social order and the stability of society are of great priority of mine, as well. These are the values I strongly believe in, as “individual values have a key role to play in promoting environmental engagement” (Schaefer et al., 2020, p. 20). My environment appears to me as a space for endless possibilities of implementing positive change, which can be manifested as ERS principles, too.

The city of Lagos stills universalism in me – I greatly enjoy the fact that Nigeria is at peace right now. Additionally, the government has been passing bills promoting universal peace and anti-xenophobic values, which is a good sign of improvement. I can also see ERS both in terms of achievement and threat to security but also as an opportunity to improve the global issues, such as climate change. This and other issues are particularly urgent, in the near future “climate change will reshape value chains, including supply networks, production arrangements, and the provision of energy and water” (Howard-Greenville, 2014, p. 7). I strive to adjust my values as well as educate others on the importance of such topics, and ERS provides an well-established theoretical framework for that.


As evident from this paper, Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability concept is greatly beneficial to the society as a whole if implemented right. Although the practical aspect of it is still in its planning stage, being used only partially and in some areas of the globe, it holds infinite potential of altering the dreadful situation the planet and human society are facing. This is why it aligns with my values, as I consider the welfare of others and society as a whole an immense priority.

Reference List

Duska, R. (2000). ‘Business ethics: oxymoron or good business?’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 10(1), pp. 111-129.

Ghisellini, P., Ulgiati, S. & Cialani, C. (2016) ‘A review on circular economy: The expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems’, Journal of Cleaner Production, pp. 1-56.

Howard-Greenville, J., Buckle, S. J. & Hoskins, B. J. (2014) ‘Climate change and management’, Academy of Management Journal, 57(3), pp. 615-623.

Monbiot, G. (2019) ‘Capitalism is destroying the Earth. We need a new human right for future generations’, the Guardian. Web.

Rockstrom, J. (2009) ‘A safe operating space for humanity’, Nature, 461 (September), pp. 472-475.

Sagiv, L. et al. (2017) ‘Personal values in human life’ Nature Human Behaviour, 1(9), pp. 630-639.

Schaefer A., Williams, S. & Blundel, R. (2020) ‘Individual values and SME environmental engagement’, Business & Society, 59(4), pp. 642-675.

Williams, S. & Preston, D. (2020) ‘Working with values: an alternative approach to win-win’, International Journal of Corporate Strategy and Social Responsibility 1(February), pp. 2-19.