Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 165–178 | Cite as

On Firms and the Next Generations: Difficulties and Possibilities for Business Ethics Inquiry

  • Daniel ArenasEmail author
  • Pablo Rodrigo


Despite the centrality of the topic for the debate on sustainability, future generations have largely been ignored by business ethics. This neglect is in part due to the enormous philosophical challenges posed by the concepts of future generations and intergenerational duties. This article reviews some of these difficulties and defends that much clarity would be gained from making a distinction between future generations and the next generations. It also argues that the concept of next generations offers a better starting point for business ethics to incorporate the topic in its research agenda. We then suggest four potential pathways to explore this territory. The four approaches build on the notion of organizations as communities with memory and vision, on the narrative shape of organizational life, on the affinity of stakeholders with the next generation, and on systems of indirect reciprocity. These first two approaches are connected to communitarian approaches to business ethics, and the last two engage in a dialog with contractarian views and stakeholder theory. The article ends with some implications for theory and practice.


Future generations Intergenerational justice Sustainability Special responsibilities Stakeholder theory Indirect reciprocity Narratives 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social InnovationESADE-Ramon Llull UniversityBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.UAI Centre for Business SustainabilityBusiness School, Universidad Adolfo IbáñezViña del MarChile

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