The Road Ahead
To summarize, the greening initiatives of the late 1980s and early 1990s were revolutionary, if insufficient, steps: They repositioned social and environmental issues as profit-making opportunities rather than profit-spending obligations. More recent "beyond greening" strategies are even more significant: They hold the potential to reorient corporate portfolios around inherently clean technologies and create a more inclusive form of capitalism that embraces the four billion poor at the base of the economic pyramid. If narrowly construed, however, such strategies still position MNCs as outsiders, alien to both the cultures and the ecosystems within which they do business. The challenge is for multinationals to move beyond "alien" strategies imposed from the outside to become truly indigenous to the places in which they operate. To do so will require companies to widen their corporate bandwidths and develop entirely new "native" capabilities that emphasize deep listening and local codevelopment. A more inclusive commerce thus requires innovation not just in technology, but also in business models and mental frames.
Thus, as we enter the new millennium, capitalism truly does stand at a crossroads. The old strategies of the industrial age are no longer viable. The time is now for the birth of a new, more inclusive form of commerce, one that lifts the entire human family while at the same time replenishing and restoring nature. The path to a sustainable world, however, will be anything but smooth. It will be a bumpy ride strewn with the remains of companies that variously dragged their feet, made promises they could not keep, bet on the wrong technology, collaborated with the wrong partners, and separated their social and business agendas. Only those companies with the right combination of vision, strategy, structure, capability, and audacity will succeed in what could be the most important transition period in the history of capitalism.