The Nature of the Firm: Towards an Ecocultural History of Business

Business history has never paid much attention to the environment. Brushing aside the firm's reliance and impact on the natural world, early business historians zeroed in on the role of the entrepreneur in big business's rise. They found it easy to truncate, marginalize or altogether ignore the physical processes by which the stuff of nature—“raw” materials—was carved or coaxed out of mountains, forests, and deserts, channeled into factories and squeezed and cajoled into commodities. They scarcely considered the ever-changing varieties of “waste” generated by businesses and customers, which so often infiltrated, polluted, and otherwise altered the world beyond factory and office. They devoted equally little attention to the effects of resource extraction and use on plants, animals, land, air, or water, much less entire ecosystems and climate.