Authentic Sustainability – Navigating Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Pathways in Conversations Toward a Better World

16 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2013

Date Written: auary 31, 2013


At some point, every one of us has contemplated more environmentally sustainable ways of living and working, from simple acts like recycling a soda can to bigger changes in business strategy and public policy. However, when we try to have a conversation about our ideas beyond “the choir” of environmental advocates, someone has branded us as a “holier than thou” jerk, or we have refrained from speaking or acting because we worry they might. We get stuck and only maybe later notice that we had a choice in the matter. Preparing students to create a sustainable world requires equipping them to carry on effective conversations and dialogue with a multitude of stakeholders.

This paper explores various pitfalls of the sustainability discourse, why we get stuck in them, and how we can escape them. It points out how advocates for the “flourishing of human and other life forever” undermine that flourishing in the way we engage with people every day. We discuss paradoxes or the persistent tensions and ambivalences we all experience that generate the pitfalls. When we distinguish these pitfalls and paradoxes, we can identify them in our lives and our conversations. We are then free to explore pathways out of and around what would otherwise remain latent traps. Pathways lead to greater authenticity, stronger relationships, and higher effectiveness. They contribute to a transformation of the sustainability “movement” or dialogue – to support the flourishing of our lives in the pursuit of the flourishing of all life.

This work exists in four forms: a working paper, an interactive workshop and course curriculum, a "train the trainer" workshop, and an ongoing qualitative research study. This paper introduces the pitfalls, pathways, and paradox models and, once further developed, will discuss preliminary results of their use in the classroom.

Keywords: Sustainability, Leadership, Authenticity, Transformation, Paradox

Suggested Citation

Grant, Gabriel Bauchat and Jay, Jason, Authentic Sustainability – Navigating Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Pathways in Conversations Toward a Better World (auary 31, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Gabriel Bauchat Grant (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Jason Jay

MIT Sloan School of Management ( email )

77 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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