Dark Side of Business Storytelling Discourses: Implications for United Nations Actually Meeting Sustainable Development Goals

This is part II of my post on Dark Side of Business Storytelling Discourses.

I want to combine storytelling with discourse because they are inseparable, thoroughly entangled, and cannot be dissevered. My solution is to look at how storytelling (narratives & stories) are constituted by what I call antenarratives (what comes before narratives & stories, and the various ‘bets on the future’). Right now the business storytelling ‘bet on the future’ is that the status quo scenario of business-as-usual will resolve the situation of Sixth Extinction (Boje, 2019a) and there is some kind of magical Planet B from which to get more fresh water as the global warming on Planet A, leaves it too dry to support most humans, especially poor and minority humans, and most other species as well. So what if the 1% survives the rise in temperature beyond 2 degrees Centigrade, or even finds a shelter from 4 or 6 degrees. Most coastal areas will have sea rise, and their fresh water aquifers will urn brackish, with the rising temperatures, more evaporation, but are retention of it in the vapor atmosphere, which means less rainfall, and when it does its storms and flash flooding. I life in the desert and I hear we had 15 inches of rain a year when we moved here in 1996, but now there is 10 inches, and next year less than that as the global warming continues.

I am focusing on the water catastrophes that are entangled with global warming. Water is life, and we humans can only live threes days before our organs shut down, and then we die.  You might think that is the dark side of storytelling, buy you’d be wrong. The dark side is how business storytelling does not tell it like it is, and instead tells unrealistic stories of how economy growth can keep happening with various sustainability development scenarios. The problem is continued economy growth is incompatible with sucking the planet dry of its water and other natural environment capacities to support life on Earth.

There are three peak water crises (renewable, non-renewable, & ecological peaks)  that Circular Economy and Triple Bottom Line (3BL) are blind too. My storytelling discourse research finds this is because we in the business school have reduced deep ecology to a watered-down, shallow approach known as ‘corporatized environmentalism’ that promises continued economy growth is compatible with continued sustainable development. The fallacy of the circular economy is it does not account for the fact that the small gains in recycling and reducing in the circular economy are grossly insufficient to deal with the outcomes of growing and expanding the circular economy each year, thereby increasing the CO2 emissions making it impossible to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

peak water apocalypse.png

Figure 1: The Three Peak Water Events that Circular Economy is Not Accounting for Adapted from Boje and Mølbjerg Jørgensen 2018


The fallacy of Triple Bottom Line (3BL) is it assumes that there is or can be equality between Profit, Planet, and People metrics (Boje, 2016).

The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have a narrative expectation of transformation, how the future of life on Earth will unfold, if and only if, CO2 emissions are contained so that global warming does not change the hydrological cycle. This overarching narrative of the UN SDGs is presented in gray.

orverarching UN SDGs narrative.png

Figure 2: The Overarching Narrative of the United Nations attempts to avert Apocalypse Doomsday Scenarios source https://swed.bio/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2.-Introduction.pdf

To avoid the catastrophes of the Sixth Extinction, various turgets and indicators have to be met by 2030, or the capacity of nature’s systems to support life on Earth will deteriorate.

All United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are Not Created Equal.

We need to deconstruct the ways economy SDGs Trump (yes its a pun) the society and the biosphere SDGs. How to relate the 17 UN SDGs to Business storytelling discourses. First sort the 17 UN SDGs into Biosphere, Society, Economy, and Partnering relationships. You will notice without the Biosphere there is no society and no economy.

BIOSPHERE is telling a story of Earth’s capacity to support life

biosphere sdgs.png

SOCIETY has problems and issues that are entangled with the life capacity of the biosphere. These are all important, but it takes Biosphere to support life.

society sdgs.png

ECONOMY growth is impacting not only society (the socio-economic nexus) but depleting the biosphere capacity to support life of all species. It’s not all about the economy. It takes a functioning Biosphere to support an economy.

economy sdgs.png

PARTNERING between the biosphere, society, and economy is necessary to keep the transformation from exceeding tipping points

17 SGG partnering.png

Yes, partnering between organizations is important to bring about changes in society SDGs and in Economy SDGs. However, without partnering with the Biosphere, living and doing economy within planetary capacity limits, it’s game over. There is No Planet B where we can draw more water, get clean air, and soil to grow food. Humans are not the only species. We are one among millions of species, all with rights to water.


Boje, D. M. (2016). Critique of the Triple Bottom Line. Pp. 181-198 in Grace Ann Rosile (ed.) Tribal Wisdom for Business Ethics. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Boje, D. M. (2019a). Global Storytelling: There is No Planet B. Singapore/London/NY: World Scientific.

Boje, D. M. (2019b). Organizational Research: Storytelling In Action. London/NY: Routledge.

Boje, D. M. (2019c, in process). Storytelling Interventions in Global Water Crisis.Singapore/London/NY: World Scientific.