Purpose – There are four criteria that people universally value: health, well-being, longevity, and environmental preservation. When these criteria are violated, a society becomes unsustainable. In order to preserve cultures, these four universal criteria therefore need to be taken into account. But nation states are no longer the dominant form of social organizing – corporations are. This raises questions about the role of corporations in preserving cultural values. How do corporations measure up to these four universal truths? Can corporations live up to these values, above and beyond financial performance, and does it matter? The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – Amidst a shifting trend toward vertical individualism which emphasizes personal needs, status, and hierarchy, the paper argues that the universal truths are more important than ever in the consideration of corporate social responsibility.
Findings – The paper concludes that although most companies claim to be attending to social and environmental issues, the current form of corporate governing is largely incapable of optimizing the four universally held values.
Originality/value – The authors present some examples of corporations and corporate forms that appear to be heading in the “right” direction, but highlight that challenges remain. Nevertheless, the cross-culture literature can help inform the future of the relationship between business, society, and the natural environment.