Prof. Dr. Manfred Max Bergman

Professor (Professur Bergman)


Rheinsprung 21
4051 Basel


Social Research and Methodology Group (SRaM)

Manfred Max Bergman holds the Chair of Social Research and Methodology at the Department of Social Sciences. He is a member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations. He has studied at the Universities of California (BA), Geneva (MA), and Cambridge (PhD). He chairs the Basel Sustainability Forum (BSF) and the World Sustainability Forum (WSF) since 2014, and he is President of the Swiss Academic Society for Environmental Research and Ecology (SAGUF). Previous affiliations include the Universities of Cambridge, Florence (European University Institute), Geneva, Loyola Chicago, Notre Dame, Oxford, Stellenbosch, St. Gall, Texas A&M, the Witwatersrand, and Zurich.

Professor Bergman supervises on topics relating to the sustainability of business and society.


BISON: A Sustainable Business-Society Nexus for the 21st Century

Many textbook propositions on sustainability emphasize the transfer of knowledge, skills, technology, funds, and social values from higher to lower and middle income countries. Furthermore, they make untested assumptions about raw materials and technologies, financing, consumer adaptation, value change, and political resolve. Yet India and China, among most other middle income countries, increasingly influence geoeconomic and geopolitical shifts, accompanied by sociocultural and environmental consequences. Their increasing independence and global agenda setting capacity, as well as their capabilities to institutionally coordinate and execute programs toward economic and social development within and well beyond their national borders transcend the imaginaries of most stakeholders from higher income countries.

We are at the end of the era of cheap labor, externalization of costs, and a seemingly unlimited access to natural resources. Our time is marked by an accelerated depletion of resources, destruction of the environment, concentration of wealth and privilege within and between societies, and a decline of trust in leaders and institutions by citizens around the world. But our time is also marked by new ways to collaborate and to co-create. Never in the history of humankind has there been such great access to food, health services, education, information, and technology. As an economic ideology, shareholder capitalism is now competing with state capitalism and stakeholder capitalism. Large-scale geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts threaten the status quo but they also provide opportunities for new ventures, models of cooperation, and stakeholder participation. Businesses, societies, and governments are searching for a more sustainable trajectory.

What would an economy, a business sector, an enterprise, a household, a community, and a place of employment look like that is economically prosperous, socially engaged, and environmentally responsible? What if such sustainability concerns would cover the entire value chain, from extraction, processing, and manufacturing to consumption, reuse, and recycling? And what could be a sustainable business-society nexus for the 21st century? The BISON research program examines the opportunities and challenges in emerging trends, exploring new ways of interacting in the interest of mutual survival and prosperity. Whether instigated by the private, public, or civic sectors, BISON studies relatively successful projects, programs, and institutions at the center of the business-society nexus in India and China, given their limited access to sustainability technology, support, and funding. We are particularly interested in business-society projects and programs beyond state subsidies, regulatory frameworks, and philanthropy. We focus on business-relevant, societally beneficial, solution-driven, resource-efficient, future-oriented, context-specific, and culture-sensitive projects and programs that contribute to the benefit of people, planet, prosperity, partnerships, and peace. BISON aims to improve our understanding of sustainability models and theory, geopolitical dynamics associated with business-society interactions, and sustainability interests and capabilities in India and China.

Global survival and sustainable development are largely dependent on a sustainable business-society nexus in middle income countries. We have entered an era where understanding and being understood by India and China is an essential step toward our sustainable future. And lessons learned in middle income countries about the business-society nexus may bear solutions to wicked sustainability problems well beyond their geographic confines.

BISON research program partners:
Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK
Centre for International Business Ethics, Beijing, China
Centre for Responsible Business, Delhi, India
Global Values Alliance, Basel, Switzerland
Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad, India

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