After examining the concept of First, Second and Third Wave corporations in my Organisational Foresight class as Swinburne University, I have come to the conclusion that Third Wave means more than just a completely sustainable corporation. I think it also means “adept at change”. These companies will be more fluid, able to absorb obstacles rather than fight them. This flexibility concept allows a corporation to be sustainable on two levels; From a business perspective, it allows a company to survive very rough changes, that would de-stabilise and possibly destroy even a second wave company. In the context of ecological sustainability, a third wave company can quickly modify its practices to eliminate certain chemicals from its production process, or adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions.
The third wave of companies will be most productive through collaboration, dealing primarily with knowledge transfer. I would cite Wikipedia as an example of the type of organisation that is able to achieve a lot with a little, and provide disproportionate benefits for its size and resource consumption.
Of course a third wave company will be sustainable, but it won’t necessarily be sustainable on its own. If you examine a rainforest, each element of the eco-system is unsustainable in its own right, using up resources and expelling waste. It is only when all the elements of a rainforest are put together that the magic happens, many linear processes combining to close the loop.
I believe that this analogy is close to the concept of a third wave company – sustainability through adaptability and collaboration.