Since the middle of the 20th century concern about ethics in organisations, corporate responsibility (CSR) and environmental sustainability have been articulated by political, business, academic and other ‘thought leaders’. However, in spite of regular and high profile global conferences and increasingly strident rhetoric in the professional and popular press, progress in these areas has been patchy. In a context of economic challenges and political vicissitudes the engine of change, it seems, has ‘stalled’. Scholars and practitioners within the HRD field are well aware of the persistent and seemingly intractable consequences in relation to these issues associated with unitarist short-term market-facing organizational agendas fostered by a preoccupation with performance and profitability. In addressing these issues HRD scholars have traditionally made use of either functional, managerialist and instrumental approaches to learning and organizational development or have promoted humanist agendas which focus attention on the importance of individual development and transformation. A key theme of this special issue is that both are necessary but neither is sufficient of itself.