This study explores possible routes to improve the adaptive management of firms and proposes to view firms as social-ecological systems. We conceptualise three possible ways in which firms can frame their relation with the natural environment. The first is impact related: strategies for assessing and reducing the negative impact of business on the wider natural system. The second is dependency related: strategies in terms of dependency of the firms on the wider natural environment. The third is mutual dependency related: strategies that explicitly view firms as social-ecological systems, due to a mutual dependence between business and natural environment.
Through a qualitative approach by means of ten case studies we analyse the current ways managers of firms frame their companies’ vis-à-vis the natural environment. The last strategy is still in an early stage within theory as well as practice as shown among the firms. Therefore we formulate five principles that managers could use to stimulate the last frame: businesses as social-ecological systems.