In this paper we argue that the unifying theme of this century will be sustainability, that is, how to accommodate the world's growing population, providing a decent standard of living for all, while preserving and renewing an effective societal infrastructure and the biosphere on which all life depends. Here we ask whether a sustainable world is more readily achievable under some forms of democracy than others. A series of 6 concrete steps or phases is defined, that can help organizations survive and thrive while developing the capabilities of their workforce members, contributing to a rich and varied community life and sustaining and renewing the biosphere We conclude that the social-democratic tradition, on the whole, provides advantages for the initial rejection, non-responsiveness and compliance phases compared to the economic-liberal tradition. For organisations to move beyond compliance they need the support of economic incentives, ideologically compatible with both democratic regimes. However, there is a major advantage with the newer versions of social democracy which can offer strong standard setting as well as a wider range of environmental incentives. Finally, for organizations to work towards the ideal and address global and local issues of sustainability, democratic systems must foster the decision-making conditions of 'compliance plus' and align them with the demands of a new, 'sub-political' arena where sustainability will be the critical focus of debate and action. It is in this self-determining, multiple stakeholder and collaborative arena that corporations can develop the flexible relationships necessary for building, sharing and diffusing the tacit knowledge that can be transferred into innovative solutions for sustainability.