If you've no account register here first time
User Name :
User Email :
Password :

Login Now

Experts Split on Conflict Between Sustainability and Growth

Some 40 percent of sustainability experts believe sustainability is “inherently” incompatible with economic growth, while just 43 percent see no conflict, according to research by consultancies GlobeScan and SustainAbility.

Experts from North America, and Asia are much more likely to think that sustainable consumption and economic growth can be reconciled than those from Europe, according to the latest results of the Sustainability Survey. Some 51 percent of North American experts and 48 percent of those from Asia believe the two goals were compatible. Just 40 percent of European experts saw no conflict.

There is also a split on how fast developing countries will adopt sustainable consumption behaviors. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed believe that developing nations will adopt such practices faster than the developed world has, while 41 percent believe adoption would be slower.

But experts are united on some issues. They overwhelmingly disagree, 70 percent, with the statement, “sustainable consumption is impossible to achieve,” with strong majorities in all regions disagreeing with the statement.

Despite the experts’ views on the incompatibility of sustainability and economic growth, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review argues that, for the most successful companies, policies that benefit wider society are just as important as those aimed squarely at making profit.

How Great Companies Think Differently holds that successful businesses are more than just money-making machines and see themselves as institutional pillars of society. Such thinking, the article says, leads such businesses to take decisions that invest in the future while paying attention to the needs of society and people.

EHS Special Report
Sponsored By: Environmental Leader

Zero Waste To Landfill
Sponsored By: Covanta Environmental Solutions

OSHA ITA Cheat Sheet
Sponsored By: VelocityEHS

Choosing the Correct Emission Control Technology
Sponsored By: Anguil Environmental Systems


3 thoughts on “Experts Split on Conflict Between Sustainability and Growth

  1. The 40% don’t know what they are talking about. They must not be aware of the 2009 study of 99 industries by AT Kearny, the Chicago-based global consulting firm, finding that solidly Green companies average 15% more profitable than their non-Green industry peers. Sustainability is all about using less.

    Worldwide, companies Go Green for business reasons, not usually environment reasons, though many may look for the triple bottom line.

    One example is when solar energy is funded by third party investors, the power is usually sold to the user at rates below their utility rates and with no capital investment. In the US about 80% of new commercial scale solar is funded by entities other than the user of the power. For them solar power is cheaper than utility power. So, for whom is solar too expensive?

    How is sustainability incompatible with profitability?

  2. I agree with JAtkins above. There are numerous examples that point to the overwhelming business value of sustainability. The 2010 study by Accenture shows that “Sustainability Benefits Exceed Expectations for a Majority of Businesses.”

    What the 40% need to get is that the 3 pillars of sustainability are: economic, environmental, and social. These are also referred to as: people, planet profit. That means that sustainability improves companies’ bottom line, as well as their environmental stewardship and their community.

    Sustainability initiatives help to:
    1. Improve customer loyalty, and expand market reach
    2. Attract and retain motivated employees, and therefore improve productivity
    3. Engage employees in environmental stewardship (they can help with improvements)
    4. Create a healthier workplace
    5. Reduce operating expenses
    6. Attract and retain investors

    It doesn’t get better than that!
    – Beth Zonis, Principal, Eco Marketing LLC

  3. While as sustainability experts (of which I am one) may not like the outcome of this survey, we do need to pay attention. There are many informed people who question whether sustainability can be compatible with growth. While sustainability is a very open ended term, we need to continue to work to make sure that the two things are not mutually exclusive. Changing the rules of the game (market), such as Australia has just done this week with their carbon tax, will help shift growth onto a more sustainable trajectory. Frankly, more of this is needed. It will drive investment in efficiency and ultimately innovation, which will create a new growth cycle.

    Andrew Malk
    Malk Sustainability Partners

Leave a Comment

Translate »