Taking a cue from the book, ‘Walking the Talk” by Holliday, Schmidheiny and Watts, published almost 10 years ago, about why no one likes sustainable development, I think it is more appropriate today to change it into why some don’t like sustainable development – although those ‘some’ do proliferate into those ‘all’!
Why businesses don’t like it
- The very notion of sustainable development rings a social tone to it – about social justice, fair distribution of wealth, rights and opportunities – not only in one generation but making it more complex by considering the needs of the future generations as well.
- It is also about internalizing the costs that businesses until recently have been conveniently externalizing and puts pressure to take care of the environment in a more benign fashion ever since industrialization began.
- It requires partnerships with organizations and people who normally wouldn’t interact with each other – management talking with farmers in Venezuela, accountants talking with loggers in Brazil, designers talking with workers in China etc.
Why environmentalists don’t like it
- Because, inherently, even the Brundtland commission report had the word ‘development’ in it which means more growth, more consumption, more environmental damage.
Why Governments don’t like it
- It doesn’t fall into any single ministry or department. Though many governments do have an environmental ministry, but a focused department on sustainability is still lacking
Why general public is still in 2011, somewhat skeptical about it
- Tired of ‘Green washing’
- Sounds like ‘giving up’ convenience or sacrificing comforts. Feels like too much work to be sustainable
- Many believe that environmental degradation is natural and nothing can be done about it
- And, if something can be done, then it is the businesses and governments job.
Generally, when a crisis hits as seen recently, sustainability budgets are the first ones to be scrapped with focus on purely economic aspect of survival. Finding a champion for sustainable development can be a tough ask in some large organizations, let alone small ones -which are the driving force of any economy in any country.
I listened to a podcast from the Aspen Ideas Fest and the speaker was spot on when he alluded that Sustainability has got to be considered in context with its surroundings – saying that a particular company or a city or a country is sustainable is without any context – it’s a collectve whole that matters, not just some part in isolation.
Sustainable development is a systems issue – that can’t be treated in isolation, for example, just looking at the increasing financial bottom line is not a healthy indicator of prosperity, when, on one end, the worker conditions down the supply chain are inhumane and deforestation is disturbing the bio-diversity at the other.
Sustainable development may not be a poster child for many, but the smart businesses have realized it as huge business opportunity to do good by doing good…relatively!
- 7 Overarching Objectives of Sustainability (linkingsustainability.com)
- Put planet and its people at the core of sustainable development, urges report (guardian.co.uk)
- What Green Marketing will achieve that Traditional Marketing won’t?
- Communicating Sustainability Strategies effectively
- How do you define your Scope of Extended Enterprise?
- 9 Essential Principles of building a Sustainable Enterprise