Sustainability And Growth, Are They Compatible?
There were different workshops, one of them being about the concept of “Creating Shared Value“. This was the one I attended, reaffirming my conviction that CSR and Sustainability are compehensive concepts that go far beyond Porter and Kramer’s “big idea”. But CSV is not the topic of this post.
A question popped several times during the conference, and it remained unsolved on and on. It is a question that I, as CSR consultant, will often have to face from companies and training attendants:
Are growth and sustainability compatible? Do we actually have to “de-grow” in order to be sustainable? As CSR experts we need to have an answer to this interesting, fundamental question.
Yes, they are compatible. Personally I think that, apart from the fact that we shouldn’t confuse growth with prosperity or development, there are certain conditions that allow growth, ensuring a fair distribution and without putting our planet in danger:
- Let’s concentrate on producing less stuff, as Gil Friend already pointed in his book “The Truth About Green Business”. The production of more and more stuff is consuming our natural resources until total depletion.
- Let’s focus on producing more added value and more services connected to already exisiting goods. Goods should be designed in a way that they can easily be adapted to the latest technology, without having to launch a new product again and again.
- When it comes to competitive advantage, the stress is on resource efficiency, rather than on the pursue of everlasting growth. It’s how a company manages its costs and how it uses its resources what will make the differentiation from its competitors.
And finally, some questions:
- Is it realistic to expect that companies should grow year after year?
- Shouldn’t the focus be on the profitability of firms, rather than on their growth rates?
- Are we ready to accept that, in a scenario of finite resources of finite market demand, the only way for companies to grow is through mergers that will lead, sooner or later, to a monopolistic market?
Less stuff, more value.
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