November 9, 2015    5 minute read

What’s the Deal with Global Sustainability?

   November 9, 2015    5 minute read

What’s the Deal with Global Sustainability?

With the world changing at a pace never seen before, with climate change hot on our heels, polarisation of labor markets, technology evolving every month or year, the issue of global sustainability is becoming ever more pressing. On the 7th and 8th of December this year the Sustainability Innovation Forum (SIF15) is taking place in Paris. This event will be attended by leaders from all around the world and will address current issues on global sustainability. With so many ‘brilliant’ minds closely interacting with each other for two days, there should be good reasons to believe that productive and applicable sustainability strategies will be one of the outcomes of this forum. After reading this article you will know the ins and outs of today’s discussion on global sustainability, as well as where the topic will be heading towards in the next years.

On the 20th and 21st of October, the 14th ABIS Annual Colloquium took place at Bocconi University. The theme of this year’s colloquium was “Global Sustainability Strategy: New Models and Approaches to Achieve Sustainable Living”. Although the theme was a little bit too ambitious and the talk regarding new models and approaches to achieve sustainable living fall short of the expectations, some remarks done during the colloquium do seem to be at the very core of the discussion on how to improve sustainability in the short-run and in the long-run.

About Governments, Developed and Undeveloped Countries 

Since the Sustainability Innovation Forum is getting close, lets first talk about what the role of developed and undeveloped countries, as well as their corresponding governments, is or should be throughout the next years if they are serious about sustainability. As it is characteristic from our economy, processes will not provide an outcome if the right resources are not being used as inputs. The same holds for any kind of sustainability strategy intended to be implemented throughout the next years. As one of many inputs we can automatically think about one essential asset, financing. In fact, the progress towards a more sustainable economy and innovation requires financing. If not to exist, then to reach higher impact scales.

Janos Pasztor, Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Change at the United Nations, makes an allusion to France’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), arguing that instead of a 100 billion yearly governmental contribution to the issue, contributions should account for trillions and they should come from private investors. Indeed, financing is an important factor to take into account if any change towards a sustainable future is desired. Nonetheless, before we start asking for money from our neighbors under the motto “lets save the world”, we need to think about two principles on which to base the funding.

First, it sounds rational to ask for a higher contribution to those who have damaged the most and less to those who are new in the business of harming the world. This principle could be thought of as if there would exist a social debt, in which evolved countries owe to developed countries for having contributed more to global harming throughout history. Second, as it should always be the case, the aims of the funding and the plans developed to achieve them should be credible. For this reason, easily accessible ways to monitor any progress towards targets should be provided to the individuals funding the venture.

Consumers and an Insurance for a Transition in Sustainability

While governments do play an essential role on the transition to accomplished global sustainability, there is still one factor that is even more essential and will determine whether this transition will or will not take place, namely consumer behavior. Even if best practices in food, energy, etc. are diffused, still the solution is not reached. We need a behavioral change to happen. Our individual lifestyles should change to express complete awareness of the current threats to global sustainability. So, yes, we come back to the always present cliche, we need somebody or something to change the world. Who will be the hero, when will this hero make her appearance and how she will change the world are questions we could ask ourselves now.

Could the answer lie within each country’s government? Take for example the case of Germany and their mission to withdrawal from the nuclear energy as of 2022. Obviously, there is no easy answer for this and there will probably be more than one hero, but governmental institutions definitely play an important role when it come to set the cornerstone for a change in consumer behavior.

One very important thing we should be thinking about at this point is, if it is the case that we all want a transition into sustainability, then, what do we need to do to ensure this transition? As it has been mentioned before in this article, financing is an input that will essentially be required to reach sustainability. Nonetheless, who can ensure steady financing? As of today, there is no index that determines who, and by how much, should finance the track to sustainability. If we want to take the way to a more sustainable global economy, then we need a binding index to refer to in order to answer this question. One could think of GDP as a suitable index. Nonetheless, how can we use this index to ensure sustainability, when measures of gross domestic product include criminal activities income. Obviously, there is still lots and lots of consensus to be reached if we, someday, want a sustainable global economy.

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