Experts Split on Conflict Between Sustainability and Growth

by | Nov 9, 2011

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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.

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