Business activities are responsible, directly or indirectly, for most human impacts on the earth’s ecosystems, yet business is conducted with little thought of its sustainability – that is, the satisfying of our own needs without diminishing the chances of future generations. Sustainability, in its ecological and social components, poses business an inescapable challenge: without sustainability there will be no more profits. Hence, business people haw a strong self-interest in minimizing the ecological damage of their operations.
In this book, business executives, economists, ecologists, and other thinkers outline new practical approaches that business and society must take to meet this challenge. Impetus for change often comes from non-governmental organizations. But, as one executive recounts, executives must take responsibility for re-educating themselves and their managers. They face closer public and media scrutiny, as information on corporate environmental performance proliferates. Government also exerts increasing leverage to reduce environmental impacts, as a German official describes. Ecologically based tax reforms in particular, an economist explains, can stop rewarding intensive resource use, pollution, and job destruction. Even within the financial world, new ideas are stirring: notions of fiduciary responsibility are expanding to include ecological concerns and a longer-term analysis of financial returns.
Technology, which many take to be hostile to the environment, offers dramatic new possibilities for moving toward sustainability. In the coming zero-emissions industrial clusters, everything we now consider waste is the raw material for an adjacent industry. “Living machines,” complex multi-species configurations, already serve human purposes.
Finally, the founder of a highly successful business tells the inspiring story of guiding his company toward limited growth, greatly reduced environmental impacts, and support for positive social and ecological goals.
Fritjof Capra, physicist and systems theorist, is the author of The Turning Point, and co- author of EcoManagement.
Gunter Pauli, a business executive, was instrumental in the building of the world’s first zero-emissions factory and is now establishing the zero emissions research programme at the United Nations University in Tokyo.