Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Natural Values

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Natural Values

Article excerpt

The world famous Sarvodaya Shramadana movement in Sri Lanka is one of the world's largest and most successful grassroots community organizations. A.T. Ariyaratne, its founder once said, "When we try to bring about change in our societies, we are treated first with indifference, then with ridicule, then with abuse, and then with oppression. And finally, the greatest challenge is thrown at us. We are treated with respect. This is the most dangerous stage.

Indeed, the growing respectability of sustainable development, the increasing number of corporations for whom sustainability is now on the radar screen, and its increasing political correctness concern John Ehrenfeld ("Being and Havingness," FORUM, Winter 2000). How deeply do corporate and political leaders grasp the real questions lying at the heart of sustainability, let alone the implications for our products and business models?

For example, many now embrace eco-efficiency or resource productivity. But clearly, eco-efficiency innovations alone cannot avert environmental crises. Business people are drawn to eco-efficiency for the same reasons they are drawn to all other types of efficiencies. Improved efficiency means improved profitability. But what will happen to those profits? They will be reinvested. In today's global capital markets, profits from improved eco-efficiency will flow into the most profitable new investment opportunities, most of which remain decidedly eco-inefficient. Moreover, most eco-efficiency improvements are in production technologies. These innovations do not affect what happens to products after sale, the waste created from their use, and their eventual disposal. Again, increased eco-efficiency profits will lead to more growth and more waste.

To put it bluntly, nature does not care how efficient our industrial system is; she cares how much waste it generates in absolute terms. …

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