For too long, the idea that environmentalism is in competition with profitability has remained a constant source of opposition to ambitious action to fight climate change. But leading thinkers, speaking at a Green Cross Conference on a Green and Inclusive Economy in October, say this understanding is changing as more people begin to understand the business case for a new approach.
Younger generations, in particular, are not bound to the same economic outlook as their parents.
“Infinite growth is unsustainable,” said former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. “You can’t continue to grow, and grow, and grow, and as a planet have no limit to that growth. Millennials, as a generation, want change, understand the need for change, and collectively will benefit from change.”
“I look at this in a larger context,” said Corinne Lepage, France’s former Environment Minister. “The integration of environmentalism with the digital economy is, in my opinion, what will characterise the 21st century.”
Many believe it should be obvious that principled economic thinking would naturally welcome efficiency, minimising waste and ensuring that necessary resources are obtained in a sustainable way.
“(Natural resources) are given to us free of charge,” said Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Green Cross France & Territories. “We need to manage them like you manage a business.”
The private sector’s potential to contribute to progress is enormous – if they choose to take up the challenge, the prospect of private interests competing to achieve greater efficiency and more sustainable practices could quickly out-strip the modest targets set by the political leadership at COP21.
“We cannot put all of our hopes on an elusive, ambitious, and far-reaching agreement that will be binding,” said Green Cross International COO Adam Konuiszewski. “We need to move beyond this, and there are very compelling reasons for businesses, for the private sector, for civil society, but also for cities and local authorities, to move forward, because it pays to do so – financially, and also socially.”