Cornell FSE # 02 – Challenge of Our Time

16 February, 2009 at 08:40 Leave a comment

[via ‘The Great Convergence’ document of Cornell FSE (c) Stuart L. Hart]

    As we approach the end of the first decade in the new millennium the world faces unprecedented environmental and social challenges. Devastating poverty, urban slums, unemployment, hopelessness, and terrorism proliferate as the human population swells beyond 6.5 billion and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. At the same time, peak oil prices, choking mega-city pollution, loss of biodiversity, fresh water and food shortages, and the “inconvenient truth” of global climate change threaten ecosystem collapse as forests, soils, fisheries, and the atmosphere are pushed beyond their limits by overconsumption and rapid industrialization.

    Political solutions to these social and environmental problems have not been forthcoming. The framework conditions needed for global governance have remained elusive; international aid and philanthropy have not been adequate to the challenge; and the use of force appears to create more problems than it solves. Economic globalization has shown promise, but thus far, it has not managed to reach the majority of humanity.
    Increasingly, people around the world are asking the question: Must capitalism’s thirst for growth and profits serve only to exacerbate inequity and environmental deterioration? Clearly, the answer to this question must be an emphatic “no.” The major challenge (and opportunity) of our time is thus to create a form of commerce that uplifts the entire human community of 6.5 billion in a way that respects both natural systems and cultural diversity. This is the only realistic and viable pathway to a sustainable world. And business can, and must, lead the way.

    Yet while these challenges call for bold innovation, most firms continue to focus on incremental strategies such as eco-efficiency, pollution prevention, product stewardship, and corporate social responsibility. As important as these corporate initiatives have been, it is now clear that such incremental sustainability strategies will simply not be sufficient. Companies are being challenged increasingly to develop breakthrough “blue ocean” strategies that actually resolve social and environmental problems, rather than simply reducing the negative impacts associated with their current operations.
    Fortunately, over the past five years “Clean Technology” and “Base of Pyramid” strategies have burst onto the scene. Each provides important pieces to the sustainable enterprise puzzle: the promise of “next generation” technologies with dramatically lower environmental impacts, and innovative new ways to reach and include all of humanity in the capitalist dream. Yet each also comes with its own baggage and blind spots.

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    Entry filed under: BoP, Citizen-Journalism, Deesha, Economy, Energy, Health, India, MCe2, News-Media, Politics, Poverty, WebXP.

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