Last week I participated in a very interesting debate about growth, sustainability and decoupling with The Guardian Sustainable Business – read the discussion here
I don’t believe we need to stop growth to be sustainable. And I mean growth in the hardcore GDP terms (even if I don’t believe GDP is the right metric). I think we can achieve decoupling. I understand that if you look at decoupling in the last 30 years, the picture is not encouraging but hey, we havent really even tried to decouple!!!
- My first tip is that we should separate wide economic growth to company growth. One is macro-level and other is micro-level.
- We should acknowledge that, in order to achieve sustainability, we need some sectors to shrink so that the whole economy can grow. Do we need more oil, steel, wood, travel and meat to be more happy? With the current carbon price, are we really trying to decouple?
- Growth in low-impact services is almost unlimited. The impact per unit of GDP generated of services is several times lower than of products.
- The local economy is not consuming local products, it’s consuming local services. Going to hairdressers, spinning class, theatre,restaurants, this is the local economy, serviced-based, lower carbon. It’s not growing vegetables in your garden. It’s much more effective producing food and products at economies of scale, this uses less resources.
- We should shift this lie of corporate sustainability to product sustainability. What’s the point of car manufacturers to reduce their corporate footprints when the impact is on the product use? The impact if many physical products is on the raw materials.
- Transparency of all the impacts from the full life cycle of products should be mandatory. Cut the Fluff and show me your EPD!!
- Don’t dream too much about Product-service systems by the product manufacturers. Who did come with the renting model of cars? Not the car manufacturers but the banks (leasing of company cars) and new disruptors in the market (car sharing schemes)
- Don’t underestimate the power of knowledge. How can you decouple in the building sector? Using less materials. Can you produce more (and better) m2 of habitable space with less cement, steel and other raw materials? That’s when the creativity and knowledge of architects come. By how many times could we decouple through just putting things together better?
- Landfills, drawers, sheds and garages are a mine-field of raw materials. In some years, it will be cheaper to use them than extracting for many raw materials.