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A Transdisciplinary Vision for Concerted Action

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This collection is a multidisciplinary and multicultural contribution to the current sustainability discourse. It is focused on two main dimensions of our world: complexity and diversity. Desirable and urgent transition of socio-technological systems toward a sustainability trajectory of development requires a better understanding of technological trends and social transformations. General advancement of technology does not produce identical changes in various societies, differentiated economically and culturally.

Should sustainability and resilience be combined or remain distinct pursuits?

Moreover, the abilities to approach sustainable development change over time and space. As a result there is a constant need for continuing research, analyses, and discussions concerning changing contexts and adequacy of strategies and policies. Authors from twelve countries and of different academic and cultural settings present their insights, analyses and recommendations.

The collection is focused both on contexts and on activities leading to sustainable trajectories in various domains of economy and social life. Continuing research and discussion is needed to better understand these challenges and to prepare the appropriate strategies and solutions. Development of socio-technological systems is nowadays very complex; moreover, the world we live in is extremely diverse. Therefore, sustainability discourse must be ongoing, introducing new ideas, concepts, theories, evidence and experience by various parties-academics, professionals, and practitioners.

About The Author. It implies that economic oxymoron, a free lunch. No wonder politicians and chief executives long to be told that environmental expenditures are good for business.

Ecology and Society: Should sustainability and resilience be combined or remain distinct pursuits?

And no wonder Walley and Whitehead are skeptical. Sometimes, too, companies make money because governments tighten environmental regulations. But those results occur in rather special circumstances. In most countries, the cost of disposing of toxic waste has been rising; the legal liabilities for pollution have become tougher; and companies are increasingly at risk of liability for past contamination. Fear, not greed, has driven most corporate environmental policies. Politicians would like a more inspiring tale to tell than this.

They would like to say that environmental regulation can actually improve corporate competitiveness.

Selected Concepts, Issues and Cases

So it can, though again, not in the way they hope. For instance, companies selling pollution-control services, whether they be consultants, environmental lawyers, or businesses making water filters, find that tougher standards bring in more customers. Companies buying natural-resource-based raw materials may want environmental rules to reduce their treatment costs. Water companies gain if farmers must curb polluting runoff from their fields. Companies that can already meet high standards may lobby to make them mandatory to keep out competitors.

The big waste-treatment companies in Britain were aghast last year when the government twice postponed launching a new scheme for licensing the management of landfills.


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This game can be played internationally too. What the free-lunch brigade wants to hear, however, is that environmental rules actually persuade companies to take actions that are in their commercial interest but that they had not previously noticed.

Help build a socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable future

That cost may not be cash but management time. If a bright manager must look for ways to reduce waste output, he or she is not available for developing new markets or streamlining production. It is not surprising that tougher environmental standards impose costs on companies. The aim of such standards, after all, is to force polluters to internalize costs previously inflicted on society.

Or future generations inherit them. Environmental policies that are worth pursuing should be introduced for their own sake. To try to improve competitiveness by raising environmental standards is to risk the fate that typically awaits those who try to ride two horses at once.

Daniel C.

Education and knowledge are fundamental to social justice and economic growth

But Porter understands that regulations have an economic cost. He simply says that properly constructed environmental standards may, while imposing costs, spur innovation and create business opportunities that offset all or some of the spending on pollution controls. Semiconductor makers, for instance, forced to abandon the use of ozone-layer-destroying CFCs as a solvent, have discovered several lower cost ways to clean computer chips. More dramatically, Porter suggests that while addressing environmental issues because of regulation, companies may develop entirely new products or processes.

This sort of significant innovation offset is most likely to be found where regulations focus corporate attention on serious environmental problems that others face or will soon face.


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Protecting the environment, moreover, is not a zero-sum game. Many forms of pollution reflect under-utilized or wasted resources. Just as TQM helped companies identify untapped value, breakthrough thinking in the environmental realm may enable companies to reap real rewards. The structure of environmental programs should also be open to scrutiny. Indeed, the government must bear responsibility for establishing regulatory conditions that promote economic creativity and efficient business responses to environmental demands.

Regulatory programs should be flexible and performance oriented, or better yet, based on economic incentives like pollution charges. Integrated regulatory systems that address air, water, and waste problems systematically and comprehensively are also more apt to lead to innovation offsets. Management is a difficult profession, and the environment is becoming an increasingly important component in decision making.

Nor is a new, unsettling variable such as the environment unprecedented.


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Imagine the consternation of nineteenth-century industrialists faced with child labor laws or the dismay of their successors contemplating the new income tax, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Wagner Act, all of which dramatically altered their costs and changed their business practices. In such circumstances, farsighted and nimble companies prosper and laggards decline. Such is the way of a dynamic economic system.

Should sustainability and resilience be combined or remain distinct pursuits?

Pollution prevention does pay a prompt return on investment—in some cases. For example, 3M is still finding projects for its 3P program, now over 15 years old. Many other companies have barely begun to look. But despite such opportunities, solving the largest environmental problems will require huge investments whose principal economic payoff will be the right to continue in business. How efficiently these problems are recognized, analyzed, and addressed will determine the winners. The costs of change must eventually end up in price; the consumer will pay. Shareholder values may be shifted among players, but they will not be massively destroyed.

New capital, properly directed to environmental improvement, will still earn a positive return compared with the alternative of not investing. If it cannot, the proper strategy is to liquidate the business. To strategize on this undulating playing field, the prudent manager needs to recognize its underlying forces. Despite some claims to the contrary, major environmental problems are not the creation of some anticapitalist elite. They are real, founded in science often not well understood , and globally threatening. They are increasing because of rapid population growth and expanding economic activity.

They can be solved only by a commonsense alliance of business, government, and environmentalists. Among these, only business has the resources of technology, finances, and organizational competence to implement the necessary changes. Herein lies great opportunity as well as great peril.