The Sustainability Gene

The CBI published a report entitled “The shape of business – the next ten years” in late 2009.


The authors identified 5 key drivers affecting the business environment, namely:


1.  Changing finance and capital conditions,

2.  The decline of trust in business and markets,

3.  A less benign macroeconomic environment,

4.  Social and demographic change where the recession will have a major influence,

5.  Sustainability and resource issue.


We pick up our cue from the fifth driver being Sustainability for today’s post.


Our comment serves more as an aide-mémoire to return to in more detail in future articles.  This post also does not serve as a commentary on the CBI’s report, but rather as a general opinion on the nature of sustainability and human a nature and is therefore pure conjecture.


We believe that sustainability as understood to mean the impact we have on the planet and the resources we consume, is not a natural human phenomenon, in the face of self-interest (as per the economic definition of the term) and competition for scarce resources.


In other words sustainability flies in the face of human kind‘s natural tendencies to compete for resources, either by war and confiscation, or by trade and exchange for those scarce resources.


We therefore contend that as human actors interacting with and through the free market mechanism, we do not naturally possess a ‘sustainability gene’, but instead have to develop a new model and framework for ensuring that this objective is effectively pursued and becomes part of the underlying psyche of being in business and discharging our fiduciary responsibilities.


Linking to our previous post ‘The Markets do not need certainty’, we contend that it is structure that helps shape markets and creates the conditions conducive to the effective operation of those markets.  Other factors will ultimately affect the efficiency of the markets and some of these factors include Innovation and such like.


In conclusion, let us wrap up with a few quotes on sustainability:

  • You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself.  Nelson Mandela
  • The very process of the restoring the land to health is the process through which we become attuned to Nature and, through Nature, with ourselves.  Chris Maser
  • We can learn whatever we need in nature because we are part of nature.  Human beings are part of Creation.  We live by the same laws as all of nature.  Anne Wilson Schaef

And in the final quote above we possibly see a glimmer of hope for a possible answer to our ‘Sustainability Gene’ deficiency.  Somehow Adam Smith’s ‘self interest’ and the modern free(ish) market system require an injection of nature law and justice.


Whatever that shall be.

theMarketSoul ©2010

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