Who Furthers Sustainability?

Cliff FaceNot for Profit Organisations

First of all there are the countless volunteers and activists in not for profit organisations.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the work you put in. As far as I have experienced that field the main focus in on educating people.

Education is usually focused on creating a more integrated understanding of sustainability. And on creating values that are more long-term focused.

Even though highly important, the issue I see with it is that humans are inherently lazy and short-sighted. Unless something is glaringly obvious or has an immediate impact on us, it is easy to ignore.


Government has an important role to play by recreating rules that more closely place the true costs on the person or company that profits.

The drawback: government is dependent on money and makes decisions based on power within industries. The dirtiest industries (e.g. power production, warfare) have large investments in old technologies. For them it makes sense to protect that investment and turn it into a profit.

Therefore the power struggle of various interests slows the governmental intervention process down. Let alone the international struggle of blame and trying to make changes, while assuring the best outcomes for each individual country.


What if all individuals just started purchasing sustainable products? There is this theory that prices for sustainable products would come down. However, economy also states that higher demand leads to higher prices.

Any which way, currently it is too difficult to find many sustainable solutions. And if you find them, they are expensive and often in no way economic in comparison to their “traditional” counterparts.

One example is green power. You pay for the privilege to know that the amount of electricity you use is produced through renewable sources. Many people do it, and it is very commendable, but is it sustainable? Not, if you believe in the power of profit.

Many other solutions are inconvenient.

So individuals are also not the solution to reaching a sustainable society. The ones that work for it would suffer inconvenience and a more expensive life without having any direct benefits.


That leaves business. For many “green” activists, business are the bad guys in this whole puzzle. They are the ones striving for more profit, they are the ones using small powerless people, carting resources away and blasting their dirt into the air without thinking about tomorrow.

However, each corporation is made up of thinking and feeling people. They have children, they know what is going on around us, they want a good life and want to live in peace within their community.

Not acting that way is probably due to external factors, pressures that the system “corporation” puts on them. And if we translated corporations into individuals and the external pressures into examples of our own lives, we would probably find that we are acting the same way (just on a different scale).

However, there are many corporations that are struggling to find solutions that are truly sustainable (e.g. BMW, BP, Proctor & Gamble).

My Contribution

Not for profit: very important to educate on values, but easy to ignore.

Government: very important to create framework for sustainability, but slow.

Individuals: cannot be asked to be inconvenienced and pay extra for it.

Business: under pressure to deliver and filled with passionate individuals.

While all are important, I think that business has the critical role to fill. This is also where my skills can be used the best. So I will dig deeper into how business and sustainability can be merged.

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