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Sustainability and Management Competence

Steven Cohen


The Challenges of Sustainability

In the past several decades, we have developed what I sometimes call a brain-based economy. The high value added elements of modern economic life involve analytic concepts, technological development, mathematical models, communications and creativity. We have developed a highly mechanised, energy intensive, high throughput economy that is chewing up the planet’s resources at a ferocious pace. This has resulted in rising prices of raw materials and in massive destruction of environmental resources that provide us with free “ecological services” such as clean water and air. Shutting down this economy to prevent further damage is not an option.  Instead, given the needs of the developing world, I fully expect the world’s economic production and consumption to grow dramatically through the 21st century. The only way this growth can be both achieved and maintained is if we pay far more attention to the natural resource base of our economies and the impact of economic development on self-renewing, interconnected ecological systems.

The cost of mistakes will continue to grow if we do not learn how to manage our organisations and their production according to the principles of environmental sustainability. Our planet is more crowded and resource-stressed than ever. These facts, along with a more interdependent global economy, place increased demands on organisational management and inter-organisational networks. A waste that could be released into the air or water in 1940 and avoid human impact can no longer be disposed that way.  Coordination among the decentralised networks that produce the goods and services we depend on requires well-functioning transportation, water and energy infrastructure. Our use of energy and consumption of raw materials dwarfs the consumption rate of a century ago.  The management of our complex and interconnected economy and the maintenance of the planet that it depends on require sophisticated sustainability managers in the private and public sectors and a set of environmental rules that can’t be bargained away for short-term material wealth.

Sustainability Management

What is sustainability management? It is economic production and consumption that minimises environmental impact and maximises resource conservation and reuse...



Read the full article at The World Financial Review

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