First Thoughts On Sustainability. Is It A Fashion?

FashionI saw this picture in The Times Of India, and quickly cut it out, intending to use it in this or another post.

Over the last few decades, we have seen many management fads and fashions come and go. These days, Innovation and Sustainability are much the rage, and rightfully so. Sustainability is the capacity to endure, and in the words of the Brundtland Commission, it is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.

Now, most companies talk about themselves being The Sustainability Company. 

The question that begs to be answered is, what does this mean, and does this trickle down from the boardroom to the field. One chap I knew one told me that it is great that his company was all about sustainability. So, I asked him what this means to him. Somewhat flummoxed, he said, hesitatingly, “It means…… sustainability”

So, I said, “Yes, but what does it mean?” And, he replied in the same fashion. After a while, I discovered that we were entering into an iterative loop, and abandoned my line of questioning.

So, the question is: what does sustainability mean to the man on the street who is struggling to make ends meet? What does it mean to the status conscious chap who drives a Hummer down the crowded streets of Ludhiana in Punjab? Not much, I think!

Our population, it seems, was about 1 billion one hundred and fifty years ago. It is about 7 billion now, and will double by the turn of the century. The capacity of the earth to endure, and to provide for the future is indeed questionable.

I once met an Aussie chap in Beijing who told me that he had given up his car, had one credit card, one bank account, and lived in a small house.

“Give up your masters”, he told me.We seem to “own” material wants, but the more we chase them, the more they own us, he said.

Thinking back on that conversation, I wonder if indeed he had hit upon a secret to sustainability, one that is at odds with the desire of corporates to grow faster and become bigger and bigger.

Who bells the sustainability cat? Corporates? The Government? Or, does it start with you and with me?

Or, will sustainability be just another passing fashion? This, for our sakes, I hope not!


  1. Leaving it in the hands of governments and corporations is what got us this far off the path in the first place. It has to start with you and me…who else is even having the conversation?

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