Sustainable Development Accentuates the Positive

Table 17.1 summarizes the difference between these two forms of development. One way to contrast their overall meaning is to say that it is a moral choice between “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” and “let us live responsibly now so that others may also live in the future.” This formulation immediately seems like a straitjacket. It actually means being liberated, because the positive aspects greatly outweigh the negative.

For yourselves in businesses, as the main agents of economic development, the negative aspects may sound like bad news. It may seem like the denial of freedom to invent and innovate in any way that can be commercialized. It is, of course, inevitable that old things must give way to new in any fundamental change. We shall have to stop doing certain things. However, much as we might personally regret such constraints, they become entirely acceptable once we remember that they are not arbitrary. It is an imperative placed upon us if life on the planet is to continue with any kind of dignity. In the words used by Margaret Thatcher to the UN General Assembly in November 1989, “it must be growth which does not plunder the planet today and leave our children with the consequences tomorrow.” Happily, as we shall see later, the positive aspect, which is dominant, opens up marvellous new opportunities.

Sustainable development challenges the entire industrial and commercial system to restructure itself, based ...

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