Experts Split on Whether Growth and Sustainable Consumption Compatible

Recent GDP figures from some of the world’s major economies suggest that prospects for a return to sustained growth in the global economy remain uncertain. But many have also questioned whether a return to pre-crisis rates of economic expansion is even desirable, given the apparent link between GDP growth and negative environmental consequences such as rapid natural resource depletion and increased carbon emissions.
GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s regular tracking of specialists in sustainability around the world suggests that experts are split on whether economic growth can be reconciled with sustainable consumption. Those polled recently were divided on the question, with 40 percent agreeing that there was an “inherent conflict” between economic growth and sustainable consumption, and 43 percent disagreeing.
The findings reveal a difference in perspective on either side of the Atlantic. The North American experts polled are more optimistic that aspirations for growth can be reconciled with sustainable consumption, with 51 percent disagreeing that there is an inherent conflict between the two, and only 34 percent agreeing. In Europe, by contrast, experts are much less sure, with those who see a fundamental conflict between the two goals (44%) slightly outnumbering those who think they are reconcilable (40%).
Either way, with anemic growth rates in most of the G7 economies, the challenge for responsible companies is more likely, for now, to be focused on how to remain profitable yet sustainable in a flat economy.
Finding from The 2011 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.