old oil pump
One of the most interesting debates at last week's Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group (CoSM) was which is the most pressing industry for business - maintaining a sustainable supply of raw materials, water and energy, or climate change? I must admit it was a little naughty of me instigating it as there is no simple answer, but sometimes I like being a bit naughty.

It's a tricky one because they're quite different issues:

  • A resource crunch can happen suddenly, the climate changes gradually;
  • A resource crunch will affect a business directly, but climate change impacts will occur over a wide geography and will hit some individuals and organisations more than others;
  • A resource crunch will have much more predictable impacts, climate change depends on lots of different factors;
  • A resource crunch is arguably simpler to address through substitution, whereas climate change requires concerted effort across the globe.
  • A resource crunch is much easier to understand and communicate than climate change;
  • A resource crunch is more difficult to argue against than climate change (although some do try).

It may be, of course, that given the relative ease of getting action on a resource crunch, the crafty sustainability practitioner may want to use that to get a foot in the door of the boardroom and other citadels of power, and then expand the sustainability conversation to cover other issues. Sometimes it pays to be a little bit naughty.


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