To deliver Sustainability, we need to use Capitalism, not destroy it
So Sustainability continues to ride high in the UK news, despite the wet blanket of Brexit smothering our politics for the last three years. Parliament agreeing a climate emergency by backing a motion put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, the Government phasing out a number of single use plastics including stirrers, straws and cotton buds, and another school strike today (although when I ask my kids about it, I just get grunts).
This represents a huge business opportunity. Disruptive change means a break up of market domination and an opening up of possibilities for entrepreneurs. As a mango (green on the outside, orange/liberal on the inside), I don’t have much truck with the watermelon (red on the inside) total reliance on the state delivering Sustainability which seems to be the view, implicit or explicit, of many climate campaigners.
The renewables revolution in the UK happened because the state created the incentives for the market to respond and it did, with the cost of solar energy in particular plummeting as demand rose. So who gets to choose which renewable technology is ‘best’? Markets have a rather Darwinian way of getting rid of bad ideas and pushing forward the good. Yes they have barriers to entry, and this is where the state can invest and subsidise to accelerate progress, but, at the end of the day, technologies must be economically as well as environmentally sustainable.
Another key element is the emergence of the energy 2.0 model of huge numbers of producer-consumers outside the traditional energy market. How would that work under a nationalised energy industry? Would, say, a whiskey distillery be allowed to sell clean energy from an in-house anaerobic digestion system?
I was inspired to become a Sustainability professional by the environmental devastation I witnessed in the former Soviet Union 20 years ago, which was a stark demonstration that state socialism can be as destructive as capitalism. I guess this is a plea to put the power of capitalism to good use – it’s the only way I can see of transforming our society to be sustainable.