Business is often seen as a ‘for-profit’ marketplace in which those companies that are not financially driven will not last. However, in recent times, the focus has shifted from the bottom line to the triple bottom line, and in particular, the company’s responsibility to its stakeholders and its environment. In this course, the reinforcement of such a viewpoint is reinforced, and the attitudes, values and beliefs concerning this belief, as well as the discussions and assumptions explored, are reviewed herein.
The main reason why certain companies function better than others is due to diversification, usually in the form of services other than those that are traditionally financially oriented. The ‘natural system’ discussed in the process of this course showed how often the environment of the company tends to add to the company, rather than the other way around. The main reason for this is the amount of opportunities with the company’s environment that provides for growth in more ways than one.
However, companies that build their entire business operations upon the new models of sustainability are shown to fade if not properly supported. Many businesses have delved into sustainable development with little or no success, due to their failure to understand true sustainability. Long-term sustainability is often found when businesses root their company growth in sustainable practices, rather than compartmentalising or adding them onto existing business operations.
The science of business has also seemed to have lost its foothold in the business world, as more and more companies become financially focussed. For business to embrace long-term sustainability, alternative approaches to company growth need to be identified and experimented with, in order for it to be truly sustainable.
Although it is true that companies that are profitable are also sustainable, this is usually short-lived, or at best, reduces sustainability to its most primitive forms. Business needs to embrace more traditional methods of sustainability, which are simpler to understand and are better suited to companies that are less profit-centred.
New practices are also shown to be harder to implement, since corporate cultures are often harder to change, especially if the business has been pursuing financial goals for a number of years.
With the introduction of the triple bottom line, there has been a gradual shift from money to the environment, but it has taken much longer than expected for companies to serve people, than for people to realise that they are serving the company.
As this concerns future development, business needs to embrace the environment once again as a potentially vast source of company growth and long-term sustainability, especially in light of the course findings discussed herein.
Prosperity without Growth
In the text that was assigned during the course, the economic theory of prosperity was put in a new light, particularly in the comparison of ‘developing and developed’ countries. Drawing on past experience, the author was able to show that economic growth in poorer countries was being relentlessly pursued, but Western countries were failing to actualize their pursuits due to false agendas.
As the population continues to increase, the question of the end goal of economic growth was put forward and brought to mind the fact that there is usually a limit to economic gain.
The author put it in this way; there is a pressing need to ‘devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth’1. Put forward as one of the most sought after pursuits of our time, it was indeed a thought-provoking book that shows the futility of growth for growth’s sake.
In addition, the book was seen as controversial for overemphasising the economic obsession of many Western countries, in comparison to other countries who did not have even basic necessities and still managed to populate the globe. However, this challenges a long-standing assumption that shows that the West dominates Earth’s landscape, when in fact reality points to a different revelation entirely.
The End of Growth
Similar to the previous text, the book by Heinberg also covers the failure of growth to satisfy inherent needs within the economy itself and society at large. It also presents findings that prove these facts, and also shows a new model that proposes a new reality. It provided much food for thought, in terms of alternative business pursuits and the impact of unattainability in leading countries of the West.
In particular, the global financial crisis of late is analysed, in response to economists’ reasoning that the economy was on the rise. It also examines the premise that the economy is heading into a state where the repercussions of high levels of ‘growth’ will become unsustainable in the long-term, adding to the degeneration and negative impact which undermines the economy.
There are three main causes as to why real growth is being hindered: ‘(1) resource depletion; (2) environmental impacts, and (3) crushing levels of debt’2. Such causes are observable throughout the American economy in particular, although it has had widespread effects in similar countries.
The new approach put forward to combat such cases is the proposition that individuals working together as society for the benefit of the country can find alternative ways to boost growth using the environment as the main catalyst. This ultimately sparks true growth that is more sustainable and provides ways to improve overall wellbeing and avoid economic roadblocks.
As the final text which impacted the view of growth in its truest forms, as well as incorporating a more sustainable view of business, was the book written by Berry, in particular for nations associated with the Commonwealth.
Environmental issues were shown to be the cause of economic pursuits, especially as they were favoured in preference over the natural ecosystem. Such an environmental crisis has also been caused by emphasis on technological advances and less emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability in particular.
Economical practices are also to blame for the pursuits of society, especially in the increasing consumerism that holds American society in its grip. For the part of the advances of society at large, the inherent problems have been overlooked for individual gain.
This has caused the inevitable demise of the country that has been built solely with the pursuit of economic prosperity without the lasting provision that the natural ecosystem can provide.
It is argued that ‘free trade can bring unprecedented economic growth’3. Although this is the viewpoint of the Western world, it does not hold for those outside of it, which make up the majority of the world thriving on people power rather than monetary gain. Such a stance needs to be recognised in order for the economy to truly move forward.
As observed during university life, the environment does play a significant part in building up businesses and sustaining the economy, with the triple bottom line a vital factor in long-term sustainability. Importantly, renewable resources have become vital to our modern lifestyle, as research shows4.
For example, most universities have some sort of environmental initiative in place to reduce their carbon footprint, be it solar panels, recycled water, or even generated electricity off-the-grid. Although implemented initiatives are usually used for political acclaim, it still engages the university population in embracing change and relying on alternative approaches to growth, minus monetary gain.
Therefore, it can be seen that if such initiatives and environmental viewpoints are fostered initially, they will become a core part of individuals’ attitudes, values and beliefs that will be reinforced with continued exposure. This will in turn be transferred to others, and may become an adopted lifestyle if continued to thrive.
The role of business is an often argued viewpoint, from both the for-profit and non-profit reasoning. However, sustainable companies often seek out long-term initiatives to foster real growth that encourages society to imitate such approaches. The fostered discussions and analysis explored during this course has served to reaffirm certain viewpoints and bring others in a new light, as aforementioned, and continues to pave the way for future developments as society progresses in the world of commerce and business.
Jackson, Tim. Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a finite Planet. London: Earthscan, 2011. Print.
Heinberg, Richard. The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality. Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2011. Print.
Pereau, Jean., Doyen, Luc., Little, Rich., and Thebaud, Oliver. “The Triple Bottom Line: Meeting Ecological, Economic and Social Goals with Individual Transferable Quotas.” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 63.3 (2012): 419-434. Web. June 2013.
Berry, Wendell. What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2000. Print.