Page 1: Introduction
Suppose that every person in the world were to demand goods and services in the same quantities as people in western industrialised nations demand and use them. How many Planet Earths do you think would be needed to supply all the resources required to meet that level of output? Just the one? One and half? Two? A recent report calculates the figure as three (WBCSD Sustainability Through the Market - www.wbcsd.org/newscenter/reports/2001/stm.pdf).
How should we respond to this statistic? Should we do our bit to ‘save the world’ by ensuring that poorer countries make no extra claims on existing resources, so that we in the West may retain our own lifestyle? Or should those of us in developed countries forfeit our lifestyle and our use of resources in order to provide a better quality of life for people in the developing world? Should we look for two more worlds to colonise and plunder? Or is there another way?
Initially, many organisations responded by focusing only upon a form of sustainable development that emphasised better management of existing resources. Schemes were put forward that incorporated environmental management systems, codes of conduct, waste elimination procedures, audits and internationally recognised standards.
All of these matters are very important in managing resource use. However, the approach focused too heavily on ‘how to do things’. Sustainability is a broader concept. It is important to focus on both what companies do, as well as how they do them. We need to look at the kinds of products and services that businesses develop and the ways in which businesses bring them to the marketplace to meet consumer demand, and ultimately improve their quality of life.