The ILF team has been intrigued by an interview of Professor Pieter Winsemius on the ‘debate on growth vs sustainability’ published by Eco Business.
Pieter Winsemius, former partner of McKinsey & Company and Dutch politician, has made a career out of developing environmental policies and strategies for both government and business. Throughout his career he has witnessed dramatic changes in both the business and policymaking landscape across the world. In his opinion the one thing that has remained steadfast, however, is the importance of sustainability in human development. He further puts across that:
Many economists often speak of the trade-off between economic growth and sustainable development, but this “old-fashioned discussion is a waste of time”.
Instead of wasting time by talking about sustainability, he is a strong believer of being able to satisfy current needs without compromising the future. His convictions have strongly been influenced by his his father, Albert Winsemius, who was a Dutch economist and trusted advisor of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Together they formulated a landmark 10-year plan that launched Singapore’s economic development in the early years. He states that these days:
“people don’t make 10-year plans anymore, the world changes too rapidly,”
On the other side he highlights that over the years some of the leading businesses take on the responsibility of sustainability without making a big deal out of it anymore because it’s just normal business for them. Top organisations like that don’t want to be involved in discussions on global warming, they have accepted it as a fact and take on their responsibility to act. Similarly he calls upon everyone to act towards a more sustainable future without waiting for governments to force us to do things.
He thinks that this new world view is naturally evolving as there is new movements starting, that doesn’t wait for governments to act. Similarly as the internet and Twitter started the Arab Spring the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, said people can bring down a multinational company in two minutes. That might sound dramatic but society is much more connected than before and it doesn’t necessarily need government any more.