Can we trust business to build a sustainable future?
Last night I went to hear a panel discussion about the role of business in helping to build a more sustainable future. Judging by the number of people who left before the end of the session, what the panel had to say just wasn’t that interesting. Even the promise of canapés and alcohol couldn’t keep bums on seats.
It’s the consumers who are to blame
Confirmation that the remaining audience were still breathing came when one of the speakers poked fun at consumer behaviour. When consumers are asked if they will pay more for green products, many say yes. In practice, most consumers are not willing to pay more. This got a laugh from the audience who may have been thinking about their own shopping behaviour.
Pass the parcel
But business does not want to pay more either! Investing in new infrastructure costs money, and business often looks to government to subsidise new technology. Or, as seems to be the case with the energy companies, they pass it on to the consumer. Or the government passes the cost on to consumers by means of a so-called ‘green levy’.
An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman go to a sustainability bar
For some reason I thought about the infamous ‘Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman go into a bar’ type jokes. Supposing it was businessperson, a politician and a consumer who go to a sustainability bar? What would make them order a pint of sustainability, and who would pay? Would they ever run the risk of being seen in a sustainability bar together?
So here goes, my very first sustainability joke.
‘A business person, a politician, and a consumer go into a gastropub. The waiter asks if they are ready to order. The business person refuses to order until they have seen what other people have chosen first. The politician says they can’t stay for the whole meal because they are afraid what the voters and the media will say. The consumer ends up paying because they always do. Oh, and the restaurant owner would like to serve food from sustainable farms, but doesn’t, because the customers just don’t care.’
The joke isn’t funny anymore
OK. It’s not that funny. But currently there aren’t many laughs to be had if you care about a sustainable future for all.