Australian Business Leaders meet Dr. David Suzuki

A few weeks ago, Australian business leaders had the opportunity to gain some powerful insight into sustainable development (SD) and the potential competitive advantages it can bring for businesses. Dr. David Suzuki, a well-known Canadian scientist and environmentalist, visited Brisbane as a guest speaker for the 2005 QUT Business Leaders Forum.

Dr. Suzuki spoke about sustainable development issues for managers in the context of our current economic and government paradigms. Not surprisingly, his conclusions were similar to our GSN480 class discussions. For example, he stated that business owners and managers have bought the idea the economy is the source of everything – we no longer think we are a part of the natural world (Kelly 2005). Similarly, in GSN480, we learned our current economic thinking is fundamentally flawed because we do not recognise natural capital, among other things, as an important and integrated component in our lives.

I admit that Dr. Suzuki has been an educational inspiration to me for years, but I have always struggled with how I could apply his thinking to my own business situations and make a real difference towards the new economy within the constraints of the old economy. The four strategies outlined in our GSN480 textbook, Natural Capitalism (Hawken et al. 1999), were very helpful for me. Now I understand the market is the vehicle most likely to deliver SD and more importantly, businesses that seek out SD competitive advantages will bring about the change.

After brainstorming some of my own ideas, I got very excited about the potential win-win scenarios for business and the environment in the marketplace. For any progressive investors out there, you may want to check out sustainablebusiness.com and SJF ventures.

Reference
Kelly, H. (2005) Suzuki Speaks Out. Inside QUT. QUT Newspaper, Issue 251, March 8-April 4, p. 2.

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Posted in corporate sustainability, government policy
3 comments on “Australian Business Leaders meet Dr. David Suzuki
  1. jeremy says:

    Mark – your reference to Suzuki’s concern that humankind appears to have disassociated itself from the natural world and how it is somehow peripheral to our everyday lives was highlighted somewhat dramatically last week with the release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. According to this report, approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth – such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests – are being degraded or used unsustainably.

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks Jeremy. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment findings are quite scary. It reminds me of some facts I read from the ABS on how the level of concern for environmental problems has shown a continual decline since 1992 in Australia, when three-quarter (75%) of Australians stated they had environmental concerns. Even worse, the decline in level of concern is most pronounced among young Australians (aged 18-24), only 57% of whom expressed concern about the environment in 2001 compared to 79% in 1992. I’m sure Canadians aren’t any better since the government recently removed environmental/sustainability subjects from school curriculums. What were they thinking?

  3. jeremy says:

    Mark – please see my latest comment in response to Jennifer’s blog. Your revelation about the Canadian government’s recent intervention in the school curriculum simply reinforces my point that business leadership is the key to SD.

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