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How important is sustainability to the economy?

There's no doubt that Extinction Rebellion have been a polarising influence since the group's inception, with the creative and often disruptive protests often referred to as being excessive and largely counterproductive.

The group's most recent protest in London reinforced this point, with 77 people arrested and charged following the disruption caused at three printing presses owned by Rupert Murdoch's News UK. These sites were targeted due to the perceived failure of newspapers to tell the truth, but this has been disputed by experts on a number of different levels.

However, beneath this posturing lies a genuine debate about the impact of climate change, and the role that business plays in safeguarding the future of the planet. Also, it's important to consider the impact of sustainability on the economy and why brands are making a concerted effort to embrace eco-friendly concepts.

The Rise of Sustainable Development and Businesses

Interestingly, sustainable development first came to the fore more than 30 years ago, when the Club of Rome published its groundbreaking and controversial 'The Limits to Growth' report in 1972.

This used computer simulations of the time to predict where the human race was heading in the future, estimating a seismic societal collapse as both the planet and the global economy buckled under the weight of a growing population.

Of course, many have argued that such a prediction was largely exaggerated, while the methodology used to produce the report also came under fire.

Interestingly, the same criticisms are used to undermine modern climate change arguments, but this ignores the underlying danger that's constantly posed by an underlying lack of sustainability.

This revolves around the pursuit of economic growth at all costs, as businesses have become increasingly influential with regards to political decision making while developed nations have prioritised GDP expansion ahead of numerous alternative factors.

Sustainability and the Economy - How the Relationship is Changing

More specifically, it can be argued that the sustained economic growth that has characterised many parts of the world since the 1990s has failed to account for the wellbeing of the natural environment, and particularly the deterioration of biodiversity and the destruction of natural ecosystems.

There are signs that this attitude is beginning to change at corporate level, however, while political institutions such as the EU are also looking to drive change with their innovative green recovery package.

This is thought to have laid down a market and blazed a trail for the rest of the world to follow, with the plan making provisions for improving home energy efficiency (£81 billion) and driving renewable energy investment (£25 billion) in the coming years.

Similarly, we've also seen governments incentivise green investments and heating schemes prolifically over the course of the last decade, in a bid to actively encourage change on a national scale.

This type of political initiative builds on some positive business-driven steps that have been taken of late, such as when the entire world came together to ban CFCs in a bid to protect the Ozone layer.

However, they also recognise that such measures haven't gone far enough to redress the relationship between sustainability and economic growth, which remains genuinely imbalance and lacking in transparency.

Of course, this remains a delicate balancing act, but there can be no doubt that sustainability remains crucial to economic growth in the longer-term. If you need further evidence of this, you need only look at the scarcity of fossil fuels that continue to drive growth, with experts predicting that sources will be hugely depleted by 2060.

This alone should be enough to prompt change in the corporate world, with a switch to sustainable and renewable energy sources helping to prepare the economy for an inherently different future.

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