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Mechanisms for Sustainability
Average reader rating: 9  
by Menno Scheers, Club of Amsterdam 02 the future of Global Economy

Club of Amsterdam: the future of Global Economy
The Club of Amsterdam organised a conference about globalisation on January 29th. The main topic was sustainability in the 21st century. This report will give you a brief summary of the topics and the interactive discussion between the panel and the participants of The Club of Amsterdam.

Two presentations were given to provide the discussion with high level knowledge. Annemarie Jorritsma gave a brief overview of globalisation in the past with the Dutch VOC and the ongoing globalisation in the future. Two things seemed to be important. First, governments unfortunately try to make their own national successful policy an international one. Second, Government support on several European sectors like the shipyards, prevents second and third world countries from building a healthy economy. This is not fear.

Attendants were asked to fill in several questions. On the question if an environment-friendly economy is possible, 88% of the participants answered yes. 81% thought that a real global economy implies a more equal spread of food, goods, money, etc..

Paul Hohnen of the Global Reporting Initiative showed that regulation of government on globalisation is important, but that it isn't the only mechanism needed. He stated that companies should use a different kind of reporting, that not only focus on financial, but also on ethical aspects.

69% of the attendants thought that the GRI guidelines will have a big influence. 44% thought that companies that have implemented the GRI guidelines won't neglect the aspect of society and environment in economical hard times. On the question if the first world tries to control the third world by establishing the GRI guidelines, 32% answered yes.

Globalisation
Why is globalisation inevitable? Why are people so sure that it's going to happen? Because it's already there. Products out of foreign countries, neighbours out of China, colleagues out of the US, etc.. The process of globalisation is already going on for ages.

If the globalisation is a well structured, fair process, it might lead to sustainability. The focus of governments on laws doesn't seem to be enough to create sustainability. The situation is constantly changing. Laws are not flexible enough to provide a covering solution. A flexible solution might be more adequate, or at least a good complementary solution. Three actors seem to be important in this discussion: the governments, the companies and the consumers.

The government
What influence will the global economy have on the political systems? Political systems always run slower than economical and democratic processes. These processes will go on. People are getting better informed and educated. They will force politicians to move faster.

A global economy means global recessions as well. What do we have to do to establish a stable global economy? When we look at recessions in the past it's difficult to say how they where caused and developed. It's even harder to predict how we could avoid global recessions in the future. Stable politics, no wars, and good functioning international organisations might lead to recessions which are less deep or might even get the recessions out of the economy. Some countries, also big European countries, bring their interests as ideologies. How can they ever build trust?

The companies
It is noted that there is a gap between the theory of the government and the business of entrepreneurs. Businessmen live in their own world. It will be pretty hard for companies to gather all the information they need to act sustainable. However win-win situations and the save of costs are possible.

A global economy is possibly much more unpredictable. Experts have to do research to provide the companies with information. Experts are not always capable in providing the truth about things. An example is the amount of fish in the North Sea. Experts don't know exactly how big the amount of fish in the North Sea is. What should the fisherman do?

94% (!) of the participants thought that social and environmental aspects will have a large impact on how investments are going to be made in the future. 25% of the companies / institutes which were represented already want to be accounted for the influences of their business and policy on social, ethical and environmental issues. They already have taken serious steps to be accounted on this.

The consumers
What do you do yourself to create sustainability at this moment? Do consumers care if companies behave ethically? The participants of The Club of Amsterdam discussion had an different opinion about this. 50% of the participants of the discussion thought that a large group of consumers won't care if companies behave ethically. 44% thought that they will care.

The best way to behave sustainable is to buy only the things you really need. Information seems to be the key-factor to give consumers a choice between ethical and non-ethical products. Children of this moment are already good at finding the information they need. They have already a good looking-for-information-behaviour. When they are adults they are used to find all the information they need about products to judge if they are ethically ok.

There happen to be a lot of factors in structuring the process of globalisation. Those factors are for example information, behaviour of consumers, behaviour of politicians in countries, etc. The two mechanisms that are discussed here, the GRI guidelines and laws and policy of governments, might be good complementary solutions.

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