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Guest Thinkers

A Sustainable Lifestyle Is “Elegant”

What kinds of incentives are necessary to get people to lead more environmentally responsible lives?  Ernst Weizsäcker, co-chair of the U.N. International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, says that we have to start by thinking of our children and grandchildren—and focus less on quarterly earnings. More than profit, he says, we should “want to have an elegant kind of life, not a wasteful, squandering kind of life.”

Instead of changing the products we own, altering the way we use those products might be enough, he says. For example, Weizsäcker’s family is part of a car-sharing program which allows them to have access to a car when they need it without the costs of ownership. He envisions this sharing idea could go even further: “I could imagine that aluminum will not be sold any longer in the future, but leased and returned after use,” he said.” So, for instance, the airplane manufacturers could rent the aluminum they need and when the lifetime of the airplane is over, it will be returned. And then, of course, they all have a strong interest in doing the optimal mix alloys of the metal so that the reuse is without any problem.”

This interview is part of a series on business sustainability, “Balancing People, Planet and Profit: The Future of Business Sustainability,” sponsored by Logica. So far, the series has featured interviews with Peter Brabeck, the Chairman of Nestle; Gro Harlem Brundtland, Special Envoy on Climate Change, U.N.; Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group; and Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency. The series examines ways that business interests can be better aligned with the greater social good.


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