Should sustainability be pre-competitive?

Steffie Verstappen
November 15th, 2010
Article by: Steffie Verstappen
Should sustainability be pre-competitive?

ONLINE TALKS | At THNK, we believe that changes in consumer behavior will drive corporate incentives for more sustainability. A legitimate question to ask, however, is whether consumers will ever be able to significantly change the world in this way. World Wildlife Fund's Jason Clay makes a related argument. In a recent TEDTalk, he advocates for pre-competitive sustainability, because he is convinced that companies can push producers much faster than consumers ever could. What do you think?

"We live on a planet. There is just one of them. We have got to wake up to the fact that (...) this is a finite planet. We know the limits of the resources we have. (...) There is a basic equation that we cannot get away from: population X consumption has got have some relation to the planet, and right now it is simply not equal. (...) If we were farmers, we would be eating our seed. If we were bankers, we would be living off the principle, not the interest. This is where we stand today."


World Wildlife Fund's Jason Clay pleads compellingly for a way in which big brands can help to save the world's biodiversity. He starts off by posing a fundamental question: considering the fact that we live on a finite planet, should consumers have a choice about whether or not to buy sustainable products? He argues that they should not: because consumers are not ever going to be terribly informed, sustainability needs to be a pre-competitive issue and we need to collusion to address it.