The case for sustainability


This month I was going to write about deals in the sustainability sector and the outcome of our sustainability survey. I would have highlighted our completion of the sale of Italian Real Foods to Certified Origins, an Italian/US business, and make a final call for next week’s seminar where you can hear from a great panel about what adds and detracts from the value of consulting-type firms from three recent buyers. But, given world events, I am instead going to outline why I think sustainability is one of the big solutions to the world’s problems. We live in incredibly turbulent times, and the associated uncertainty makes decision making ever more difficult. Every time we think it cannot get worse, another world-changing event occurs.

On 7 & 8 October, we were all horrified by the news coming from Israel as Hamas carried out unspeakable atrocities. Israel’s government responded in the only way Hamas can have expected; this cannot have been a surprise to them. Our screens are filled with the awful images from Gaza where there are tens of thousands of innocent casualties, as Hamas hides in the midst of the civilians and refuses to let the population move to safer ground – rendering them as human shields for display on the world stage.

The majority of Israelis would prefer to live in peace and accept a two-state solution (voting in favour as long ago as 1947 and, more recently, in 1993), whilst Hamas aims to remove the state and make it wholly Palestinian, seemingly at any cost.

Putin’s war in Ukraine has stalled out, China continues to look at Taiwan as its own, and the US political system could go any which way. Additionally, around the world we are seeing mass migration and increasing civil unrest.

All of the above seems at total odds with the growing calls for us to become more sustainable. Ordinary people, be they Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or secular, want the same thing once the basic needs of food, water and shelter are met. We want peace, love, affection and belonging. In short, we want to get on with our lives and thrive.

Never before has it been more important for sustainability to be the very top our agenda. At the risk of being idealistic, with sustainable living we can all feel that we are getting a fair share of the world’s resources such that that we can have our basic needs met and live meaningful lives. Stability allows countries to work together and content populations are less prone to accepting more extreme leadership.

If post-First World War Germany had not been so deliberately impoverished by the Treaty of Versailles, would we have seen the rise of the Nazi party? After WWII, a very different approach was taken with the Marshall plan – Germany was given huge financial support, following which we have had an unprecedented period of sustainable peace and prosperity.

Sustainability needs not to be some abstract idea, or a catchy way to drive a higher valuation, but should sit at the core of what we do, how we run our businesses and how we conduct ourselves. Otherwise, we will see an increased asymmetry of resources, coupled with climate change, have an ever-magnified effect. Sustainable living is not just about carbon reduction, it covers the way in which we treat each other; person to person and state to state. A more sustainable world will give us a chance of a less troubled one, which will ultimately make us all safer and more fulfilled.


By Charles Whelan on 07/11/2023