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Core Values and Sustainability Strategies

In their Vienna Declaration the initiators of the "European Association for Sustainable Development" (ESD) have compiled the thoughts and ideas of a network of intellectuals, visionaries, pragmatists and theoreticians 1 . The Vienna Declaration for a new world order describes the possibilities of a "turnaround of the Titanic" through a set of core values of lived sustainability. Instead of speaking of dimensions or pillars four general cultural values are defined: Refinement, Grounding, Global Solidarity and Active Responsibility. (German: Verfeinerung, Erdung, Globalsolidarität, Aktivverantwortung = VEGA) The so-called VEGA-principle might be seen as the steering wheel of transformation.

The principle of Refinement assumes the power of re-visioning and the ability to design new goals. Refinement implies a turnaround in our dealings with "things and beings". In contrast with the culture and nature consuming expansion, with mere increase of quantity and technological upgrades refinement stands for simplicity and clarity. Refinement builds on clarification of self-image, motives, collective images and interests. 2

Refinement Art and technique, science and culture of transformation of a self-learning society to become "finer", "more beautiful and permanently viable"
Grounding Respect and connection with the Earth, acknowledging her as our sole basis of life
Global Solidarity Consciousness of strong solidarity
Within this one world and human family
Active Responsibility Every human's courageous and relentless commitment for a sustainable world

 Tab. 1: Overview core values of the Vienna Declaration 3

The principle of grounding implies living in harmony with all of nature and the awareness of the necessity of policies for the Earth. The new Earth awareness becomes obvious in the event of natural disasters when we recognize our responsibility to help. In the sense of the principle of refinement the optimistic view looks at preservers and dominators of natural events. "In order to preserve still existing resources and in order to prevent further un-balanced scenarios a radical end will have to be put to certain exploitation and wastefulness processes. In order to produce less resource intensively and to distribute knowledge and certain goods globally we will have to employ more refined technology and new scientific insights. Not least is this necessary in order to consent (with heart and mind) as a world society impossible without modern technology." 4

The third core value – global solidarity – demands a necessary worldwide solidarity. A culture of "global benevolence and welfare" has to leave behind the "everyone for himself and all against all." What is meant is not a culture of solidarity with needy people but rather one of community and cooperation. 5

The fourth core value asks for active responsibility of every citizen of the world. Active responsibility means to act personally and actively for all of life, for alongside human rights there should also be human responsibilities. 6

Sustainability Strategies

Without any doubt is there a necessity for politics, business and society to take a new route. Science provides three sustainability strategies for the necessary structural change: efficiency, sufficiency and consistency.

What is important to highlight beforehand, however, is that without accompanying product and process innovations these sustainability strategies will only have a slight chance of being politically and economically successful. Therefore, they merely indicate a frame for identifying potential sustainability scenarios.

The Efficiency Strategy

Economists and technicians base the concept of „efficiency revolution" or „eco-efficiency" on minimizing or optimising the resources employed (input unit) per output unit. The perfect resource-efficient society in which renewable energies, energy efficiency, recycling, closed-loop economy and careful environmental management play a role is summarized by Weizsäcker by the formula "factor 4" 7 and by Schmidt-Bleek by the formula "factor 10" 8 . The factors stand for the part by which the material turnover will have to be reduced in order to achieve a restabilization of the environment and ensure sustainable and enduring use of nature's resources. The respective factors represent a four and a tenfold increase in resource productivity. Therefore, one barrel of oil could generate four to ten times as much wealth, cutting nature consumption in half. 9 The difference between the factors 4 and 10 results from the question where the ecologically feasible level of material turnover decrease  lies. Another aspect in the respective assumptions is the practicality of their implementation.

We will need new products and new forms of providing services which have been tailored to minimizing material turnover from the start. The strategy of increasing efficiency aims at reaching an improved input/output proportion. Weiszäcker summarizes the challenges for every day life as follows:

Seven good reasons for efficiency 10

  1. Living better.  Resource efficiency increases our quality of life. We can see better with more efficient lighting, food can be stored longer in newly developed refrigerators, more efficient factories produce more efficient goods, travelling is safer and more comfortable in more efficient vehicles, biologically built structures provide more comfort and ecologically and efficiently produced food is healthier.
  2. Polluting and wasting less (...)   
    Wastefulness increases water, air and land usage. Efficiency lessens pollution. (...) Efficiency decouples human well-being from consumption: we feel better in an efficient culture which uses less rather than more resources. (...)
  3. Making a profit. Resource conservation is generally less costly than buying and using resources. Preventing a mess is usually cheaper than cleaning up afterwards.
  4. Using markets and the economy. Where efficiency is profitable it can assert itself on the market. Government regulations are not necessary here. However, it remains to be discussed how the barriers for a breakthrough of the economic-ecological reason are to be dismantled and where better incentives should be created. Those companies taking greater risks in favour of an efficiency revolution should not be the ones punished. This is to be avoided.
  5. Re-using capital – above all in developing countries. When less is wasted and extra profit earned it can be used for solving other problems. In developing countries where less capital is tied up in old fashioned structures fresh capital can bring light and comfort with only a tenth of the investment costs: Instead of investing in new power plants investments are made in factories for energy-efficient lamps and windows.
  6. International security. Competition over scarce resources can intensify international conflicts. Efficiency ekes out worldwide resources, reducing everyone's dependencies. (...)
  7. Justice and jobs. Wasting resources is symptomatic for an economy that classifies people into those who have a job and those who are jobless. (...) In order to halt this  undesirable development we urgently need economic incentives to put more people in jobs and use less kilowatt hours, tons and oil barrels.

Efficiency strategies are above all criticized for not sufficiently suggesting alternative paths. They can easily lead to "business as usual", especially when the greatest possible efficiency increase is neutralized by increased product output and population figures. If, for instance, fuel efficiency increases while the vehicle fleet's mileage doubles the efficiency increase is insignificant (twelve-zylinder, low-pollution). If only the "how" is questioned and optimised, disregarding the goals of development and the "if at all" then this strategy can be helpful but never sufficient. 11

The Sufficiency Strategy

The sufficiency strategy asks to limit us in our material needs. "How much is enough" (is small beautiful?) is a question that is not only discussed in the context of pollution and the limits of growth but which played a role in the relationship between the economic systems. Sufficiency stands for sacrifice or as Schmidt-Bleek formulates taking modesty for granted more. It is always more eco-friendly to be laze in the sun and feed the fish than riding a motorcycle. Taking a break from everyday life does not cost energy". 12

Sufficiency is based on incentives for abstention and requires questioning our predominant consumption patterns. As models for abstention are not very popular and are more likely to cause resistance Weiszäcker talks about the possibility of new models for prosperity.  "Why don't I talk about turning back and abstention straight away? My answer is simple: cutting energy, water and mineral resource consumption by 50 or 75%, stopping land use and a consistent transition to clean technologies are possible without giving up prosperity. Moreover, a broad political consensus on giving up prosperity will not be brought about swiftly enough". 13

He envisions a shift of our need for luxury to other areas, for instance to the appreciation of art or education. These do not necessitate an overexploitation of natural resources largely decoupling prosperity and luxury from resource use. Another term for the same idea is the "economics of prevention" postulated by Müller and Hennecke. They argue that wastefulness and the destruction of nature can no longer be profitable. In lieu we should reach a new kind of prosperity by aid of an inverted incentive structure, rewarding the prevention of damage to humans and nature as well as energy conservation. 

Both see the necessity in „speaking the truth". The industrial nations' motto of „keeping it up" destroys the basis for civilization because it is adhering to a horrifyingly blind process of growth and competition. 14

The sufficiency strategy is criticized for its inappropriateness in practice. Reality proves that many people – even the so-called eco-minded – display hypocritical tendencies. This is also confirmed by the results of the research project SUMMER (Sustainable Markets eMerge) which investigated business's approach to fundamental change processes. In their study the SUMMER researchers show that approaches and concepts aiming at changing demand behaviour are of lesser importance. It turned out that sufficiency is relatively irrelevant in the context of corporate sustainability. 15 Pfriem summarizes: " Individually as well as collectively people want to and will keep acting according to the principle of overspending. Hence, the only alternative is to change the cultural patterns of this overspending  in a way as to not critically affect the ecological boundaries set by our planet. Above all people will have to want, be permitted to as well as be able to act. A positive outlook for the future  will not develop on what people should abstain from doing". 16

The Consistency Strategy

Huber 17 presents this strategy as a possible and sustainable alternative to efficiency and sufficiency which does not aim at primarily reducing but rather changing material flow. The quality of materials will have to be altered in a way as to preserve or even expand their metabolism. Consistency relates to environmentally adapted material flow and energy production. This strategy which has the same goals and principles as the idea of bionics should not only be viewed as an alternative to the other two strategies. The consistency goal of improving the ecological quality of material flow and the efficiency goal of economical use of resources can complement each other ideally.

Ref Notes
1 Rauch, Strigl, Die Wende der Titanic - Wiener Deklaration für eine zukunftsfähige Weltordnung, München, 2005, p. 8
2 cf Rauch, Strigl, p. 110f
3 ibid, p. 107
4 ibid, p. 110f
5 ibid, p. 106f
6 ibid, p. 106ff
7 Weizsäcker u.a., Faktor vier, München, 1995
8 Schmidt-Bleek, Wie viel Umwelt braucht der Mensch?, Berlin, Bonn, 1994
9 Weizsäcker u.a., Faktor vier, München, 1995, p. 15
10 ibid, p. 21-23
11 Sachs, Planet als Managementobjekt, Dahl, Zwölfzylinder schadstoffarm, in Jungk (pub.): Delphin-Lösungen, Frankfurt/Main, 1992, Huber, Joseph, Nachhaltige Entwicklung, Strategien für eine ökologische und soziale Erdpolitik, Berlin, 1995
12 Schmidt-Bleek, Wie viel Umwelt braucht der Mensch?, Berlin, Bonn, 1994, p. 171
13 Weizsäcker u.a., Faktor vier, München, 1995, p. 141
14 Müller, Hennicke, Wohlstand durch vermeiden, Darmstadt, 1994, Grothe-Senf, Kreative Seminargestaltung am Beispiel Umweltmanagement, München, 1999, p. 178
15 Paech, Nachhaltigkeit als marktliche und kulturelle Herausforderung, in: Fichter u. a.: Nachhaltige Zukunftsmärkte, Marburg, 2005, p. 64
16 Pfriem Strukturwandel und Generierung von Zukunftsmärkten, in Fichter, u.a.: Nachhaltige Zukunftsmärkte, Marburg, p. 39
17 Huber, Joseph, Nachhaltige Entwicklung, Strategien für eine ökologische und soziale Erdpolitik, Berlin, 1995

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