MATTHEW FREUD, Chairman, freuds and The Brewery
Good COP, Bad COP
What sacrifices are we prepared to make to rescue our planet from a currently assured calamitous future; one where our children will look back with something less than admiration at the relative garden of Eden that we occupied and failed to sustain?
Is it enough to take a train to Glasgow and mostly eat plant based food for a week? For our companies to make earnest but distant commitments to some form of net zero (the clue is in the name)? For our governments to tinker with the numbers and show that they are not making everything worse nearly as fast as they used to?
In my view, the sacrifice that dare not speak its name, but without which we are doomed to some level of abject failure, is Growth.
Growth was introduced as the engine of capitalism in the 1920’s in America to escape the depression. It worked and should have been quickly retired, but proved addictive to companies and their shareholders who demanded more sales, more often to more people, regardless of human need or environmental consequence.
There will be enormous pressure on governments and markets around the world to turbo charge economies post pandemic. There are some gains to be made in the short term, by cutting back on waste and through increased circularity and efficiency, but ultimately there is a desire to see a rapid restoration of 2019 levels of consumption, and then to get back on the Faustian treadmill of endlessly expanding GDP. But the true cost of this is unbearable.
"In my view, the sacrifice that dare not speak its name, but without which we are doomed to some level of abject failure, is Growth."
I am convinced that for the first time in modern history, there is an opportunity to reset our needs and behaviours in a way that is actually sustainable in the long term, and a growing awareness that a return to the status quo would be a disaster.
Our governments must find ways to agree a bold new direction for carbon reduction, but I believe corporations have the far harder task, and the greater ability to act rapidly if we are to reverse the inevitable planetary decline which will be our generation’s only meaningful legacy.