On this program, John Rosser, the curator of 'Sustainatopia' — a global conference and festival which attracts many thousands of global leaders from around the world, talks about his goals, and the philosophy behind what he is doing.
John sees that the accounting system, the way that we measure the success of an economy or a company is being revised: "For example, there is recognition of the risk of climate change on their [companies'] balance sheets and in other ways. This led to a disconnect between what the reality was and what the financial data was showing. Investors want all the information that is available, showing all the risks and all the costs and all the benefits. So we are entering a new phase around the world and also in the US where systems like accounting systems are being updated to include these new factors. What it allows an investor to do is to have a better perspective on whether or not he should invest in those companies, so it's actually capitalism doing not what it is best at, but certainly what it does well, which is the allocation of capital to those companies with 'real' values versus those which are creating what I'll call 'fictitious' values."
John provides a surprisingly positive appraisal of capitalism. "There are multiple stakeholders in capitalism. We can't just see it as the bank having all the control, because the bank has customers, the bank needs customers, the bank needs employees. What we find in the United States is a very interesting trend, and I think we will find this in other parts of the world. That is that the millennial generation which is defined somewhere between 25 and 36 or 37 years old, they are actually choosing not to work for those companies which pay them the most money, in many cases. They are actually choosing employment which is making the world a better place….This has been a big problem for some companies in the United States…What they are demanding is that these companies do good, that they have programs within their products and services, that they are figuring out a way how to make the world a bit of a better place….On the customer side, they are increasingly voting for companies [with their dollars] that are doing good and doing well."
A discussion of 'short termism' is held, and John admits that a system which insists on reports being written quarterly does not encourage long termism. John finishes the program by providing a very good example of how capitalism can adapt and change. He talks about how big business is now is accepting the Health Food Industry together with that industry's application of sustainability methodology. "That industry was ignored initially by large food companies, but now, 15 or 20 years later, we see that much larger companies are taking this seriously and making large investments."
A more cynical appraisal of the capitalism being able to accommodate sustainability can be listened to on this week's Level talk program: The Inability of Capitalism to Handle Climate Change.
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