Leave No One Behind, Trusteeship and the SDGs

Growth in nature is always balanced and multi-faceted; while ecosystems, grow, others decline. At the same time, everything is reused and transformed into new species and environments. This biological concept of development is an unfolding of species and organisms till they reach their potential; very different from our modern definition of growth that prioritises profit over everything else. A large part of the 20th century management philosophy around capitalism is based on what Milton Friedman propagated – the business of business is business i.e. profit maximization at the cost of everything else.

At one level, this is counter to everything we are taught at school, do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. The belief is that if everyone looks after himself then some ‘invisible hand’ will ensure that everyone will be better off. This hasn’t really happened anywhere in the world as inequality has reached new highs. Non-financial criteria, such as environment and biodiversity, are considered ‘externalities’ and not included in their assessments – and that is exactly what the problem is today. The things we have forgotten to measure, or considered as externalities are fighting back. While wealth metrics have increased over the years, the damage to other things has been immense.



The Choices Ahead

The fight for one’s survival, is the fight for everyone. Should one fail, we all lose. Our economies are interconnected, so are our lives.

The air is clean
You can see the mountains from Jalandhar
The water is clear
You can see the glittering fish and tiny stones below

Nature is staging a recovery with falling emissions due to the stalling of economic activity.
There is just a problem or two; We are in the middle of a pandemic, economic activity has stalled, profits are falling, and growth is precarious. When economies kickstart and business plans are made afresh, it will be easy to ignore the sustainability imperative. It’s a crisis, and all hands-on-deck are needed to strengthen business continuity; sustainability can be looked at later.

Thinking that, however, would be a fallacy, as businesses are only as strong as their weakest link. The pandemic has shown that having vast global supply chains means that they can easily be broken. This is why large parts of the corporate world are doing intensive risk assessments and evaluating important contributors to risk.