Are environmental sustainability and economic growth compatible? That decades-old debate was back in the news recently following criticism by some green organizations towards Virgin Atlantic, after the air carrier announced plans to begin commercial short-haul flights in the U.K.
Those environmental groups question whether Virgin’s expansion into the U.K. domestic market goes against the airline’s stated goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent between 2007 and 2020.
Perhaps such scrutiny is a good thing, as a growing number of companies incorporate sustainability programs into their development planning – and bring the concept of environmentally sustainable business growth into the mainstream.
Speaking at the release of its first-ever sustainability report, the CEO of Switzerland’s Clariant chemical company underscored the importance of a green business philosophy. “Only companies that manage their business sustainability in a responsible manner,” he said, “can achieve operational success in the long term.”
In its recent Towards a Green Economy report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says the widespread belief -- that there must be a trade-off between economic progress and environmental sustainability -- is a fiction. According to the report, green industry can provide new opportunities for investment, growth and the creation of jobs. It also explodes another myth: that green economies are luxuries only wealthy nations can afford. “Contrary to this perception,” said the report, “numerous examples of greening transitions can be found in the developing world, which should be replicated elsewhere.”
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