July 08 2023

Hot or Not ?

Let’s bring a time-weighted perspective to this one, zooming out from the personal to the more global, and the short-term to the long-term as we, human beings, instinctively tend to do.

  • Is your own wellbeing prospect hot or not?
  • Is the economy hot or not?
  • Is the planet hot or not?

One thing is for sure, global temperatures are rising. Again, it might be colder or rainier where you are now, but the average global temperature topped previous records this week.

Even the ever-doubting St Thomas would notice the effect of wildfires in Canada on the deterioration of air quality in New York city. As it affects our wellbeing in the here and now, this should existentially become #1 consideration.

Yet, we lack an economic incentive to do so. As it stands, it is more “economical” to buy disposable clothes at Zara or H&M, a cheap throw-away imported plastic kid’s toy on Amazon, or fly a tenth of the world’s population to Mars as a planet-B escape plan. These initiatives oil the cogs of global economy, and allow us to grow collectively.

Some initiatives attempted to clumsily package economic incentives and environmental-friendly developments. ESG was first seen as a shrewd top-down approach on how money should be channeled to eco-friendly practices. Sadly, it was perceived as an almost-sanctimonious stratagem imposed by investors onto the free judgement of liberal economic actors. It backfired badly on Blackrock lately.

Although the name has not been ditched, as it probably should, ESG is now rebooted into a progressive partnership with industries to track & reward progress toward a more conscientious and productive use of planet resources. This should be more warmly received.

Another one is Green investments, which target infrastructure projects that are meant to have positive environmental impact e.g. rejuvenation of power grids, sustainable farming, and energy-lighter transportation. Not only these investments directly greenify the backbone of our economies, but also give incentives to individuals by creating new jobs.

However, vastly nothing has been done to directly nudge the consumer. At the core, we want to avoid frugalism that could lead to vicious de-consumption. Consumption means happiness. Happiness is good for business. So the cycle goes on.

No one wants a disgruntled and sad-looking consumer that package-recycles into exhaustion, and frowns upon anybody who enjoys a piece of steak or rides a petrol car. Therefore Government are incentivizing companies to change long-established supply chain practices to gradually nudge consumers into greener practices, without radically changing their consumption habits.

Is that enough? Following the market-oriented idea, why not putting a price on resources that we usually take for granted, as DiPerna suggests in “Pricing the Priceless”, such as oceans, air, wildlife and forests.

Going further, I argue that consumers would benefit from clear KPIs on how their consumption habits impact their environment, and their direct wellbeing as a result.

  • Yuka provides an app to track excess processing in food items,
  • Airlines highlight the carbon footprint linked to flight trips, or
  • Boston-based SpareIt help educate companies’ employees around the waste quantity they generate.

We probably need to even have companies reward sustainable consumption. By making the economic and health benefit real and personal, we would have a more productive attempt at winning minds, as well as hearts.