How A Culture of Sustainability Will Impact The Economy
How will a culture of sustainability impact our economy? I have simplified my stance on this into three distinct areas: consumption, shifting values, and job availability. Though some look at sustainability as an economic threat, I see it quite differently. I see that the free market economy will continue to operate unimpeded by green cultural values.
Many people think that “going green” means turning your back on consumerism entirely. I have a completely different opinion. Consuming is what we do, as living organisms. If you look at any organisms in nature, you see that nature is all based on consumption. That might be of light, other plants, meat, or water.
Consumption never, never stops, until the organism dies. It is time to get the idea of “sustainability means the end of consumption” out of our minds. People focused on sustainability still expend energy, often in the form of money, to acquire the things that they need. The thing is, this energy exchange is completed in an entirely different way than it was done in previous times. Let’s look at five ways that a culture of sustainability will impact the economy.
2. Shifting Values Means Shifting Dollars
Money flows to the items that people value. In our current times, we are seeing a shifting of values. Individuals are becoming aware of the value of the earth: water, trees, clean air, soil, rocks, and animals. With this awareness comes a new sense of value. People who value the health of the oceans will spend more money on fish that has been rated as highly sustainable.
Years ago, the individual may not have been willing to shell out five extra dollars for sustainable caught fish. But since cultural values are shifting, so is the flow of money. The key here is that money doesn’t stop flowing, it simply goes to different items.
A massive shift in money patterns will disrupt economic stability in the short term, but it has the potential to lead to growth in the long term. In the short term, new sellers and businesses are rising up to meet the demands of customers with a new set of values. These sellers invent products, develop brands, and meet niche demands.
Other sellers, who customers no longer support, slowly lose funds and go out of business. From an economic standpoint, the best way for businesses that are losing dollars to deal with it is to find a new niche market, and pivot their focus to this new demand. As expert economist Andrew Charlton has said, the economy will always (for the foreseeable future, anyways) be based on supply and demand.
3. Sustainable Cultures Have Abundant Job Opportunities
One of the main ways that a sustainable culture will impact the economy is through the workforce. Some critics of the green movement argue that the environmental movement will kill jobs. When you think about work in a new way, this argument dissolves quickly.
Just like consumption, work is a part of life. The word work has several meanings, but the one that I like the most is one of the Old English meanings, which is to “exert creative power, be a creator”. This is a good definition because it shows that work can take many forms.
Whether you are getting compensated with money is irrelevant to the actual definition. But in our economy, work is usually though of as an action done for money. Even with our modern definition of work as an action done for money, the green movement can not logically be viewed as a movement that will take work away from people. Because people will always be consumers, and the economy runs on supply and demand, there will always be new demands that suppliers can fulfill.
Although jobs in the oil space may disappear, jobs in new spaces will open up. For example, if people drive less because they want to have a lower carbon footprint, a new niche market opens up around people who drive less. What do they need? Virtual meeting software? Better communication tools? What other resources do they need?
These three main impacts of sustainable culture on the economy work together. Consumption never ends, it only shifts. Shifting values leads to shifting dollars. With this change in the demands of the consumer, come new openings in the market. These niche market openings will be filled by people who need work. Work, in the form of jobs, will always be available.