What Does Sustainability in China Mean to You?

Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:43
Posted in category Uncategorized

Last week, Charlie McElwee from Squire, Sanders, & Dempsey sat down with me to discuss environmental law in China.  Charlie is someone I met through the What if, What Else, and What are the Odds roundtables I put together last year, and ever since I have been following his blog China Environmental Law.

One of the clips from this interview, the rest I have posted on Crossroads, I thought would be interesting as a catalyst for conversation on All Roads.

Within Shanghai there are probably 20 people that I know of/ speak to who are somehow involved with this topic, and one of the interesting things about this topic is that everyone has their own definition of sustainability.

This is Charlie’s.

[youtube width=”425″ height=”335″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrTseAmvBM8[/youtube]

So, now that you have heard Charlie’s definition, what is yours?

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4 Responses to “What Does Sustainability in China Mean to You?”

  1. Charles Frith says:

    August 17th, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Minimise resource extraction from the planet and minimise waste from that which is extracted.

    The real problem is defining wealth creation within that model because neoliberal capitalism isn’t working. Period. We need to rewire our economies.

  2. Rich says:

    August 17th, 2008 at 7:44 pm


    I think that the current mindset needs to be rewired to first understand that consumers are playing the largest role in this. I am amazed everytime I go home to see what is being sold, how much is available, and how much stuff people collect.

    For companies, there is a lot of money for firms who look into creating more efficient/ sustainable business models. Creating efficiencies in transportation, cradle to cradle design, material usage… there is a long way to go here as well

    At the government level, the US just needs a complete turnaround. building cities to be 10 feet tall is just not an option anymore. Cities like St Louis, Atlanta, Memphis, etc that are in growth phase and looking for a way to redevelop need to look at going higher and denser. Creating viable public / mass transit depends on it.. and I think Americans in mid sized cities who are being crushed in their McMansions are going to be up for it.


  3. Green Sustainability Advocate says:

    August 18th, 2008 at 7:25 am

    I would have to agree with the above comments – we need a complete rewiring of our economic models and consumer habits. Just because your T-shirt is made from organic cotton does not mean it is a “green” decision to buy a new one. Keep the old one until it wears out. Consumerism is what is driving our economy, and consuming at the rate we do is not sustainable. We need to restructure how we value resources and stop consuming at break-neck-speed.

  4. Charles Frith says:

    August 18th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Rich. You know I work in advertising and reconciling how to make a living out of what I do is a long upward hill climb but intellectually I’m pretty close to the destination. That doesn’t mean I can share it all in a meeting with a client because it takes some pretty revolutionary thinking (i.e. dangerous ideas) and the last thing most business people want is dangerous thinking. They’re looking for risk aversion which partly explains why advertising is so abysmal in developing economies. Why roll the dice when it’s easy to bash people over the head with messages that if they use xyz shampoo they will be just as pretty/succesful/handsome as the model. I digress.

    In principle wealth acquisition for wealth acquisitions sake is a pretty dull affair. Most people that go down this route end up with a culture where obesity and depression are rampant over say a hundred years. The US is obviously my benchmark when thinking about this (I’m also a great fan of the US so hold on till I complete my point)

    Consumerism leads to 21st century consumption and yet there is an economic model that needs to built. One of the best suggestions I’ve come across for this is *drum roll* “more ideas, less stuff” (Google that and Russell Davies for more on his blog)

    This is of course a dangerous idea but the internet could possibly be our neck saver. The internet is all about ideas most people chase wealth so they can do the things they want and yet the greatest liberator is information, who is where doing what and why. These kind of things are much more interesting than filling up on the corn syrup from the Soda Fountain because its drip fed relaxing to eventually feel full.

    Anyway you’ve given me an idea for a post on mine because to give an example of what I’m talking about I’ve always thought why not take the worst offenders. The car industry.

    Then take the worst example to attack. Let’s use Mercedes Benz (hey even I love Benz)

    How do you introduce more ideas less stuff into their equation? Well wouldn’t it be interesting for a premium brand car to claim the brand territory of ‘Use it less often’

    In a single stroke you’re saying. Buy our car, it will last forever, it will look better longer, you can take up cycling and walking or using public transport and the benefit of this is that should you feel compelled to resell your Benz then its value will be higher.

    This is of course heresy in the marketing communications industry but I’m quite confident that if climate change doesn’t get us then it will be orthodox thinking at some point in the century.

    This is an obvious broad brush example with lots of gaps and details that need to be thought through but in principle it makes perfect sense for me.