Degrowth: a quest that can only be global

Degrowth: a quest that can only be global
Degrowth: a quest that can only be global

For them to be potentially achievable, a winning degrowth strategy and Canada’s quest for robustness would necessarily require unanimous agreement from all countries to move in this direction. (Photo: Nicole Geri for Unsplash)

GUEST EXPERT. To say that the energy transition is now at the center of every conversation would be an understatement. Your humble servant does not miss any opportunity to advocate an immediate transition to Industry 5.0, the brand new industrial era which integrates technologies, the planet and humans, in perfect harmony.

It is clear that the challenge of moving the needle in the fight against climate change in the right direction remains unresolved despite all efforts. Awareness is growing, but actions are not following fast enough.

In short, the game is not yet won.

That said, a new line of thinking is currently taking shape, that of degrowth, due to the physical limits of the planet’s renewable and non-renewable resources.

According to supporters of degrowth, these physical limits must be taken into account.

In their eyes, it therefore becomes urgent to reduce economic growth, and, consequently, the consumption of natural resources, not to mention the environmental damage that accompanies it.

However, economic growth is at the heart of all national and corporate projects on a global scale. It is a recognized measure of success that fuels an entire competitive system.

This is what we have taught in management schools for a long time, even if we now talk about sustainable development.

As if this new paradigm of degrowth did not sufficiently shake up the established order, biologist Olivier Hamant adds more. He says that we need robustness more than development.

The very idea of ​​performance is contested…

Thus, our world would be too optimized, which becomes counterproductive.

For him, when we optimize, we weaken at the same time. In short, effectiveness and efficiency would be the new evils of society, nothing less!

So here is a second strong belief, the quest for performance, which is now also contested.

Over the years, I have provided around a hundred support for strategic planning exercises for various organizations. It also included companies that were more interested in preserving heritage than growing.

On the other hand, I don’t remember a single support that didn’t have performance, productivity and operational efficiency as its mantra.

This shows how far we have come from.

What company, unless it has an uncontested and unshakeable monopoly, can slow down or stop growing in the presence of competitors who only think about increasing their market share?

As nature abhors a vacuum, this decline will quickly be absorbed by a rival.

We could transpose this situation to the scale of countries like India or China. The two Asian giants are in fact in an assertive and sustained approach to economic growth in order to create a middle class.

How could we deny these countries the right to raise their standard of living, when developed countries have done so before them?

By the same logic, how could Canada slow down its growth and reduce its performance if all the other countries on the planet seek to fill this void and take advantage of the situation?

This loss of Canada’s competitiveness on a global scale would drive away investors, not to mention the inevitable decline that would follow.

Worse still, a Quebec economy and its businesses pressing on the brakes on economic growth would weaken the state’s finances, which would put our social programs at risk.

Also, for them to be potentially achievable, a winning degrowth strategy and a quest for robustness for Canada would necessarily require unanimous agreement from all countries in order to move in this direction.

In short, degrowth can only be a global project, and not that of an isolated country or company.

Let’s return to my initial point.

The winning conditions for a green shift

Who said we couldn’t achieve sustainable development?

It is team members and customers who are forcing the hand of companies to accelerate their energy transition and to value people through technological changes.

Generation Z employees are entering the workforce with strong, enduring values. For their part, the Y – or the millennials – are taking leadership of organizations, and will impose a faster green shift.

For their part, principals and customers are seeking to green their supply chains, in addition to imposing their conditions on their suppliers.

Under pressure from the population, governments also set increasingly ambitious targets and legislate accordingly.

This means that the winning conditions are increasingly present for a successful climate change, even if there is still a way to go and decision-makers to convince.

Degrowth and robustness are laudable concepts that provoke in-depth reflections.

However, where the problem lies is how to get there.

It shows that wanting to do well is not always without consequences.

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