Sustainability (Column in HCB Magazine)

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, tweeted recently: ‘Wake up world. We are killing our planet. Climate Action now!’ He meant that our economy, industries and politics are not exactly cooperative in regard to changing pace and curbing climate change in time to avoid entropy and ultimately chaos. The way our banks use algorithms to outpace human trade drives everything else towards maximum financialisation, literally using up future resources for the sake of profits now. This obviously cannot last and, according to recent article in the New York Times, jeopardises humanity’s very survival.
As a researcher on what can be sustainable, durable and can be continued, I developed a method to measure sustainability. This valuable tool allows an organisation able to predict the future and therefore can adjust its course timely. As I am writing this for you, readers of HCB magazine, I’d like to propose that you apply this tool to your company’s products and services and ask yourself if they are negatively or positively interdependent. This means that products or services that would benefit a few at the cost of others (people, environment, etc), should be redesigned, reworked or replaced by those that are positively interdependent, meaning they are useful and sustainable for everyone and everything. This, in my view, would create millions of jobs and would benefit politics, economics, the environment and repair the ecological balance on which we all depend. Path dependency of an organisation means that products and services which may be harmful are not changed voluntarily, but often await laws to prevent them. I agree with António that it is too late for that.
Two weeks ago I spoke to the renowned physicist Dr Fritjof Capra in Innsbruck and he said that organisations that are unwilling to learn and adapt are dead. Biology confirms that an organism that is unable to learn from and interact with its environment can be declared dead because it has stopped metabolising.
Looking for example at companies or politicised organisations we can observe that they are often ‘path dependent’. Inflexible entities that are unable to learn, adapt and adjust to constantly renewing variations created from interaction with people, environment, planet or universe, cannot survive. This is a scientific fact.
How to proceed? Well, there is ample information and science. All such organisations have to do is to start listening by weighing ‘all’ information, even that information which would contradict ulterior motivation towards pre-planned and expected goals. Life in business or in politics can only be continued and remain sustainable by asking ‘where to now? and by learning everything that will be useful to ensure their systems stays afloat.
The Greeks were right over 2000 years ago. They accepted that you can only sail a ship to the other side of the seas if you prepare well and are open to learn from the wind, water and tide. Antonio realises that people are not listening. Perhaps his tweets, and this column, are read by 190 UN member countries, but are they alive or nearing death?
This is the third in a new series of articles by Arend van Campen, founder of TankTerminalTraining. More information on the company’s activities can be found Those interested in following up his invitation can contact him directly at


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