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Sustainability and Profit: From Trade-Off to Essence

Economic paradigms come and go. The seemingly endless debate between neo-liberals and –Keynesians in the past century provides a fascinating account of this. It shows that there must be words in economic debate other than last words – that no matter how certain an insight might seem in a particular instance, it will likely be proved wrong in the myriad combinations of circumstances that history inevitably yields. The essence of capitalism evolves around the centrality of profit, which in many ways is the very reason it has outcompeted its economic alternatives. Few would disagree with the central claim of University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman’s controversial essay on social responsibility (New York Times Magazine) that the paramount social objective of any business is to achieve profits within its legal constraints.

The Hassle of Buying A New Car

When it comes to scarcity of resources, one of the most publicly discussed topics is the impending shortage of fossil fuels. As we have known for a while now, global oil reserves are limited. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2035 will be the decisive year in which the maximum amount of oil production will be achieved. Thereafter, less oil will be available on the market year after year and eventually, reserves will be exhausted. This knowledge implies that people have to change their consumer behavior sooner or later.

Sophisticated Machinery Does Not Solve the Waste Problem

No longer is waste a muddled, stinking pile of garbage. With evermore refined technology, the waste management industry has finally come of age. The most recent technological hubbub in waste management has been made by a Finnish company called ZenRobotics. Their only marketable product, a robotic recycling arm, purportedly utilises a variety of sensors to distinguish different types of materials in a waste stream and then separates them accordingly. Whilst technological advances are impressive in their own right, increasing technological sophistication does not provide an all-encompassing solution to the global waste problem.