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close this bookSteering Business Toward Sustainability (UNU, 1995, 191 pages)
close this folderPart three: Implementation
close this folder10. Industrial clusters of the twenty-first century
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentZero defects, zero inventory, zero emissions
View the documentFront-end solutions versus end-of-the-pipe solutions
View the documentEconomies of scale
View the documentWill Japan embrace the zero concept?
View the documentThe new clusters
View the documentRecycling of ink and paper
View the documentForestry, perfumes, and preservatives
View the documentSugar, cleansing materials, water softeners and compostable plastics
View the documentBeer, salmon, and cattle
View the documentMore to come
View the documentRethinking industrial policies
View the documentCuffing government costs
View the documentRevitalizing the inner cities
View the documentThe case of China
View the documentThe role of the United Nations University
View the documentConclusion


Gunter Pauli

Throughout this book we have discussed the challenge for business to survive and flourish at a time when the industrialized world is going through a dramatic change of paradigms, from a mechanistic to an ecological world view, from a value system emphasizing expansion, competition, and domination to one guided by conservation, cooperation, and partnership.

A paradigm is a constellation of concepts, perceptions, values, and practices shared by a community and embodied in its social institutions. In our modern era, technology has become one of the most important embodiments of the mechanistic paradigm. Throughout the industrialized world, individuals and institutions have become mesmerized by the wonders of modern technology and have come to believe that every problem has a technological solution. Whether the nature of the problem is political, psychological, or economic, the first reaction, almost automatically, is to deal with it by applying or developing some new technology.

We do not share this belief although we see technology as an important part of the move toward sustainability, and therefore we have left the discussion of new technologies to the last section of this book. Before we enter into the dialogue on new technologies, we should perhaps clarify the general meaning and purpose of technology.

Contrary to widespread belief, technology is never value-free, because it is defined as a means to a certain end. Good technology, by definition, is a proper means to a carefully considered end, and value judgments will be involved both in the selection of the end and in the decision of what constitutes proper means. In any society the technologies used will therefore embody the predominant paradigm.

Even a cursory look at our "high technologies" - military, medical, agricultural, or any other - shows clearly that they embody the mechanistic paradigm and associated value system. They are fragmented rather than integrative, designed for manipulation and control rather than cooperation and partnership, and suitable for centralized management rather than regional application by individuals and small groups. As a result, these technologies have become profoundly anti-ecological, antisocial, unhealthy, and inhuman.

Moreover, technology in our era has become autonomous and totalitarian, redefining our basic concepts, eliminating alternative worldviews, and subjugating all forms of cultural expression. In today's "high-tech" world, progress is no longer understood as the improvement of human well-being but is glibly identified with technological innovation.

Thus the first step in developing technologies that are ecologically sustainable must be to transform the very nature of technology from a totalitarian "megatechnology" to a tool, the use of which is restricted by cultural norms. This means that in any discussion of new technologies much thought should be given to their goals and purposes, as well as to whether a particular technology is the most appropriate means to the intended end.

When these considerations are applied to the task of steering business toward sustainability, it becomes clear that the technologies most appropriate for this purpose will embody the paradigm of deep ecology. In other words, they will reflect the wisdom of nature and incorporate the principles of ecology in their design.

One of the most outstanding principles of ecology is the cyclical nature of ecological processes. As Fritjof Capra pointed out in Chapter 1, the present clash between business and nature, between economics and ecology, is mainly due to the fact that nature is cyclical whereas our industrial systems are linear. In order to achieve ecological sustainability we must therefore fundamentally redesign our businesses and our economy so that they imitate the cyclical patterns observed in nature. Just as the wastes from one species are food for other species in an ecosystem, so one industry's waste must become another industry's resource in a sustainable business world.

This issue is taken up by Gunter Pauli in the present chapter. Pauli is a businessman who has established numerous companies, has business contacts in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and has traveled widely in all those parts of the world. His talent for spotting emerging trends, his solid business background, and his penchant for radical ecological solutions have allowed him to piece together a picture of emerging industrial clusters, patterned after natural ecological cycles, which is visionary and yet thoroughly pragmatic.

What do perfumes, food stabilizers, forestry, and beer brewing have in common? At first sight, little or nothing at all. What do paper and pulp, construction materials, packaging and printing ink have to do with each other? Nothing whatsoever, would one say. What does sugar share with detergents, water softeners and plastics? Absolutely nothing, one would argue at first sight. But, if you start analyzing the potential synergies between these sectors when their strategies and innovations are based on sustainable economic development, we are looking at the new clusters of industry for the 21st century.