Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Funnel

Global society is currently unsustainable. Because we only have one planet Earth, and the Laws of Thermodynamics are such that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, there are limits to how much we can grow – both in terms of sources (the resources we use) and sinks (the natural systems where we deposit our waste). We are currently surpassing those limits because on the one hand population, consumption, competitiveness and pollution are systematically increasing, while on the other hand resources, purity, ecosystems, and social equity are systematically decreasing.

A ‘whole systems’ perspective is necessary in sustainable development, as the various problems (greenhouse gases, extreme poverty, deforestation, illiteracy, etc) are inherently interrelated and complex.

The funnel metaphor is a way of thinking about the unsustainable path that global society is on, where our space for deciding on options is becoming narrower and narrower per capita. This is very different from the illusion that limits to growth are represented by a ‘cylinder’ where isolated social and ecological impacts can be addressed and ‘solved’ separately.

The negative effects of society's unsustainable path can be described as 'hitting the funnel walls.' Organizations (communities, businesses, project teams, etc.) can feel the impact of hitting the funnel walls in a variety of ways, including:

  • Increased costs for resources and waste management
  • Lost investment in projects that quickly become obsolete
  • Stricter legislation
  • Litigation
  • Loss of market share to more cutting edge
  • insurance costs
  • Consumer and shareholder activism
  • Loss of good reputation

Organizations that have an understanding of the funnel will be better able to act strategically, communicate more effectively to internal and external stakeholders and lead the shift towards a sustainable society.

Stay going. 


Anonymous said...

good explanation..a little scary

Kruti Munot said...

Great explanation, thank you.