Sustainable Consumption on the Global Agenda: Clinton, Obama and Brundtland


Last week, the imperative to grow a vibrant global economy in which we consume no more than what the earth can sustain was launched onto the global agenda at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.  Former President Clinton framed the challenge by reminding us that if everyone in the world consumed goods and products as Americans do, we’d need 3 or 4 planets of natural resources to sustain ourselves. President Obama completed the session with remarks about the US economy and its particular challenges.

In front of over 1300 distinguished guests, including heads of state, CEOs and experts from around the world, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway, author of the paradigm shifting 1986 Brundtland Commission Report on Sustainable Development, asked a panel of CEOs on their thoughts about this challenge. After all, their companies are all dependent upon profits generated by revenue from selling “stuff” (or lending money so others can buy more “stuff”).

The debate focused on how more than ever before, the world’s population – and its ever-increasing demand for products and services – is putting pressure on the planet. In an era of rapidly depleting and finite resources, businesses and society have the opportunity to reframe how value is created and how consumption acts as a driver for economic growth.

Over the next weeks and months, this blog will unpack the challenges and opportunities of sustainable consumption. In the meantime, catch the agenda-setting conversation with:

Bob Diamond, Chief Executive, Barclays,

Viviane Victorine Kinyaga, Director, Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, and

Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever


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2 Responses to Sustainable Consumption on the Global Agenda: Clinton, Obama and Brundtland

  1. Reassuring to know that the “powers that be” are actually thinking about this! Wonder if the Chamber of Commerce would ever promote this!?!? (HAHA) Just finished Heinbergs “The End of Growth” which recommends Transition Towns and co-ops, and just ordered Greer’s newest book, The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered. Looking forward to reading it! Thanks for all you do!

  2. Diane Osgood says:


    One of the underlying issues driving good work on sustainable consumption is that the rate of increase in corporate revenues has been falling since the 1970s. In other words, with the exception of the blib in the late 90s, the speed at which companies are turning a profit has been declining for 30 years. Companies, particularly consumer facing companies, need to find new models of value creation because markets are saturated and cost cutting can only go so far. Check out the People’s Economist blog for the details on this important data point.


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