• M E Colby
Environmental Management in Development: The Evolution of Paradigms
– Frontier Economics
– Environmental Protection
– Resource Management
– Eco-development (industrial ecology)
– Deep ecology
• M Thompson
Understanding Environmental Values: A Cultural Theory Approach
In M E Colby's five paradigm theory, the five paradigms have their unique dispositions,
• Earth provides limitless supply of
– Physical resources
– Sinks for by-products of consumption
– Primary limitations imposed by availability of labor & capital
• Environmental problems as we know them are absent
• Sustainability is not a concern
• Policy strategy
– Future is created through a price system based on free choice.
– Free market --Governments act only as necessary to deal with unavoidable market imperfections
– Technological optimism --Technology is good, progressive, and can cure any problem it creates
– No pre-market assessments of technology
• Earth is a closed system.
• Human society and natural ecosystems have co-evolved.
– Nature has value and a .right. to exist independent of humanclaims of hegemony.
– Nature.s intrinsic value is hidden by economic activity.
• Sustainability is the wrong question as it comes out of human-centeredness.
• Policy strategy
– Human transformation of .self. to realize a harmony with nature.
– Technological pessimism; the value of technological innovation must be proven.
– Level of economic activity ultimately consistent with solar inputs.
Externality Control / Environmental Protection
• Earth is an open system.
– Waste and pollution can pose a problem
– Waste and pollution are economic externalities.
– Environmental problems are failures in the economic system.
• Sustainability is not a concern
– Future can be protected by interventions in the market.
• Policy strategy
– Technological optimism
– Pollution reduction and control through laws and regulations.
• Earth is a closed economic system.
– Exhaustion of resources is a matter of concern
– Mismanagement of resources is an externality to be internalized.
• Sustainability (weak) means maintaining the combined stock of human and natural capital
– Ecology poses a necessary constraint on growth
• Policy strategy
– Technological optimism/clean technology
– Economize ecology
– Correct market incentives / Get the price right.
– Incorporate all types of capital & resources into calculations for investment planning
Industrial Ecology / Eco-development
• Earth is a closed ecological system.
– scale / type of development ≠ long-term survival
• Human society and natural ecosystems have co-evolved.
– Nature has intrinsic value, revealed through economic activity.
• Sustainability = maintain stocks of both human and natural capital
• Decoupling of biophysical from economic growth – steady flow
• Policy strategy
– “Ecologize economy”
– Moral/ethical transformation to instill environmental concerns.
– Technological realism; precautionary principle to handle uncertainty.
– Life cycle framework; product policy, “Pollution prevention pays”
– Policy equity
While M E Colby's five paradigms give diverse assumptions of the type of human-nature interaction, there is another well noted perspective on environmental paradigms- , namely the M Thompson's cultural theory，which elaborates from the "Group" perspective and "Grid" perspective. In his cultural theory, the "Group" perspective focus on the extent to which an individual is incorporated (or perspective incorporation) into bounded units while the "Grid" perspective elaborates on the extent to which individual is influenced by externally imposed prescriptions.
Cited from Michael Thompson's publication Understanding Environmental Values: A Cultural Theory Approach , the cultural theory maps the disputes concerning human and physical nature in terms of a fourfold typology of forms of social solidarity as following.
Two of these solidarities, individualism and hierarchy, have long been familiar to social scientists. Cultural theory’s novelty lies in its addition of the other two solidarities, egalitarianism and fatalism, and in its making explicit the different premises—the different social constructions of nature, physical and human—that sustain these four fundamental arrangements for the promotion of social transactions.
Below is the summarized cultural theory perspectives on environment. (for detailed explanation, please refer to Thompson's original paper)
– Lays down the rules
– Takes calculated / analyzed / controllable risk
– Optimistic: nature is stable until pushed beyond limits, World is controllable
– Institutions can be trusted to prevent going beyond limits
– Analytically based regulation
– Unconstrained innovator
– Risks create opportunities
– Optimistic: Nature is benign and resilient
– Institutions are not trusted
– Prefers market-based trial-and-error
– Disagrees with rules and exploitative attitude
– Reject risk-taking
– Pessimistic: Nature is fragile, intricately interconnected and ephemeral
– Institutions are not trusted
– Voluntary simplicity is only solution to enviro problems
– Sees no opportunity to take action
– See risk taking as necessary consequence of fate
– Pessimistic: Man and nature are fickle and unpredictable
– No management strategy
Choose a firm on which you have data for instance through a recent annual sustainability report. Analyse the underlying society-nature paradigm of this firm.
Enlightened by the comprehensive theoretical work, I now use the principals summarized above to analyse the the society-nature paradigm of a chosen company based on its sustainability report. I choose GDF SUZE for my case study here and try to interpret its sustainability report 2011 according to the environmental paradigm perspectives knowledge.
I choose GDF SUZE because I was deeply impressed by its ambition and responsibility of sustainable development four years ago when I carried out an internship in its branch in Shanghai Chemical Industrial Park. (Perhaps, I made an decision of picking it up again for case study due to my bounded rationality -- emotional effect)
Since its origins in the early 19th century, GDF SUEZ has been helping cities and businesses to meet the challenges linked to population growth, urbanization, higher standards of living and protecting the environment. The Group supports changes in society that are based as much on economic growth as on, social progress and the preservation of natural resources. GDF SUEZ develops its businesses (electricity, natural gas, services) around a model based on responsible growth to take up today's major energy and environmental challenges: meeting energy needs, ensuring the security of supply, fighting against climate change and maximizing the use of resources.
Generally, GDF SUZE is the No.1 player in the world or within Europe in the fields including electricity, natural gas, LNG, energy service and environmental service. From both the website of the company and its sustainability report we could read about the company's facts and profiles.
In a context of growing energy needs and dwindling natural resources involving increasing production costs, GDF SUEZ has a policy of growth underlying its sustainable strategy. The company defines sustainability at the core of it business strategy as it claims,
The GDF SUEZ businesses – natural gas, electricity, energy services and environment – are at the heart of the major challenges of sustainable development; conversely, the Group’s activities are increasingly structured around the drivers of sustainable development.
According to its sustainability report page 21, the company claims three complementary principals of its sustainability development strategy:
The ﬁrst is that it contributes to preventing ESG (environmental, social and governance) risks in the general sense, such as ethical, environmental, social or safety …… The second objective is the design and deployment of new activities that meet the requirements of sustainable development …… The third objective underpins the Group’s long-term future: to encourage
the stakeholders, both internal (employees) and external (end clients, public authorities, investors, rating agencies, etc.) to back the Group’s corporate project.
According to the company's sustainability report 2011, we could see the company implement its sustainable development strategy through six perspectives: governance, economy, environment, human resource, human right and stakeholders. To achieve its goal, the company payed its sustainable efforts in many ways including,
• fighting climate change
• responding to society's expectations
• guaranteeing ethic principals
• developing human capital
• promoting health and safety
• promoting ethical conduct
• limiting exposure to climate change
• listening to and have a structured dialogue with every stakeholder
• guaranteeing industrial security and facility safety
• conserving biodiversity and saving water resources
• acting as a social responsible company
• developing the group's attractiveness and effectiveness
• developing social cohesion within the croup
• complying with UN Global Compact principals
The Group contributes to rethinking and modifying its production to limit the environmental impact and exposure to climate change.
In the renewable energy sector, GDF SuEZ had installed capacity of 16,121 mW at the end of 2011. At 11,332 mW, the Group is the leading hydroelectric operator in France and Brazil, where it is continuing to develop large-scale projects. GDF SuEZ also has a production capacity of 918 mW in biomass and biogas, in Europe (where it is a leader with two world-scale facilities of 180 mW and 190 mW, the latter under construction), the united States and latin America. Wind energy is also a priority, with capacity of 3,792 mW, making the Group the leading operator on the French and Belgian markets and the second in Portugal.
While GDF SUEZ is the dominant electricity producer in Europe, its emission of CO2 has been controlled in a relative low level thanks to its rigid environmental impact limiting measures.
Here is a figure cited from its sustainability report page 39,
Let's just pick some indicators as examples for a scrutinization of its environmental impact control effort.
GDF SUEZ is committed to:
- increasing its operational efficiency in terms of water management,
- working with suppliers to improve their water management as well as the quality of the residual water treated,
- working in partnership with stakeholders to resolve problems in the sustainable management of water resources,
- completely transparent reporting of progress made.
In 2011, the Group Executive Committee approved ten Sustainable Development Objectives which could be seen from its Sustainability Report 2011, page 27
1. To provide solutions that meet the ambitious goals of Grenelle objectives for building environmental and energy efficiency.
2. To participate in the transition to carbonless energy in France and abroad.
3. To propose competitive and environmentally friendly solutions for the transport of people.
4. To favor circular economy, based on waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
5. To focus R&D on sustainable development.
6. To reduce unnecessary waste by improving drinking water system efficiency.
7. To develop public-private partnerships.
8. To integrate biodiversity into Group site management in France by the end of 2009.
9. To hire 114,000 employees by 2014.
10. To continue efforts to reduce its impact on the environment and to encourage employees to be sustainable development ambassadors.
11. To pursue an active dialogue with stakeholders at every level of Group governance.
12. To persuade shareholders of the value of the Group’s sustainable development strategy as an asset.
All the above arguments and other information provided in the Sustainability Report has demonstrated GDF SUZE's great effort in controlling its environmental impact as well as implementing principals in industrial ecology.
GDF SUEZ puts responsible growth at the heart of its activities and capitalizes on its strengths and businesses to afﬁrm its exemplary status internationally in the area of sustainable development. The Group issued its Sustainable Development Policy and established a sustainable development department to facilitate implementing those matured policies (Sustainability Report ,page 25 & 29). The three focuses of its sustainability policy are Markets, Employees, External Stakeholders, namely 1) to anticipate and satisfy market expectations, by designing targeted offers for energy efﬁciency, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to contribute to the creation of the sustainable city. 2) to reduce the impact of the Group’s activities and respond to the expectations of stakeholders. 3) The exemplary working conditions, professional fulﬁlment of the employees, and diversity and equality of opportunity for access to employment are imperative for the Group.
Also, GDF SUEZ complies itself with the UN Global Compact Principles to shape a better global sustainable impact. GDF SuEZ signed up to the Global Compact in 2000 and chairs the French network of the Global Compact. As a major world-scale industrial company, GDF SuEZ is concerned with respecting the ten principles of the UN Global Compact by setting responsible growth at the heart of its strategy in all its businesses。
Moreover, apart from caring its external interactions and shaping global sustainability leadership, GDF SUEZ also minds its internal dynamics by developing social cohesion within the Group. The company puts its efforts in raising awareness of CSR in terms of promoting professional equality, providing access to employment for disabilities, preventing phychosocial risks, promoting ethical conduct and developing a real corporate culture. Impressively, the Group also sets goals for improving the women's status in the internal dynamics.
4 OBJECTIVES FOR 2015:
• 1 in 3 senior managers appointed will be a woman,
• 25% of executives will be women,
• 30% of recruitments will be women,
• 35% of «high-potentials» will be women.
The ESG ratings of GDF SUEZ generally reflects its sustainability performance.
In my case study of GDF SUEZ sustainability, I would like to scrutinize its human-nature performance with both the M E Colby's Five Evolutionary Paradigms Theory and M Thompson's Cultural Theory and then try to compare the results from the two theoretical analogy.
Using M E Colby's Five Evolutionary Paradigms:
Apparently, we should first preclude the Frontier Economics and Deep Ecology. Since Frontier Economics considers earth as limitless supply of resources and limitless sink of by-products of consumption. Environmental problems are absent and sustainability is not a concern. However this is in contrary to GDF SUEZ's core value which is to promote sustainability in its industrial production. Then the Deep Ecology emphasizes self-sufficiency and minimum production with a technological pessimism perspective. Nevertheless, this is not the case with GDF SUEZ as it's one of the dominant energy and electricity producers in the world and technology innovation is embedded in the core value of its development strategy.
Then the question remains whether the Company is in the paradigm of environmental protection, resource management or eco-development. My conclusion is the Company's sustainability reflects an integration of these three paradigms, perhaps with more weight on the eco-development paradigm. Those endeavors paid to limit the exposure of climate change and emissions reflects partially "end-of-pipe" treatment. The promotion of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and using renewable resources to gain more profits to some extent demonstrates the Company's practice of economizing ecology. The company also contributed to the conservation of natural resources in terms of conserving biodiversity and saving water resources.
Albeit I admit the GDF SUZE sustainability performance shows image of both Environmental Protection and Resource Management paradigms, its high appreciated endeavor toward eco-development should never be ignored. We have seen plenty of evidences of eco-development in its practices of social, economical and environmental dimensions. The Company treats earth as closed ecological system and weights nature conservation as important as economical growth by shaping an responsible growth strategy. The Company's compliance with UN Global Compact reflects an social equity and global environmental concern. Besides, the strong stakeholder awareness is a sign of achieve common benefit. The company's close dialogue with institutions, think-tanks and SRI inventors and analysts enables itself to make a comprehensive sustainable development strategy. The technical innovations from its cooperation with institutions raised the energy efficiency or substitute the old production with innovative designs, which makes the decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption possible. Besides, the company's effort of promoting ethical conduct shows an transformation to instill environmental concerns. Last but not the least, the company's effort in re-shaping its production line and substitute the raw material resources reflects the 3P philosophy (Pollution Prevention Pays).
In conclusion, I argue that the GDF SUEZ's society-nature paradigm lies in the overlap area or a combination of Environmental Protection, Resource Management and Eco-Development. As Michael E. Colby illustrate in his publication, the paradigm evolution results from the non0linear evolution progress integrating Frontier Economics and Deep Ecology. It's hard to define clear boundaries for the Environmental Protection, Resource Management and Eco-Development paradigms and they do have overlap, just as what we observe from GDF SUEZ's case.
Using M Thompson's Cultural Theory Paradigms:
In the Cultural Theory of environment paradigms, we could easily first conclude that Fatalist and Egalitarian are not the Company's paradigm. This is because Fatalist believes man and nature are fragile and there is no management strategy while the Egalitarian believes that nature is fragile and voluntary simplicity is only solution to enviro problems.
Then again, I argue that the Company's society-nature paradigm reflects both faces of Hierarchist and Individualist. From the Individualist face, the "market-based trial-and-error preference" principal sounds plausible as the Company always pursuits maximizing profit and market-based trial-and-error is indeed one of the routine practice of the Company. From the Hierarchist side, I see the plausible reasoning of "takeing calculated / analyzed / controllable risk" just as the Company calculating the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) risks before any action is taken. Nature is stable until pushed beyond limits and institution can be trusted to prevent going beyond limits. So it sounds reasonable that in the Hierarchist paradigm, the Company takes its responsibility to conserve nature resources and promote eco-production so as to prevent going beyond limit. All these assumptions sound reasonable.
However, a confusing point to me is that both Hierarchist and Individualist paradigms consider nature benign and resilient or at least resilient before "going beyond limits". But I find this confusing because it sounds pretty like "Frontier Economists" which treats nature limitless supply of resources and limitless sink of by-products of consumption. This is the only remaining concern I still have before I conclude that the Company's paradigm is across Hierarchist and Individualist.