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Clean Up or Close Up: Only in China … I Hope

Pollution in China may decrease as a result of a recent environmental decision by the central government. But it sure isn’t being done in the spirit of sustainability, which balances economic growth, and environmental and social responsibility.

Earlier this month, as reported today by USA Today, the Chinese central government ordered 2,087 firms producing steel, coal, cement, aluminum, glass and other materials to close their old and obsolete plants and production capacity by the end of September – or risk having bank loans frozen and power cut off. Authorities in one province have reportedly already cut off electricity to more than 500 factories for a month after they failed to meet emission reduction targets.

Observers say the decision is designed to boost China’s “green” credentials in advance of global climate talks next year in Copenhagen. Some environmentalists will no doubt applaud the announcement and push for more closings and stricter thresholds. (Only in China, I hope.)

For the rest of us, this is another teachable moment. The idea of sustainability’s Three Ps – People, Planet, Profit/Prosperity – is far from universally accepted. And business leaders, no matter where in the world they do business, are among those in the best position to help make the case that sustainability requires economic growth, and environmental and social responsibility. And then go out and prove it – even in China.

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