The ultimate goal of public policy in the 21st century may be expressed in very simple terms: ensure good living conditions to the population – while respecting the 9 environmental planetary boundaries that set limits to our production and consumption (climate change; rate of biodiversity loss; interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; global freshwater use; change in land use; chemical pollution; and atmospheric aerosol loading). Is this goal achievable? The answer is yes, because it has already been achieved by one country: Costa-Rica. The good news is: this achievement is the outcome of deliberate policies, not of mere chance.
Source of data in the image: World Bank, stocks traded, turnover ratio of traded shares.
When asked about who should govern companies, the most obvious answer seems to be: the shareholders. And the reason: because they are the owners. Period. Debate closed. Recent discussions about the increased role of other stakeholders, be they the workers, representatives of external interests such as those of the environment or of suppliers, are seen like nice add-ons, little more than an inflexion to a generally valid rule.
I disagree, and believe that the role of the shareholders in the governance of companies should be radically reconsidered.
The automobile is one of the main components of the unsustainable “Western” lifestyle. It has structured the urban planning of our cities, and is responsible for 12 to 28% of the total environmental impacts of human activities (depending on the nature of the impact: climate change, eutrophication, acidification…) in a developed area such as the European Union1. As such, automobile manufacturing and use is consistently among the top 3 sources of environmental impact (whatever the nature of the impact), together with food and housing. This means that the reduction in Greenhouse Gases Emissions by 80 to 95% compared to 1990 levels in the EU that we are collectively committed to in order to remain under the 2°C limit in global warming is only possible by achieving a very sharp decline in the automotive usage – and production.