Some of the push back we’ve received is that unless you can assure economic benefits from instituting sustainable practices, it will be a hard sell. Project managers, already managing scarce resources, may be put in the untenable position of using those scarce resources for issues that may not appear to be directly related to the project’s success. As I said, that is some of the push back, certainly not our position. We’ve always asserted that “a project run with green (sustainable) intent is the right thing to do”…..and that “an environmental strategy for a project provides added opportunity for success of both the project and the product of the project.”
From a friend of ours at the DOE, we received some information on a website that may be able to provide some additional ammunition for the project manager to help “sell” the concept of sustainability, the Natural Capital Project. In further investigating this site, we came across this quote from Robert Costanza, Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. Professor Costanza puts it this way, “Natural capital is the extension of the economic notion of capital (manufactured means of production) to environmental goods and services. A functional definition of capital in general is: “a stock that yields a flow of valuable goods or services into the future”. Natural capital is thus the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future. For example, a stock of trees or fish provides a flow of new trees or fish, a flow which can be sustainable indefinitely. Natural capital may also provide services like recycling wastes or water catchment and erosion control. Since the flow of services from ecosystems requires that they function as whole systems, the structure and diversity of the system are important components of natural capital.” We particularly liked the example of the stock of trees and the stock of fish.
In our book, we’ve have some example of how sustainability can produce physical capital savings. We’ve always asserted that there is other capital to be saved, and we think that Dr. Costanza echos our thoughts!