Recently the Confederation of British Industry raised eyebrows when it spoke out for environmental regulation. Now Renewable Energy World reports that Mark Vachon, Vice President of GE's Ecomagination program, has told a conference of global investors that the tradeoff between environment and economy, so often used as a talking point by politicians, is "nonsense":
“There’s this theory that you have to pick one: economics or environmental performance. That’s nonsense. Innovation is the way you can have both,” said Vachon.
GE started the Ecomagination program in 2005 and has since invested more than $5 billion renewable energy, efficiency and smart grid technologies. The company saw such a powerful business case for clean technologies, it plans to double investments in the sector to $10 billion by 2015. According to Vachon, the $85 billion in revenue from cleantech has doubled the performance of the rest of the company’s portfolio.
Environmentalists will, for the most part, welcome this voice of reason from the corporate world—but we must be careful here too. While it's clear that there is money to be made in clean tech, and that not tackling our environmental challenges would be economically ruinous for all, we also can't get around the fact that reforming our economy along ecological lines and reigning in corporate excess is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainability.
The economy is wholly dependent on the environment for its survival, so it is of course nonsense to suggest that we should prioritize financial interests over environmental ones. But the reverse does not necessarily hold true.