Conventional thinking supposes that as climate change, for example, is a worldwide phenomenon it requires our most powerful organisations to respond to it. For most of us, that means governments. Governments used to play a central role driving the sustainability agenda.
But as their focus shifts to balancing budgets in a post financial-crisis world, others from civil society and business are stepping in to play the principal role in building a sustainable future. Triodos Bank wants to be at the forefront of these developments.
Evidence suggests some governments are shifting their focus away from solving our biggest social and environmental problems in favour of pressing economic priorities. This can mean cost cutting measures that impact sustainability policy.
In Germany, for example, the life-span of nuclear reactors has been extended by the German authorities, revising a previous agreement. Some commentators argue that this is largely driven by political and budgetary concerns and may lead to less investment in renewable energies.
In Spain, the Government proposed ending a feed-in tariff for solar projects in 2010. While this has yet to become law, its implications for the industry could be significant. At the same time in the Netherlands, Triodos Bank has wrestled with the implications of a new government’s decision to withdraw a tax break linked to green funds that invest in environmental projects.
This is not all bad news. While governments still have an important role to play, and should continue to actively engage in driving the sustainability agenda forward, other institutions and individuals may be better placed to deliver concrete change.