Edeltraud Guenther Publishes Op-Ed on Ecology and the Economy in the FAZ

  • 2020/09/17     Frankfurt am Main, Germany

    In the midst of climate change, the shock from the Corona pandemic has made us question the way we measure success. We need to look beyond the mere value of production and consumption to go beyond success and achieve resilience. In her op-ed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published on 7 September 2020, Prof. Edeltraud Guenther, Director of UNU-FLORES addressed the interrelatedness of the economy and the environment.

    The environment is, with no doubt, an important engine of the economy. Nonetheless, decision makers often overlook nature as a key stakeholder, writes Prof. Guenther. The ongoing pandemic has exposed several challenges and solutions at the same time, such as the digitalisation of work that curbed CO2 emissions due to less business travel. The importance of natural capital is now in the focus of debate and will be addressed at the 74th Deutschen Betriebwirtschafter-Tag held by Schmalenbach-Gesellschaft für Betriebswirtschaft e.V. in Düsseldorf.

    According to a survey carried out by TU Dresden among the 2,500 largest German enterprises, three groups of approaches for action were identified: instruments of management, controlling, and accounting. “Interdisciplinary teams and environmental information systems as a management instrument turned out to be of special relevance: only teams of experts and practitioners from different fields are found to be capable of assessing the complex significance of environmental resources for companies, and to identify their entrepreneurial relevance,” writes Prof. Guenther in the article.

    The core of controlling lies in corporate principles in relation to the environment and how those are hold up by every single employee. A system of derived incentives ensures compliance and should be accompanied by ongoing training and discussions. “The topic’s complexity requires creative solutions that are developed through regular dialogue and cooperation across disciplines, hierarchies, and the entire supply and value chain.” When it comes to accounting, Prof. Guenther addresses the challenge of exposing hidden costs for natural capital.

    Thinking in cycles can create new business models. As an example, UNU-FLORES’s project SMART-WaterDomain with partners focuses on recovering valuable resources in sewage treatment plants, thus identifying new sources of revenue. Prof. Edeltraud Guenther recognises the increasing efforts as well as challenges of enterprises to incorporate the concept of the circular economy. She calls on companies to “start simply” but also to “simply start”. Prof. Guenther is a renowned expert in sustainability management and environmental economics.

    Read the full article (in German) “Ökologie – Motor der Ökonomie” in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (7 September 2020)