In today’s business model, growth is a given—an imperative. “Grow or die” is the undisputed maxim of business leaders. The stock market punishes companies that do not meet growth expectations. Growth is good. However, continuous growth appears to be at odds with sustainability principles. Growth is the ‘un-discussable’ elephant in the board rooms of companies aspiring to a sustainable business model.
So let’s make it discussable. Since growth is synonymous with progress and with winning in the game of business, we need to show how sustainability strategies are relevant and support companies’ growth goals. Yet we know that continuous growth is inherently unsustainable, given the finite carrying capacity of the planet. In nature, continuous growth is called cancer. In fact, passionate, principled champions of sustainability find it repugnant to suggest they should help companies grow since it is against their core values to do so. That’s why some shy away from the “sustainable development” label—development implies growth, and growth is unsustainable. Ergo, “sustainable development” is an oxymoron.