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Green Supply Chain Expert Insight
By Dan Gilmore
Aug. 10, 2009

Green Supply Chains and Economic Growth are Joined at the Hip


Too Many Environmentalists Have it All Wrong

You can be on any point on the global warming belief continuum and still (I hope) be aware of this fact: at almost every level of Green-ness, there are trade-offs.

I actually engaged in a mild debate with one SCDigest reader awhile back who just didn’t want to hear that, but it is simply true – while there do seem to be many “free lunches” in the Green Supply Chain (e.g., such as getting more product on a truck, to pick an easy one) often going Green at a macro or micro level means giving up something else.

To just take the most dramatic example, clearly we could dramatically reduce greenhouse gases if all of us stopped driving tomorrow. The obvious fact that we aren’t going to do that says we do not agree that the potential threat of global warming is worth that level of personal sacrifice.

Maybe two years ago, I heard a UN climatologist on a radio show who was mostly (but not completely) convinced there was man-made global warming. What he did question, however, was whether the costs to modestly abate the eventual results were worth it versus other things that could be done with the money. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was something along the lines of starvation and much poverty could be eliminated around the world and then some if the costs of reducing CO2 were channeled instead to that effort.

And that leads to an interesting point made last week by the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens: the richer and stronger a country’s economy is, the cleaner its environment inevitably is.

“Try naming a U.S. city whose air quality is even remotely as bad as Beijing’s, or an American river as polluted as the Han,” writes Stephens. “You can’t. America, the richer and more industrialized country, is also by far the cleaner one.”

Stephens point is that the Green advocates that see economic progress as the villain have it totally backward. And that those who somehow think they can retard in the the enormous economic ambitions of India and China in the name of Green are simply deluding themselves.
Economic growth has led to a much clearer environment in the US. That will be true across the globe. Environmentalists need to recognize this truth.

The stronger the economy and growth, the more business and consumers can afford the “luxury” of Green.


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Dan Gilmore is Editor of Supply Chain Digest and The Green Supply
Gilmore Says:

The richer and stronger a country’s economy is, the cleaner its environment inevitably is.