Avoiding the tragedy of the commons
Can we avoid the tragedy of the commons?
The tragedy of the commons is an age old concept, revived in 1968 by researcher Garrett Hardin. The key element in a tragedy of the commons situation, is that it provides an opportunity for an individual to benefit him or herself, while spreading out any negative effects across the larger population.
So, short-term self-interest is waged against the common good.
One relevant example of this is the use of coal as energy source. A coal plant generates cheap electricity for it’s customers, and profits for its owners. These local benefits are helpful in the short term. But pollution from mining and burning coal is spread across the entire atmosphere and sticks around for thousands of years.
The question is not whether we can avoid the tragedy of the commons. In fact, the word tragedy was used to describe the inevitability of it’s occurrence. The world suffers from overgrazing, overfishing, overpopulation, pollution and other social and environmental problems.
Still, these are problems. Problems have solutions
The question thus is: can we avoid more and bigger tragedy in the future? What are potential solutions?
When the tragedy of the commons applies, what’s good for all of us is good for each of us. Thus to avoid further tragedy, we need to make individual choices that sustain the collective.
One brilliant way in which collective behaviour is encouraged, is by purposeful brands that are decreasing the negative impact of our individual choices. Green energy is now about as cheap as grey energy. Meatless meat is headed in the same direction.
So, on the individual side making collective choices has never been easier.
As a consequence, consumers are showing their willingness to make the right decision. Purposeful companies generally outperform their non-purpose-driven peers, even in crises. We’ve passed a tipping point where activating purpose is not only the right thing to do morally, but financially as well. These are hopeful signs indeed!
In our view, purpose is the umbrella theme that captures all sorts positive action. Whether it’s securing fair wages throughout the supply chain, creating circular production systems, promoting equality, inclusion and diversity programs, going green, reducing or recycling waste streams, promoting sustainable buying behaviour, you name it. Purpose is where your core skills and expertise as a company or individual make positive societal impact. There’s no excuse for not acting on it!
This article weekly covers 3 great pieces on purpose. Must read is the first article about two opposing views in the ongoing debate surrounding the tragedy of the commons.
Do you believe in sharing?
A beautiful and lengthy article by Financial Times’ Tim Harford, about two opposing views on how the tragedy of the commons should be governed.
“Over time, Ostrom developed a set of what she called “design principles” for managing common resources, drawn from what worked in the real world. She used the phrase hesitantly since, she argued, these arrangements were rarely designed or imposed from the top down; they usually evolved from the bottom up.”
At GoodUp, we believe in this bottom-up approach as well! We never knew that we had the world’s first female Nobel prize winner to back our view though ;).
Pivot With Purpose: Lessons In Corporate Resiliency
“As many industries face devastating economic impacts and an uncertain future, Hilton’s response to the crisis provides some lessons for other firms that have been hard hit. When I recently spoke with Danny Hughes, Hilton’s President Americas about Hilton’s response, three key strategies emerged that can be used by leaders facing similar challenges.”
Blackrock’s approach to sustainability
Well respected sustainability researcher Wayne Visser pointed us towards Blackrock’s newest Investment Stewardship report. Blackrock is the world’s largest asset manager. They are well-known for their active approach to support sustainable business practices. As large shareholders they engage with companies on their sustainable business practices, and act by either voting against company directors (or boards) or support shareholder proposals.