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Limits to Growth in the Telecom sector -
at the example of Swisscom
Carsten Schloter, head of Swisscom, was a guest in the daily noon interview "Tagesgespräch"
on the Swiss National Radio DRS1, on 17 February 2011.

We searched and found a non-manager picture because we were impressed by the statements about mountain biking at the end of the conversation. The radio said at the beginning of the program:
Urs Siegrist: "This means, so to say, though the numbers facade is the same, inside Swisscom is actually constantly being converted." [Partial recording]

Carsten Schloter: "Constantly. And you can break that down to the annual base. Each year around 500 million sales in the traditional business area are lost to us, half a billion! And every year on January first, it punctually begins, the campaign to compensate these 500 millions by new services, new customers, and with innovations. And Swisscom has an incredible strength thanks to its employees, who succeeded again and again to tackle this challenge. [Swiss francs - 1 SFR = 1.03 USD]

Urs Siegrist: "You are now of course emphasizing the challenge, how difficult that is. But that also means that staying level is already an achievement. But then, where instead has growth gone?"

Carsten Schloter: "Yes, you know, in my view, in my very personal view, growth has been idealised a bit in our society. Yes? Idealised because we all know that permanent growth cannot be sustainable at all, that the limited resources of the earth don't allow this at all. And I believe the workers of this company can really be proud of this achievement, when the 16,500 staff of this company have so far managed to make 500 millions of new business, again and again. The workers can justifiably object to being put in a corner because of stagnant business etc.."

Urs Siegrist: "Now those were very sustainable, almost green sounds for a manager."

Carsten Schloter: "Now. That is not necessarily green. That is of course... a bit of judiciousness is of course sufficient to see that this permanent growth - which automatically also generates a multiplication of the world population - won't work this way of course. Yes? That the challenge of the next years will probably have more to do with redistribution."

Urs Siegrist: "One can of course also say that you are lucky working in a sector like telecommunications that shows this growth so to say internally in the constant transformation."

Carsten Schloter: "That is correct. That is certainly so. And in this sense - I've now been for more than twenty years in this sector - absolutely fascinating. Because it doesn't only change itself. It also modifies the ways in which people live and communicate, the ways in which companies are working. If you look back. Ten years ago the information that we are now transmitting by email, that information was loaded onto small mail carriages and pushed through the corridors of the company. That is only ten years ago!"

Urs Siegrist: "You would hardly believe it! But that is only ten years ago. Did you actually already say thanks to Apple-Chief Steve Jobs or maybe write him a postcard to wish him well? He's ill, as we all know."


Urs Siegrist: "You began this broadcast with sustainability arguments. Is that healthy if society continues living like that?" [back] [Partial audio recording]

Carsten Schloter: "You know, also this question [Siegrist inbetween: "That is difficult."] has been posed by each generation in our society. Is all this change that we experience as people, is this then healthy? I am however also pretty sure that it would not be intellectually good for people either, if we hadn't this renewal rhythm, this obligation to renew ourselves."

"Now, you see, it's the development. It's the development. And this development has accompanied the entire humankind. Yes, imagine we would still live somewhere in the cave age. I'm not sure whether we would live healthier."

Urs Siegrist: "At the beginning of the year each racing cyclist puts his kilometer counter back to zero. What distance does you counter indicate today, the 17th of February?"

Carsten Schloter: "That counter is still at zero, although the last few days have been very, very mild, warm. Simply because in Winter I'm often out and about on touring skis."

Urs Siegrist: "But you are on the move. And you like delivering a performance, also in sports."

Carsten Schloter: "It's less because of performance. It's because... [Siegrist inbetween: "It's not because of performanc, with 6000 kilometers mountain biking a year?!"] No, it's not in the first place about performance. It's primarily because of a compensation through the vicinity of nature. And I find bicycling, biking, an incredibly beautiful way to experience nature. I also find ski touring an incredibly beautiful way to experience nature. And at the same time it simply keeps you healthy, if you already have to work all the time." [back]

[DRS Noon interview of 17.2.2011, partial transcript by Helmut Lubbers] [top]

We pondered whether the growth critique was situationally induced. We believe, based upon his statements about sports and nature, that the growth critique, though coming in handy, is sincere.
It's certainly extraordinary when a manager has the courage to openly question the growth paradigm, and to point at population growth and the need to redistribute. We wrote a letter to Carsten Schloter accordingly.

Nevertheless! We do not understand how conversions can be designed as "growth". Probably once more "growth" is being equated with "jobs", unsuspectingly.

But, what if these transitions in telecommunication would not have occurred? Would we have been less happy? No! Becaus we couldn't know of course what these telecom developments are all bringing along. Happiness and contentment are, as is generally known, found in the friendly and loving daily interations, good food, a soft bed and a good home. The fast cars, videos and other thrills are volatile crutches only.

"Development" is the same as growth. The cavemen were most probaly healthier than us, who we are getting more and more sick because of our own ways of life and our wastes. We have to work much longer each day, and we must now fear for our sustainability.

This constant change also constantly requires more resources that are non-renewable and that our children will therefore be lacking.

The transformations do create jobs.

But as a matter of basic principle "jobs" are no valid argument for the continuously faster and irrevocable depletion of our resources.

That tragically hardly anybody understands.

It is absolutely true that the jobs will then be finished when we have no more resources and space to live. Then there will be no more people either.

That is where our society is heaading, thanks to the relentless efforts of the leadership in Business, Politics and the discipline of Economics Ökonomen. Supported by the HOT-people.

This is our scenario: "Can You Hear Me?"Can you hear me?

"Luckily"(?) our growth will soon stop - and change into contraction - in the imminent times after Peak Oil.   [back
Brief an Carsten Schloter:
Helmut E. Lubbers
BE MsocSc DipEcol
14 Boulevard Carl-Vogt
CH-1205 Genève / Genf


Genève/Genf, 22 Februar 2011

ecoglobe, 14 bd. Carl-Vogt, CH-1205 Genève
Herrn Carsten Schloter,
Swisscom (Schweiz) AG
CH-3050 Bern, Schweiz

Your stements on growth and population in the DRS noon interview of 17.2.2011
Dear Mr. Schloter,

Your statementsIhre are extraordinary, for a business manager!

I would like to cordially thank Mr Siegrist and you for the questions and answers.

Enclosed you receive a printout of the relative ecostory "Limits to Growth in the Telecom sector - at the example of Swisscom." May I submit the question therein to you personally, whether your growth critique is possibly also situation-related?

Can you imagine to continue vocalising your growth critique publicly, and thus to contribute to the urgent U-turn in politics?

What do you think?

Thank you in advance for your reaction.

Enclosure: printout of page

Copy: Mr Urs Siegrist, DRS, Zürich

    With kind regards,

    Helmut E Lubbers


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