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"Sustainable Prosperity: Taking on the Global Challenge"
NetImpact conference, Geneva 13 - 14 June 2008
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We felt privileged having been able to attend this conference and its frank and open debates.

It was inspiring to feel the enthusiasm and engagement of the MBA students, able to listen and debate issues without insisting on preconceived ideas. Sustainability, i.e. the management of resources in such a way that no more resources are used than nature can replenish, is a difficult subject. Quick fixes and habitual answers may not work or even produce opposite results.

The organisers conceived an interesting mix of subjects and panels, which attracted 400 participants.

Most impressive was the workshop with Michael U. Ben-Eli on "Dimensions of Sustainability" in which one core problem was addressed: population growth. This issue is mostly taboo, possibly in fear of being named a racist. Actually every country of this world is already overpopulated and each increase of population increases the regional impact as well as humanity's total burden on the earth.

The planet's carrying capacity was addressed and the opinion was voiced that technology and ingenuity would increase the earth's potential to sustain humanity. We advanced the notion of a carrying capacity that does not change. Humanity has shifted the balances between human consumption and the share that is available for the rest of nature. Vitousek claims that humanity is presently appropriating half of all photosynthesis production, compared to 40 per cent some 25 years ago, which obviously reduces the livelihood available for non-human life.

Humanity has been able to temporarily increase its numbers and consumption levels because of the mining of fossil stocks of minerals and fuels. Some of the most important of these fossil resources, which includes ground water streams, are now reaching depletion levels. It must be feared that modern wasteful lifestyles with our exuberant luxuries and mobility can no longer be sustained in the coming years.

Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002, made an interesting remark in her keynote speech. She said that Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR) is no longer what companies talk about. Today corporate leaders speak of "Corporate Sustainability".

The wealthy clients of private banks do indeed discuss sustainability with their investment advisors. Scarcities of oil, soft and hard commodities, food and climate change are recurring topics.

Strangely, the BPE Compact, the leaders in Business, Politics and the discipline of Economics, do not seem to see the contradiction between increasing scarcities and economic growth. They are firmly embedded - or should we say sleeping? - in their spheres of hope and optimism and ingenuity and technology that is going to solve all problems, if we only invest enough money and brain power. If technology could revive extinct species, reverse climate change, ban droughts and floods, refill deminishing groundwater streams, recreate cut-down old-growth forests, replenish minerals' stocks. We fear technology cannot do this. Neither can it feed the burgeoning world population. Malthus says hello again.

The conference was organised on a low budget, without European sponsorships, and with the help of many voluntary students. Impressive. They did a magnificient job in a very short time. Congratulations.

Helmut Lubbers ecological psychologist and environmental scientist 15 June 2008

Also see other ecostories, for instance:
  • 7/2010 - The WBCSD's "Vision 2050"
  • Growth quotes: "Turkey's granary disaster" - Guardian Weekly 20 July 2007
  • "Hostility to the notion of limits to growth" (with readers' comments)
  • "A world bursting at the seams" - Jeffrey Sachs
    Environmental developments:
  • The day of "Peak oil", i.e. the highest daily amount of oil extracted, is approaching. It is expected within one to twenty years. Thereafter petroleum will be used for prioritary applications. (compare fossil energy developments)
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    The NetImpact Conferenece Curriculum

    In 2008, Net Impact will bring the model of their hugely successful American conference to a European audience for the first time. The American conference is seen as the leading world forum bringing MBA students, graduates and leaders of tomorrow to exchange ideas, energy and passion with leading professionals from across sectors to discuss how business and business skills can impact social change. Net Impact is eager to host a similar event to offer this opportunity for engagement to the students, graduates and professionals within Europe.

    This year's Europe conference will address the theme Sustainable Prosperity: Taking on the Global Challenge. The word prosperity captures the economic and social factors that are expected to contribute to improvements in the welfare of the global population.

    In June, Geneva, Switzerland will play host to the 2008 Net Impact Europe Conference as well as EURO 2008. We have the unique opportunity to welcome Mel Young, founder and President of the Homeless World Cup to offer a keynote address providing a link between these two major events. The Homeless World Cup is an impressive example of how football, passion and creative thinking can impact the sustainable prosperity of individuals from over 60 countries.

    The two-day conference will cover a variety of topics within ffour main tracks that participants will have an opportunity to follow throughout the event. The themes for the 2008 Europe Conference are as follows: Key note Panels
  • CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility Leaders
  • Public/Private Partnerships
  • Mary Robinson - Realizing Rights
  • Mel Young - Homeless Wolrd Cup

    Panels and workshops:

    Innovation: What Creates Sustainable Prosperity?
    Within this track we will hear from social entrepreneurs, business leaders and partnerships that are offering innovative ways to tackle the challenge of sustainable prosperity. These individuals and organizations have lead the way in creating social impact by harnessing the power of creative and original thinking to create new means to addressing issues of development, climate change, and sustainable business practices.
    - Corporate Innovation for the Bottom of the Pyramid
    - Trends in Clean Tech
    - Marketing CSR Initiatives
    - Workshop: Sustainable Product Design with IDEO
    - Trends in Social Entrepreneurship
    - Workshop: Blue Ocean Strategy Applied to Social Innovation

    Leadership: How Organizations and Individuals Impact Sustainable Prosperity
    The second track will focus on the role that leadership plays in creating sustainable prosperity. Both organizational and individual leaders have a role to play in creating an environment for change and enhancing the capacity of their organization with respect to sustainability, responsible business practices, and corporate social responsibility. We look forward to hearing from academic experts and practitioners about best practices in leadership.
    - Engaging Top Leadership in Sustainability
    - Stakeholder Engagement in Applying Voluntary Principles in the Oil, Gas and Mining Industry
    - Making a Career Change to Influence Sustainable Business Practices
    - Workshop: Start Your Own Social Enterprise with Max Olivia
    - Integrating the Holistic Approach within the Organization
    - Dimensions of Sustainability: The Five Core Principles with Dr. Michael Ben-Eli
    - Education and Professional Development: Building a Career Based on Sustainability

    The Global Challenge
    The third track will address the efforts to take sustainability to scale. Our speakers will be challenged to discuss the efforts they have dedicated to sustaining a positive social impact on a global scale. We look forward to hearing from Dalberg-Global Development Advisors, Product Red, and others who will be sharing their opportunities, challenges, and best practices.
    - The Future of Luxury in a Sustainable World
    - Workshop: Vision 2050 with WBCSD
    - Private/Public Partnerships in Health
    - Role of Governments and Policies: Government, Governance & National Systems of CSR
    - Business Solutions to Water Scarcity
    - Workshop: Ethical Consumerism
    - Sustainable Supply Chain: Creating a Sustainable Labor Supply
    - Private/Public Partnerships: Lessons Learned

    Managing Investments and Measuring Results
    Our fourth track will offer panel and workshop topics related to how organizations measure, evaluate and account for their impact. This theme also offers an opportunity to discuss the emerging role of finance and the capital market in relationship to how organizations quantify their impact.
    - Measuring Results: Rating Sustainability Performance
    - Investment in Sustainability: Finding Finance
    - Measuring Results: A Case Study with Procter & Gamble and GAIN on Fighting Malnutrition
    - Measuring Results: Organizational and Operational Efficiency in IOs and NGOs
    - Investment in Sustainability: Responsible Investment in Practice
    - Investment in Sustainability: Are Banks Approaching Sustainability in 2008?
    - Investment in Sustainability: Emerging Realities in Microfinance and Microinsurance

    Source:, which also provides For the detailed list of speakers.