Plugging the Sustainability Gap

Tweaking the graphics that I have come to rely on for many of my presentations, I decided it was time to take a crack at developing a visual representation of what I feel has become the gap between economic performance and social and environmental sustainability.

And the above was what I have come up with.

For me, where this simple visual I believe does the job is that the sustainability gap is itself easily understood, and when trying to convey the severity of the problems or by trying to highlight too many problems at once,cI often find that it is impossible to keep an audience engaged. They become overwhelmed trying to put the content into a framework that can be understood.  Yet, before they are able to do that, I am already talking about the who and how much.

So, in simplifying the chart, and creating a visual representation, what is allows me to show is how the fundamental issue of sustainability that we face today is that (1) the imbalances are caused by a belief in economic growth at all costs, (2) the longer we continue to believe that, the wider the gap will be, and (3) the wider the gap, the more instable economic performance becomes.

Using that as the basis for a converstion, what I find interesting about this visual is that it also allows me the oporunity to visually highlight what an externality is, the pressures that will develop among stakeholders to act, and that closing the gap is actually done through the removal of externalities that exist in today’s economic model.

A model that has thrived on externalities for the better part of the last 60 years, but as we have seen recently with the disruptions in economies, environmental systems, and societies, they (the externalities) are growing too expensive to bear… which is placing pressure on the economic models to come back into alignment.

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