Economic growth and environment protection hand in hand – this is the sole road to sustainability

Regarding the financial expenses, it costs only 5% more globally for the economy to opt for the sustainable solution when it comes to development.

On March 26, 2015 Kitty van der Heijden, European Director of the World Resources Institution, one of the most influential persons dealing with sustainability hold a power speech at the business breakfast organized by the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary (BCSDH), the Netherlands-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

István Salgó, president of the Business Council highlighted the importance of the Action 2020 program, while H.E. Gajus Scheltema, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands emphasized the economical importance of sustainable thinking.

From the aspect of the economic growth the world has reached excellent results in the previous 20 years, in the field of social justice we can be moderately satisfied: two billion more people have access to safe drinking water, 90% of the children participate at primary education, the number of the people, who are living less than 1,25$ per day, has reduced by 50 %. Nonetheless we haven’t improved any of the ecological indicators: 3,3 million people dies due to air pollution per year, 13 million ha forest area disappears per year, the CO2 emission has increased by 50%, and what is most threatening: the negative trends are growing exponentially.

In order to secure that economic growth and environment protection go hand in hand, radical and effective changes are necessary – stressed Kitty van der Heijden in her presentation. ‘Certainly there will be losers among companies and industries – especially, if they do not begin the change of their strategy in time, however, at the same time the majority of the companies can benefit greatly from the new solutions. What is the difference if the companies, from sustainable aspect, choose the right or the wrong solution? It costs only 5% globally.’ – she emphasized.

The guests learnt how the global and environmental challenges affect directly the Hungarian economy or the future operation of their companies. It became evident for the skeptics that there are a lot of new solutions and tools available, so the core problem does not lay there. The difficulty is to leave our old, well-tried solutions and practices even if those seem more viable in short-term. Those companies who have been focusing solely on financial profit are also being more and more forced to take into consideration other, not even financial risks when they determine their strategy. ‘In the coming years we have to learn how we can optimize our strategy during our decision-making in the following four dimensions: climate change, growth of the population, vulnerability of the biosphere and economic growth.’


The internationally renowned opinion leader stressed the importance of the economic growth among the four dimensions: ‘There is no doubt, that economic growth is necessary. The unemployment has to be alleviated, the social injustice has to be reduced, pensions and health care systems are necessary etc. – to reach that, we need economic growth. The question is not that we should choose between growth or sustainable development but which green solutions we can adapt that facilitate our economic development.’

At the end of her presentation Kitty van der Heijden highlighted the importance of accountability and transparency which is nowadays not a voluntary commitment of the companies. It is becoming a constrain mainly for the global companies and their subsidiaries; so companies that take the new challenges seriously, will have more competitive advantage.


Kitty van der Heijden is the Director of WRI’s (World Resources Institute) Europe Office. Prior to this role Kitty was the Ambassador for Sustainable Development and Director of the Department for Climate, Energy, Environment and Water in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. In 2014, she was elected as “Influencer of the Year” among civil servants, and listed as 20th in the top 100 most influential people in the Netherlands dealing with sustainability


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