Sustainability Digital – Sept 2020

Holistic and lasting sustainability

What is sustainability if not the ability to exist into the future? In this context how sustainable are institutions, organisations, communities and politics and what will the future actually look like?


Professor Kotkin received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988, and has been a professor at Princeton since 1989. He is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
At Princeton Professor Kotkin teaches courses in geopolitics, modern authoritarianism, global history, and Soviet Eurasia, and has won all of the university’s teaching awards. He has served as the vice dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and chaired the editorial committee of Princeton University Press. Outside Princeton, he writes essays and reviews for Foreign Affairs, the Wall Street Journal, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other publications, and was the regular book reviewer for the New York Times Sunday Business section for many years. He serves as an invited consultant to defence ministries and intelligence agencies in multiple countries. His latest book is Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Penguin, 2017). His previous book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Tate has been an investment industry media publisher and conference producer since 1996. In his media career, Tate has launched and overseen dozens of print and
electronic publications. He is the chief executive and major shareholder of Conexus Financial, which was formed in 2005, and is headquartered in Sydney, Australia.
The company stages more than 20 conferences and events each year –
in cities which have included London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Beijing, Sydney and Melbourne – and publishes three media brands,
including the global website and strategy newsletter for global
institutional investors One of the company’s signature events is the bi-annual Fiduciary Investors Symposium. Conexus Financial’s
events aim to place the responsibilities of investors in wider societal, and political contexts, as well as promote the long-term stability of markets and sustainable
retirement incomes. Tate served for seven years on the board of Australia’s most high profile homeless charity, The Wayside Chapel; and he has underwritten the
welfare of 60,000 people in 28 villages throughout Uganda via The Hunger Project.

Key takeaways

  • The key to achieving sustainability is always politics.
  • Case studies from around the world suggest that sustainability is failing and succeeding simultaneously.
  • Apocalyptic portrayals of sustainability only galvanise those who are already galvanised. The rest of the population is left scared and paralysed.
  • We need to dial down existential language and talk more calmly about cost/benefit analysis and the expectation of driving superior economic outcomes through sustainable investing.
  • Everyone when surveyed says they want to go green. People surveyed also say they want to lose weight. But are these people prepared to take the required actions to hit their targets? Signing a pledge is not enough.
  • We should ask ourselves what sustainable globalisation looks like. We do not have global solidarity. People are global citizens only in a small way. Governments are accountable primarily domestically. Policy is national not global. Global politics does not come from politicians it comes from global investors and global corporations. We can’t vote out the global government because it doesn’t exist. Therefore the private sector is at least 75 per cent of the solution.
  • We need voluntary compliance to achieve sustainability, not coercion.
  • Let us tackle social issues like racial injustice with objective analysis of data not tabloid exaggeration.
  • The electric grid that we have is not fit for purpose in the 21st century.
  • Sustainability is about the ability to adapt to change and respond to future uncertainties.
  • The US election will make a big difference to the future of America. Whilst I can’t be optimistic, I think the pessimism is overdone.

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