Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’

Duncan Austin argues that voluntary, market-led attempts to fix climate change (such as corporate social responsibility initiatives, environmental social and governance-led investing, campaigns to change consumer behaviour, etc.) have failed.

His analysis is an interesting systems-thinking one. He argues that these attempts represent the “fix that fails” systems archetype, whereby initial attempts to fix a problem trigger delayed secondary effects that make the problem worse. Eventually, the “fail loop” overtakes the “fix loop”, and the system collapses.

It’s a dense post, but it has some great thinking in it. The idea of the “fix that fails”, the complementary “unmentionable foot” to the market’s “invisible hand”, and the notion of “externality-denying capitalism” are all useful additions to the collective language on sustainability.