Overcoming ’The Great Trade-Off Illusion’

Q. One of the central ideas of your book–that not only can private enterprises profitably promote global social equity and environmental stewardship, but that they must do so to ensure their own sustainability–requires a major paradigm shift. Aren?t old belief systems–such as the one you term the ?Great Trade-Off Illusion . . . the belief that firms must sacrifice financial performance to meet societal obligations?–still widespread? How can they be overcome?

The Great Trade-Off Illusion is still alive and well but there’s been serious damage done to it. It’s no longer impregnable. . . . The quality revolution and the ?greening? revolution have put a serious dent in that whole mindset so that there’s an openness now, at least, to the whole idea that it’s possible to make a societal contribution as a for-profit company and still be wildly successful–and maybe be wildly successful because you make a societal contribution.

Having said that, the next major leap is one not so much of overcoming that trade-off thinking, but rather one of reinvention. It’s really that move from the incremental, greening way of thinking, where you continuously improve what you?re doing . . . versus the idea of leapfrogging, disruptive innovation, inherently clean technology, and accessing entirely new markets that you’ve previously not served.