Sustainable Consumption, Production and Supply Chain Management
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Sustainable Consumption, Production and Supply Chain Management

Advancing Sustainable Economic Systems

Paul Nieuwenhuis, Daniel Newman and Anne Touboulic

This incisive book integrates the academic fields of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) as a framework for challenging the current economic paradigm and addressing the significant ecological and environmental problems faced by the contemporary business world.
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Chapter 21: Will innovation save us?

Paul Nieuwenhuis, Daniel Newman and Anne Touboulic


In conventional economics there is a strong strand of thinking that technological innovation will solve most of our problems. For the ecological problems facing us, this has also often been suggested. If this works, we do need to put the necessary resources into such priorities, otherwise those innovations will not happen. Here, the role of the public sector has been overlooked as the private sector has come to be seen as more innovative and more efficient. Mazzucato (2013, 2019) has highlighted the key role of the public sector in the development of the pre-market technologies needed for that private sector innovation to even happen, while Dorling (2020) discovered that the rate of technological innovation has actually been slowing down. Within automotive, the major revolution at present is the shift from internal combustion (IC) to electric vehicles (EV), drawing on technology that was pioneered in the 1840s (EV) and 1860s (rechargeable batteries). Innovations now include applications of existing technologies to new areas such as automated cars, these trends will lead to significant change. Energy for an EV can be generated from renewables, while over time home heating and cooling, can also be delivered this way. Such developments phase out some major concerns of the existing sustainability model by addressing climate change and local air quality, while energy supply can be decentralised into local communities. These developments change the fundamentals of our economies in quite significant ways. On the other hand, new materials need to be accessed, explored and developed in order to support these technologies. In addition to technological innovations, we should also be thinking about the social innovations needed and the increasing social control exerted by firms delivering these technologies.

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