The mission of UPSTREAM (formerly Product Policy Institute) is “sustainable production and consumption and good governance.” Sometimes I feel like we’re swimming against the tide in advocating a role for government action in ensuring sustainable production and consumption.
Big brands like Wal-Mart, Nestle, Procter and Gamble can effect rapid, systemic change in their global supply chains when it suits them. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy Initiative are doing great work by partnering with industry to redesign products.
Governments, on the other hand, are mired in political stalemate and often produce weak regulations when they act at all, especially in the international arena inhabited by the multinational corporations that produce the products we buy. Why even bother with public policy? Some government actors settle for “co-regulation” with corporate actors, or defer to voluntary corporate initiatives. For their part, foundations often support NGOs to conduct “market” campaigns targeting companies, or to partner with companies; in both cases the strategy is to access the power of corporations to effect swift, large-scale change.
What is the appropriate role for organizations that look out for the public interest – governments and nonprofits – in advancing sustainability in an environment in which the power balance has shifted dramatically to the private sector?
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