Let's apply some lateral thinking to the challenges of making business truly sustainable.

Author:Glass, George
Position:In business - Column

As a management accountant I like a good challenge. It often think of CIMA members as rather like the beer that claimed in its adverts to refresh "the parts others beers cannot reach"--although our slogan would be more along the lines of: "Management accountants add value to the corporate parts other accountants cannot reach.") But, when faced with a particularly knotty dilemma the other day, I had to reach for a book by the well-known guru of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono.

I have always been interested in de Bono's work and the way he advocates tackling problems from a different perspective. When I began flicking through his book, it made me wonder if we could all benefit from using lateral thinking a bit more often, especially when faced with really difficult global issues such as tackling climate change.

Like most parents, I am very concerned about my children's future, but sometimes the goal of achieving global sustainability seems distant. We're all familiar with the mantra "reuse, repair, recycle". But it seems that the richer the country we live in, the less these imperatives are incorporated into our lives.

It struck me that many of the changes needed are not so much physical but psychological. In particular, we need to find ways to change our attitude about consumption. And here lies the problem: as individual countries strive to develop their economies, the result is a growing segment of society that demonstrates its success through accelerated consumption. In 50 years' time future generations may well look back on this era and consider our preoccupation with designer brands as "so 20th century".

How do we change this attitude? It's important to me that CIMA acts as a catalyst for debate, so it was fascinating to hear the views of Professor Tim Jackson, economics commissioner at the UK's Sustainable Development Commission, who was my guest speaker at the president's dinner last month. Some of the other guests may not have shared his vision, but the time is...

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