General Electric CEO’s Incomplete Blueprint For MENA’s Future

GE-nabil-habayebGE’s Nabil Habayeb connects growth and sustainability without a second thought. Is that still the best model?

General Electric has long maintained a presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In addition to setting up an Ecomagination headquarters at Masdar City, GE has recently helped connect Turkey’s electricity backbone to Europe through smart grid technology.

Now, as a participant in this year’s World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, Nabil Habayeb, GE’s President and CEO in the Middle East & Africa poses crucial questions about achieving a “sustainable” future. He then pushes further to define sustainability. But can we probe deeper still? Can we eclipse “economic growth” and “gross domestic product” to achieve a model of “sufficiency” instead?Mr. Habayeb writes on GE’s blog:

I take pride in  knowing that the company I represent has had a long history of protecting the environment and still is a steadfast believer in doing all we can to promote a sustainable environment for the future. Ecomagination has guided the development of our products by putting into practice our belief that financial and environmental performances are complimentary. This belief is fundamental to what defines us as General Electric.

But he notes that sustainability is not only an environmental concern. It is also an economic concern. He reminds us to take stock of a series of irresponsible and unsustainable economic decisions that caused widespread economic collapse. Which is good.

Cause for pause was his casual use of the word growth.

“True sustainable growth lies in achieving sustainability in the economy as well as society,” he wrote.

While growth is the standard by which we currently measure the wealth and health of a society, and though this economic model pulled us out of a listless pre-industrial era, it has also promised us a growth in greenhouse gases, floods, and temperatures, as well as a reduction in biodiversity, food production, and water resources.

The Post Carbon Institute (TPCI), made up of a collection of 29 leading experts on climate change and transition, argue that we need to veer away from the growth model and prepare for an energy downturn instead. If we do this intelligently, we need not stock up on canned foods and huddle together in a bullet-proof basement, because we can still enjoy quality of life.

Mr. Habayeb adds:

But I believe that technology alone is never enough. Over 60% of MENA’s population is under the age of 25. This concentration of youthful vigor represents a huge reservoir of untapped human resource and talent. To help the region achieve true sustainability, it is important to empower MENA’s youth through knowledge sharing and technology transfer. Who better to draft the blueprint for the region’s sustainable future than its people?

We couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Our youth stand to lose the most as their future is compromised by poor political judgment – both past and present. They must be empowered. But why not provide a model that emphasizes not only clean energy, but energy efficiency and conservation, a model that aims not to engorge itself but to achieve what TPCI claims is all we really need: sufficiency.

:: Post Carbon Institute and GE Blogs

More on General Electric in the Middle East:

Turkey’s Smart New Connection to Europe

GE Ecomagination Centre in Masdar City

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