May 25th, 2011
04:51 AM GMT
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(CNN) – We all know that superheroes save the world, but maybe we need to reassess what they look like. Imagine a superhero wearing a suit - a business suit that is, rather than the caped variety.

At St James's Palace in London this week, Prince Charles gave an interesting and provocative speech as he received an honorary degree from London Business School. He is a champion of sustainable business, and practices what he preaches with his own line of food products. He is not the superhero in this story but he thinks business leaders could be our saviors.

His Royal Highness warns, rather gloomily, that the threat of environmental collapse risks causing an economic crash "which is far more dramatic and far harder to recover from than anything we have experienced over the past few years." He says we need to rethink the very economic model that Brits, and the West, take for granted.

Prince Charles points to current levels of consumption and growth: "Fewer than two billion people can live the way we do and fewer than six billion at the income levels such as in Brazil and China. And yet we fondly expect to be nine billion people by mid-century. Now I would suggest the sums don't add up. Capitalism depends on capital but our capital ultimately depends on the health of nature's capital and, whether we like it or not, the two are in fact inseparable."

His Royal Highness said it's not simply a question of business ethics and doing the right thing on so called green issues: "This is actually about the very survival of our economic system and all that it has done to promote wealth, development and comfort for so many millions of people for so many years."

He's not saying the west should ditch capitalism altogether but that capitalism needs to adapt. He wants the private sector to work with governments, NGOs and local communities and recognize its overriding responsibility for the maintenance of natural capital and not taking it for granted. The free market reigns supreme, says Prince Charles, and business needs to rise to the challenge. More than that he says the challenge can only be addressed by business.

To ecology and beyond! But is he right to say business needs to take the lead in saving us from environmental disaster?

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Matt

    He's obviously spruiking the depopulation agenda that so many elites do.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  2. SmarterthanU

    He's brilliant. After seeing his documentary on his environmental mission, you can appreciate why he has been blessed with time. Prince Charles has taken a world cause and has actually created a solution that arises from the root of the problem. Working with today, he understands the future. Much respect to him and the legacy he will leave, only to be appreciated over time. 'My hats are off to you sir'.... and this comes from a Global citizen from thousands miles away from you land. Your passion, cause and focus is true.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  3. Hashim

    Great personality, and very caring to mother earth and humanity. God bless you.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  4. chris

    Long live our glorious sovereign

    May 25, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  5. John Dyer

    He's absolutely correct. This issue must be addressed thoroughly and urgent otherwise our descendants will regard us as the most selfish generation. But it's also up to us to take responsibility for own own actions. For example, are we flying without really good cause – vacations certainly aren't a 'good cause'. If we care about our children and grandchildren we must change our behaviour now and not come up with silly thoughts like 'I don't believe in climate change'. This might help to control your guilt now but, sooner or later, you'll come to realise what you have collaborated to ruin the future for those who you care about.

    May 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  6. Brad Mulley

    Bravo Prince Charles – the next time you meet with world business leaders, please make sure to remind them that government regulation does not always equal a burden but often leads to innovation and bigger profits...there are plenty of real world examples! Take the 1970s fueld standards in the US for example..

    May 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  7. Subir Dhar


    Really appreciate his point of view. Its time that we take urgent steps to stabilize the global population, and focus our efforts to improve the lives of all the people.

    In the last couple of years, people were led to believe that increase in population is a sort of boon for a country, and strive to keep the average age low- and so the Population Control plans around the world (especially the developing world) were shelved.

    Time to reconsider the GDP mindset across the world!

    May 25, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  8. deepwater805

    It's good thing that the boys look like their mother, because...damn....

    May 25, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  9. rk

    Finally somebody who is talking sense about destruction to the environment because of our economic activities.
    So when are going to change?

    May 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm |


    May 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  11. adam xahir, maldives

    improve business in worldwide and help poor country

    May 26, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  12. John Howley

    Societies and economies developed when humans figured out how to channel the power of competition into cooperative enterprises such as communities, governments, and corporations. We need to figure out how to foster a new synergy of competition and cooperation that reduces the externalities of waste, pollution, and poverty.

    John Howley

    May 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  13. Sarah Caldwell

    "But is he right to say business needs to take the lead in saving us from environmental disaster?" No, of course, not. Stand back and let someone else take the lead if you're willing to take the risks. #1. No one else comes forward before we've irretrievably wrecked our home–and life (and business) as we've known it can't be conducted. #2. Those who take the lead establish constraints for economic procedures that business finds unacceptable.

    May 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  14. Miriam Hamsa

    The most wise and insightful man at the highest levels – unfortunately all he has is a bully pulpit – but at least he uses it. He has long been at the forefront of many issues regarding sustainability.

    May 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  15. Kme

    Obama is sustaining Chinese employees pretty good. Too bad it's at the expense of US jobs.

    May 29, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  16. Daniel

    HRH the Prince of Wales is saying what ~elected~ leaders are unable to – that economic systems are much in need of an overhaul at a very basic level. Not only Charles but HM the Queen is active in efforts to pioneer new methods of forestry and land conservation in Scotland. The Windsors own Balmoral and its grounds outright, as personal, rather than Crown, properties – and that is what they do with their lands. These people are more than symbols. They think, and think long-term in a manner that few institutions can. And that is what the monarchy is good for.

    May 29, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  17. Pete

    Brilliant Charlie, but none of this applies to your huge farms which have had the hedgerows stripped out of them and are farmed to death. the fact that he has now opened "organic shops" and preaches sustainability is just a cover and the fact that he doesn't have to work at all due to the huge amount of money he gets from the civil list makes his preaching rather hollow to most people in the UK who have to work for a living. I've met this man, he is an idiot of the first order and not to be believed – do you all remember his advice about talking to plants.

    May 29, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  18. dlaurels

    Since it is the businesses that are removing our natural resources from the land in order to make huge profits; I agree with the Prince. Businesses need to be more responsible. And, I know the argument will be that businesses only remove the natural resources that are necessary to maintain life as we know it. However, businesses no longer do R&D to invent other methods. We no longer invent for the future. All, we do is destroy that which was given to us to protect.

    May 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  19. PJOC

    Actually Pete, you need to get your facts straight. Prince Charles gets absolutely nothing from the civil list

    May 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  20. aard

    If only he'd practice what he preaches, and not jet-set around the world, live in big castles, be driven in gas-guzzling limos, etc.

    It would make quite a story if he forsook all those trappings, and instead took a small flat and telecommuted from it (rather than traveling). Video OIP works fine, and he would be leading by example.

    But I guess it's more fun to preach, than it is to practice. Eh, what?

    May 29, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  21. Scott

    The fact that people here seem to be worshipping this man worries me, not the least because his coat of arms has a dragon and a beast on it.

    May 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  22. Where's the door

    I would like to know what considers a sustainable business. By definition, in today's world we expect ever higher profits and increasing sales which require the use of more finite resources to produce. So please, someone tell me what a sustainable business looks like in today's world.

    May 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  23. requiredreading

    I'm not sure on what basis His Highness receives an honorary business degree, but I will assume that he has earned it some way or another, so I will congratulate him. Most likely he has learned the financial necessity for business over his many years of experimenting with sustainable gardening and farming; and most likely he also encountered a personal need for added funds at some point during his life, and he rose to the challenge.
    I don't know whether this degree makes him a hero. Usually the words of a speech don't make up the basis for a reward. Most likely he, like all men, would like to be a hero in some way or other, but I'm not sure why heroism comes into a reward speech. Perhaps it is just a "pressism", ie a needlessly added journalistic aspect.
    As to sustainable business, there are scores of people who have studied the field, and I am not one of them. However, in the odd times when it is mentioned in the general news (or even evening business shows), I wonder if the definition goes beyond the "we need to find ways of..." phrases, or the "we must be involvd in all stakeholders" ideas. Perhaps someone could do research on a sustainable bank...other than the developing country model of one that will invent a better method of wealth creation other than hedge funds, the need to let the profit curve continue to rise, and other than quantitative easing (because I still don't understand how more digital numbers can possibly mean more value...because doesn't it STILL raise food prices? What are the civil revolts all about if not food prices?) I also wonder, if the stock market index is a sustainable method of measuring economic health.
    Finally, would this time in between IMF presidents perhaps be a good time to not race for who (personally or nationally) will hold the oar of power, but instead ask how the process might be made sustainable for everyone concerned...assuming that the Global Players involved are Interested in a sustainable process inside the IMF, and that there is no trace of corruption, ie untoward passing on of money for votes (or other such activities)

    May 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm |


    June 16, 2011 at 9:43 am |

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