sold—does not conform with the automobile industry’s assertion that it is interested in sustainable development.
Some believe that innovation and commitment to sustainable development will not occur without deliberate directive policies, stated Ashford. There is an important role for government to provide a solution-focused, technology-based approach to addressing and setting priorities for environmental and public health problems. However, government actions must not rest on the false assumption that cost–benefit analysis, including risk assessment and rational choice theory, is the way to plan public policy. We need to shift attention from problems to solutions.
We need to shift our attention from problems to solutions, from what we are doing to what we can be doing.
Health and the environment do not drive industrial and economic systems. In the United States, trade is considered the engine of economic growth. An economy based on trade tends to keep its industrial plant and sell as much as it can of the old product to the rest of the world.
It cannot be assumed that the industries that have caused the problems are the industries that will come up with the solutions, stated Ashford. Industries that have a technological fix and a narrow view are not capable of displacing themselves in the significant ways needed to achieve sustainable development. Who is going to give us the pollution control device—the pollution control industry, which constitutes half of the environmental export industry in this country? The regulated firm may be able to change some things, but it takes other respondents—new entrants—to displace the products and change the nature of services.
Regulation is another positive force for change. Technological responses to regulation have produced such innovations as end-of-pipe pollution control, changed inputs to production processes, or entirely new products or services. The history of regulation in this country has forced the formation of new technologies, concluded Ashford.
Thus, said Ashford, achieving sustainable production and consumption requires (1) a shift in policy focus from assessing and characterizing problems to designing solutions; (2) an appreciation of the differences between targeting technological innovation and diffusion as a policy goal; (3) the realization that the most desirable technological responses do not necessarily come from the regulated or polluting firms; (4) understanding that comprehensive technological changes are needed that co-optimize productivity, environmental quality, and worker/public health and safety; and (5) an appreciation of the fact that in order to change its technology, a firm must have willingness, opportunity, and capacity to change (Box 5.1).