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Sustainable technologies do not exist!

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  • René Kemp

    (Maastricht University)

Abstract

Innovation and sustainable development are broad, general concepts with positive connotations which are widely used in the social sciences, but usually in an ambiguous, imprecise way. This paper examines various definitions and meanings of sustainability as a preliminary step in analysing sustainable technologies. The term “sustainable technologies” is actually incorrect since sustainable development is not a question of technology or organisation regarding the sustainability of firms but rather a systemic matter. It is wrong to consider certain technologies as sustainable because it is physically impossible for a technology to have no impact at all on the environment: all production and consumption actions have environmental impacts. “Innovation for sustainable development” is a complex idea, due to the opposing requirements (for support and control) that it entails. Innovation policy must take a systemic outlook regarding innovation that combines benefits for users and for society as a whole.

Suggested Citation

  • René Kemp, 2010. "Sustainable technologies do not exist!," EKONOMIAZ. Revista vasca de Economía, Gobierno Vasco / Eusko Jaurlaritza / Basque Government, vol. 75(04), pages 22-39.
  • Handle: RePEc:ekz:ekonoz:2010403
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Sartorius, Christian, 2006. "Second-order sustainability--conditions for the development of sustainable innovations in a dynamic environment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 268-286, June.
    2. Annemarie van Zeijl-Rozema & Ron Cörvers & René Kemp & Pim Martens, 2008. "Governance for sustainable development: a framework," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(6), pages 410-421.
    3. Smith, Adrian & Stirling, Andy & Berkhout, Frans, 2005. "The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1491-1510, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    sustainable development; system innovation; sustainable technologies;

    JEL classification:

    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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