In an interesting representation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,
Francis Kinsman in his book Millennium, considers the division of
society into three principal categories - ‘sustenance driven’, ‘outer
directed’ and ‘inner directed’; an analysis first introduced by the
Research Institute of Social Change over 20 years ago.
People in the ‘sustenance driven’ group struggle to meet their basic
needs. They are mostly poor, underprivileged and excluded from main
stream societal decision making. Their immediate priority is to
maintain, or better still, improve their quality of life. Over half the
world’s population would be classed as ‘sustenance driven’.
‘Outer directed’ people have all their basic needs met and are
motivated by their perceived, relative societal status. In a western
style society this means they not only enjoy the materialistic benefits
afforded by modern technology but they literally revel in them. In fact,
in their eyes, status in society is directly measured in terms of the
external signs of economic affluence. Basically they are self centred
people who could quite afford not to be so.
‘Inner directed’ people are much more values driven, demonstrating a
considered inner sense of purpose. They are generally sensitive to
ethical concerns and tolerant of alternative cultures. Their purchasing
patterns and lifestyles reflect their more compassionate nature.
Since the 1970’s market researchers have polled the general public to
measure the percentage distribution between these three main social
classifications. The analysis is often further refined into a larger
number of groupings namely: aimless, survivors, belongers, conspicuous
consumers, experimentalists, social resisters and self-explorers.
|Date||Country||Source||Sustenance Driven||Outer Directed||Inner Directed|
Table 2. Various societal value profiles
So what does all this have to do with sustainable development and
eco-efficiency? In order to answer this question we now consider the
premise that both the speed of adoption, and ultimate effectiveness, of
eco-efficiency measures are directly affected by these social values.
The ‘sustenance driven’ are essentially, though not exclusively, people
whose lives are dominated by the basic needs of survival. They are
unlikely to be engaged by the imperatives of sustainable development,
and even if they were would probably consider it the role of the better
off to adapt their lifestyles first.
The population of very poor countries are likely to lie almost
exclusively in the ‘sustenance driven’ category. For them the essential
development of secure and healthy housing, stable, sufficient food
supplies and modern water, sewage and communication infrastructures,
will take top priority and are unlikely to be impacted significantly by
eco-efficiency gains - partly because these items are often highly
material intensive, partly because new, cleaner technologies are usually
more expensive in the short run and partly because eco-efficiency
measures are often (but by no means exclusively) applicable to more
highly sophisticated consumer items.
‘Inner directed’ people are likely to be much more in tune with the
concepts and goals of sustainable development. As such they will
welcome, adopt and support moves towards eco-efficiency. This will be
reflected not only through their purchasing decisions, but also through
the ballot box and their changing lifestyles.
‘Outer directed’ people on the other hand will at best be indifferent
to eco-efficiency measures and at worst actively vote against them,
especially where they might be related to economic instruments designed
to alter consumption patterns. In addition, where eco-efficiency
provides a capacity to consume less the ‘outer directed’ are likely to
exploit and absorb these gains for personal benefit - the so called
rebound effect. In most cases this uptake of released capacity will be
subconsciously exploited but nevertheless it is likely to be both
significant and directly related to the values of this social group. The
boxed detail, shown on the next page, offers a couple of examples of the
environmental rebound effect.
Curve (c) in figure 2 (section eco-efficiency) incorporates these considerations into the planetary impact model based on the following additional assumptions and approximations:
- eco-efficiency gains will have no effect in the 'sustenance driven' value group;
- nations where the average GDP per head is below $5,000 will be 100% 'sustenance driven';
- eco-efficiency gains will have maximum effect in the 'inner directed' value group;
- there will be a 50% rebound effect in the 'outer directed' value group;
- nations where the average GDP per head is above $5,000 take the value group distribution reported for the USA in table 2;
The effect is clear and significant. The inclusion of this particular social dimension profile has reduced the eco-efficiency gain by half, leaving us with an overall ecological impact of six planets.
It may be argued that applying a dated USA profile to all developed nations is inappropriate given the very high percentage of 'outer directed'. However, taking the average UK profile from table 2 has a similar result because of the relatively higher proportion of 'sustenance driven'.
All aspects of this modeling could be challenge. The purpose though is not to provide an exact representation of the future, but rater to illustrate in a quantitative fashion the significant effect the social dimension can play in achieving sustainable development through technological eco-efficiency.