Lessons in Sustainability: Drawing from Global Practices

The journey towards a sustainable future is diverse, encompassing numerous approaches uniquely customised to individual nations’ distinctive traits and challenges. Notable among these are pioneering strategies implemented by several countries, which have emerged as forerunners in their ground-breaking sustainability efforts.

The European Union: Advocating for a Circular Economy

The European Union (EU) has ardently advocated for the circular economy model, revolutionising conventional consumption and production paradigms. For instance, the Netherlands, a member of the EU, has set the ambitious objective of achieving a 100% circular economy by 2050. To fulfil this, the Dutch government has charted a comprehensive plan covering five key sectors – biomass and food, plastics, manufacturing, construction, and consumer goods. Finland’s “Roadmap to a Circular Economy 2016-2025” strategy likewise signals a holistic multi-sectoral effort to transition from a linear to a circular economy.

Costa Rica: Cultivating Renewable Energy

Costa Rica’s progress in renewable energy is noteworthy. The Reventazon Dam, for example, is Central America’s largest public infrastructure project after the Panama Canal, supplying power to approximately 525,000 homes. The country also hosts various geothermal plants, like the Miravalles Solar Power Plant, the first to exploit Costa Rica’s abundant volcanic energy.

Bhutan: Adopting Gross National Happiness

Bhutan’s adoption of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index as a measure of national development is an innovative initiative. The country’s policy requiring a minimum of 60% forest cover simultaneously demonstrates a powerful commitment to enduring ecological balance.

Kazakhstan: Steering Digitalization

Kazakhstan’s quick digital transformation offers significant insights. For instance, the “Smart Astana” project leverages data and digital technology to improve urban services and quality of life. The e-Government portal and eGov Mobile application have digitised over 80% of public services, enhancing transparency and efficiency.

Dubai: Enhancing Waste-to-Energy and Sustainable Infrastructure

Dubai’s Warsan waste-to-energy project represents an innovative waste management solution. This facility processes large volumes of municipal waste and substantially decreases greenhouse gas emissions, establishing a benchmark for cities tackling waste disposal and energy production. Additionally, the Warsan project highlights Dubai’s leadership in sustainable infrastructure. The facility is equipped to generate 220 megawatt-hours of renewable energy, sufficient to power 135,000 residential units, and can process 2 million tonnes of waste annually without any negative environmental impact. Dubai’s commitment to employing advanced technologies for a sustainable future is evidenced in this unique project.

The Importance of Bilateral Dialogues and Cooperation

While international cooperation is essential, successful sustainable development relies on robust public and private partnerships. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are instrumental in leveraging resources, innovation, and expertise from the private sector while enjoying support and authority from the public sector. These collaborations foster sustainable solutions that are effective and far-reaching.

Notable examples of such collaborations include the Masdar City project in Abu Dhabi, aiming to create one of the world’s most sustainable urban developments, and the EU’s Horizon 2020 Program, which encourages PPPs for research and innovation projects addressing societal challenges.

Transition to a Sustainable Economy

This collaborative approach demands a paradigm shift – from competition to cooperation, short-term profits to long-term sustainability, and solo efforts to integrated solutions. However, this transition to a sustainable economy necessitates more than just population stabilisation and innovative resource productivity and material consumption strides. It also requires curbing aggregate investment.

Given that short-term return optimisation is entrenched in the financial framework, successful investments result in exponential growth in the overall stock of financial capital. When this burgeoning capital is reinvested, it induces mounting demands for natural resources. It adds strain on waste sinks, creating a paradox between the limitless growth of financial capital and the finite biosphere.

Addressing this paradox through a crisis marked by unchecked depletion of natural resources and potentially disastrous environmental harm, or through foresight and corrective action, would mandate significant systemic changes. This includes altering the DNA of finance and accurate investment decisions made by the economy’s major players.

This economic system overhaul entails a fundamental financial transformation and is considered a critical national and global security priority. It will require unparalleled intervention by governing institutions acting on behalf of the public. Policies such as mandatory climate risk disclosure, stricter environmental standards, and incentives for sustainable investment could be pivotal in guiding this transformation.


The road to a sustainable world is a shared journey requiring global unity, dialogue, and cooperation. Learning from diverse practices like the European Union’s circular economy model, Costa Rica’s renewable energy initiatives, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index, Kazakhstan’s digital transformation, and Dubai’s waste-to-energy and sustainable infrastructure efforts is essential.

Furthermore, this journey calls for innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors to promote sustainable practices leading to systemic change. Reorienting our thinking to recognise the power of cooperation and partnerships is crucial to shift from unsustainable practices to a sustainable world. We can forge a more sustainable future for everyone through shared knowledge, collaboration, and collective action.

Dr. Glenn Agung Hole

Thought leader & Chairman of Sustinentia

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