Can USA provide all the solutions?

MANAGEMENT FOR A SMALL PLANET W Edward Stead and Jean Garner Stead Publisher: Sage Publications, London Price: $36 (Hardback); $17.95 (Paperback)

By Nitya Jacob
Published: Thursday 15 July 1993

THAT A capitalist USA wants to share with the world its ideas for cleaner businesses comes clearly through in Management for a Small Planet. The message: We have made mistakes and botched up the world's environment. So, beware the pitfalls of blind industrialisation that have made the US environment the people's greatest enemy. We live in a global village and what we do impinges on the eco-rights of our Northern neighbours.

While the scene is grim enough to make any manager sit up and take note, the reader is left feeling all the world's ecological problems and solutions lie with that overgrown island, the US. There is the stray reference to environmental problems in distant lands, caused of course by native mismanagement. But only managers in the US have the maturity to learn from mistakes.

From a bombastic introduction on what ails the environment, the authors lead gradually into their recipe for managing a small planet. The book is divided into three sections, and the first deals with environmental problems the planet faces today. The second examines the concepts required to understand what the earth is all about and ways to link this to environmental decision-making and economic growth. Also discussed are fallacies of the current economic paradigm and ideas for new patterns. The last section elaborates on these and their adaptation for use on a small planet.
New paradigm The new paradigm has to do with openness, flexibility, quality of work life, social awareness and ecological sustainability, all words that have entered the lexicon of the 1990s manager. But it has to go a long way before it develops fully. Managers have yet to include systems such as communities, consumers, employees and individuals into their paradigm. E Fritz Schumacher, who is touted as one of the world's greatest reformist economists, is a proponent of the new paradigm. According to the authors, he provides one of the first complete frameworks for making strategic decisions within the limits of a small planet.

But the book is long on quotations and analyses drawn from them and short on original comment. It is more a compendium of views on alternative management than a definitive statement on managing businesses on the earth. Nowhere is it clarified what these limits are. What the book could do is make business managers sit up in their overstuffed chairs and take a new, hard look at the existing way of doing things, so that there is a qualitative shift in their attitude towards exploiting the world's resources for private gain.

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