Is capitalism and environmental sustainability compatible?Yes or no and explain why.

Expert Answers
enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes. A capitalist economic system provides the freedom necessary for business to operate, allowing them to choose the means of production and distribution for the sake of profit. That does not include the power to violate rights; damaging the environment for the sake of the bottom line is not only bad business, it's illegal.  A wise company is not bound to "profit at all costs," and is aware of the marketplace demands.  It will be, so it can fulfill the market's demands and make a profit.  In the case of environmental sustainability, for example, Toyota makes Priuses because there's a demand for them, and in fulfilling that demand Toyota will make money.  You buy Priuses because you want to save money on gas AND you want to minimize carbon impact on the environment. This is sometimes referred to as "voting with dollars."  However, the critical question is: are you willing to pay more for a Prius than a comparable conventional car?  To generalize, are you willing to pay more for environmentally sound products? The "more that you pay" is the additional cost companies will have to pass on to you the consumer to create sustainability.  If people aren't willing to bear that cost, no economic system will bring it about (and please don't consider having government try to do it through some "quasi-social" program. They're in the process of trying to bail out GM, who caused a good portion of the problem to begin with.)

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If something is not done soon to sustain the environment, there will be no capitalism--or any economic system for that matter because the earth as we know it will cease to exist. One of the reasons that the environment has become such as issue is that it has been more costly to include environmental practices that are cost-effective in production of goods and services. Today, with the environment changing rapidly and the effect of global warming becoming evident, if companies want to survive they will have to find ways of working with the environment or they will be out of business because there will be no one to buy their products. Many people forget that the system of capitalism works not only because people compete in the marketplace, but also that there are large markets in which to compete. When the environmental damage forces economic change, the markets will either change with them or there will be no markets and businesses will die.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Poster 3 makes some good arguments, but I would argue that capitalism and environmental sustainability are not compatible. Capitalism is the free reign of business interests. If something makes money, businesses will do it. They will do whatever they can to reduce costs. It is normally much more expensive to produce a product or service in an environmentally friendly way. There are exceptions. In some cases, businesses produce green products and charge a premium for them, because they are catering to environmentally conscience customers.