Updated 2021 June 16
INTRODUCTION b There is available, in many sources (internet based and non-internet based) commentary criticizing the major corporations and leading nations in their drive for competitiveness.

This drive for competitiveness (through harvesting practices) has created vulnerable situations for

  • water management 
    • (river and lakes drying up)
  • agriculture 
    • soil erosion (caused by large scale mining and tree harvesting)
    • soil depletion requiring excessive use of fertilizers and other chemicals
  • metals and mining
    • rare metals such as Cobalt are being dug out and used for advanced smartphones - and the mining of such minerals has large effects on the land and wildlife where these mines are located, such as the jungles of the Congo where gorillas live
  • forestry 
    • trees being cut down at a rate faster than replanting and regrowth
It is hard to be objective on this issue since some people claim we have reached a point in the history of the planet where the existence of the human species is at risk!! The topic of sustainable development, has become increasingly "public" as a news topic and therefore important for students in international business.



Harvesting practices Discussion (May 10th 2012) about the meaning of the phrase 
"harvesting practices"
a Definition b "'Sustainable development is 
development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs."

these exact words come from an Australian website but the phrase is repeated worldwide in various forms by companies and government agencies that deal with this topic.


 . A video made by student Stephanie F. in MGTC46 discussing Wal-Mart in the context of sustainable development
- food labelled "organic" - is it really organic
- seafood labelled "sustainable" ???
- illegal logging - Wal-Mart said it would remove wood products from its supply chain that were logged illegally - did it?

Video produced 2011 Jan

ff A video made by Prof. Richardson discussing sustainable development in the context of farmland and urbanization - as influenced by the competitve pressures brought by globalization.

Video produced 2009 Feb 02



you may find it interesting to read
link was
"Is Globalization Undermining the Prospects for Sustainable Development? "
 by Martin Khor - written 10 years ago in 1997 !!

"The ecological crises that threaten the survival of Earth continue to unfold at breakneck speed under the influence of commercial interests, driven even further by the competitive pressures of globalization. At the same time, the globalization process pits company against company, country against country and individuals against one another.... five years after Rio Summit, the process of globalization linked to liberalization has gained so much force that it has undermined and is undermining the sustainable development agenda. Commerce
 and the perceived need to remain competitive in a globalizing market and to pamper and cater to the demands of companies and the rich have become the top priorities of governments in the North and some in the South"

"The major reason is that in the five years after Rio, [1992] the process of globalization linked to liberalization has gained so much force that it has undermined and is undermining the sustainable development agenda. Commerce and the perceived need to remain competitive in a globalizing market and to pamper and cater to the demands of companies and the rich have become the top priorities of governments in the North and some in the South"

Forestry trade




"China's illicit trade in tropical lumber" - Sustainability
was the title of a Globe and Mail report 2007 April 18th 
by journalist Geoffrey York

York writes
"the smuggling will soon lead to the extinction of the last stocks of merbau, a slow-growing tropical hardwood tree that has become one of North America's most prized sources of luxury wood products, especially hardwood flooring. Merbau trees, which reach a height of 50 metres, can take up to 80 years to mature. Their richly textured reddish-brown timber can contain yellow specks that make it seem to be flecked with gold. Even at official rates of logging, the merbau will be largely gone within 35 years, but the illegal logging will drastically accelerate its extinction"
pic from

York describes
"After a dramatic rise in illegal logging in the late 1990s, Indonesia banned the export of raw logs in 2001. But the report found that Chinese importers are evading the ban by importing "squared logs" -- logs with a small amount of superficial trimming -- and declaring them as "sawn timber," which is legally permitted. In other cases, China simply imports the Indonesian logs in clear violation of the ban, without even trying to conceal the fact. "


pic supplied by Stephanie

Prof. WTGR holding his copy of Maclean's, taking the opportunity to remind all students to read the newspaper on a regular basis, and reading a major news magazine is also good too.

Student Stephanie F. in MGTC46 at UTSC in 3rd week of January 2011, emailed to say

I was doing some reading before your class on sustainable development and in that section of the website, you mostly talked about illegal deforestation, or exacerbating the natural resources that mother nature has given us for mere profit. However, something that hits closer to home, is in regards to the expansion of highways in Toronto. Usually when building highways, it includes mass deforestation and disturbances to natural ravines, estuaries and water reserves that are really damaging to the ecosystem. Most people feel that highway infrastructure expansion is necessary for "development" I believe that the city should be looking towards other alternatives such as increase buses (which takes about 30-60 cars off the roads, minimizing emissions) rather than building more highways to try to lower travel and idling times during traffic hours. 

Most people may think that highways are necessary for agricultural health or global development (because of transportation) and therefore improving businesses. In a ways, yes it does improve transportation costs to have a more efficient and most direct route available. But also to consider, highways normally lead to big-box stores, malls and large shopping centers. These places of retail are normally foreign-owned stores and does nothing for local businesses. In fact, one can even argue that because of new highways, smaller family owned businesses are suffering as a result.

Thus, I think that the best option in terms of transportation for global developed economies is to lower the usage of cars, and increase the efficiency of transit systems so more people will use it. Giving nature, forest and natural bodies of water, a chance to sustain the animals and creatures living inside it.
WTGR replies

Steph, I appreciate your sensitivity to the issue, and, unfortunately, it will be your generation that deals with the consequence of the "consumerism" evangelized by my generation. I also think your comments are timely since the cover of Maclean's magazine this week (Jan 17th 2011) features the topic of Toronto as having the worst traffic in North America.



"Indonesia's forests are being destroyed faster than any on Earth. A forest area the size of six football fields disappears every minute, In total, Indonesia has already lost more than 72% of its large intact ancient forest areas and 40% of its forests have been completely destroyed."

posted on 2007 April

Globalization, some specific examples of the consequences for the Environment

photo by WTGR, Pefferlaw Creek, near Udora


In 3rd week of January, 2011, student Lynne G. in MRK 460 at Seneca sent a fairly detailed and informative email commenting on "what some Canadian companies are doing to conserve or curb their consumption"

Lynne wrote
"After our in-class conversation regarding "water" being one of the world's most important commodities, I looked into what some Canadian companies are doing to conserve or curb their consumption and found this great 2010 Sustainability Report from Suncor Energy that discusses how the company is trying to reclaim and return water from their mining processes into the Athabasca River.

They claim that under their new Oil Sands Water Management Plan, "All of our wastewater will either be recycled in our operations or cleaned up and safely returned to the river. This, in turn, will reduce our reliance on fresh water and should allow us to live within our current water license allocations, even as oil sands production rates continue to grow.""

Lynne added "I am not certain if Suncor's Water Management Plan is entirely driven by regulatory restrictions, but the company appears to have recently (2010) incorporated an Environmental Excellence Strategy into their annual operations planning, in order to align corporate goals with environmental initiatives.  Two major parts of the plan involve water management and development of new technologies to help reduce the solidification time of tailing ponds. "

WTGR replies
Thanks Lynne, you have found a good example of how companies are responding to public pressure to consider sustainability activities as part of their production of goods and services. 

Greece, Mykonos


In 3rd week of January, 2011, student Yuliya F. in MRK 460 at Seneca sent an interesting email about how the fires in Greece in 2010 are related to converting the land from designated farm land to housing

Yuliya wrote
"I was reading about Sustainable Development on your website and it made me think of the fires in Greece in 2010 and about how the pressures of housing (social and cultural environment) can affect countries all over the world. In this case the high demand for resort and vacation homes in touristic countries like Greece and the extreme measures land developers would go through just to make a profit. Here are some interesting articles I have found in regards to this matter.
this is a quote from this article:
"Because Greece still lacks a land registry covering the whole is easy to have burned land reclassified as farmland, which can then be sold for development. And in many places local officials are open to bribery to ease the issuing of planning permits without asking too many questions. Politicians often declare an amnesty for illegal buildings ahead of an election."

Another article on Greece fire in July 2010

"Wildfires are an ever recurring nightmare for Greece, which has to deal with the issue every summer. Whether they are sparked accidentally or by arsonists who want to clear land for development, wildfires cause severe economical damage every year and have caused casualties in the past."

WTGR replies
Thanks Yuliya, this serves as an interesting international example of the creative, and destructive ways people avoid rules and regulations in order to continuing developing. Mining for large amounts of cobalt - a metal used in making cell phones and other high tech devices, has caused extreme damage to the environment in centra Africa and effected thousands of lives.

There are many articles in newspapers and magazines, online and offline that explain the effect of unsustainable mining on the jungle and how the conflict has resulted in many Africans being killed by violence, or poisoned by pollution from the mining of cobalt.


Madelaine Drohan
wrote an article in The Star 2004 Nov 21 about the environmental consequences of the cobalt mining in the Congo.
"Poisoned water, poisoned air"

"Congo is in the grip of a massive, unregulated cobalt rush. Demand from China, in particular, has quadrupled the price of cobalt in the last year, prompting anyone able to wield a pick and shovel to join in the frenzy. In a country still devastated by war, there are few other ways to earn a living. So, dressed in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, an estimated 60,000 people go out each day to mine the fabled riches of the Congo by hand. ...In their desperation, they go wherever they think they can find cobalt, even if that means digging the radioactive soil at Shinkolobwe, where it is found in combination with uranium. An estimated 7,000 miners work at the mine. In its recent report, Rush And Ruin: The Devastating Mineral Trade In Southern Katanga DRC, the London-based activist group Global Witness said the cobalt trade is ruining the Congo's economy and environment, and the livelihoods of its people....It is not just the miners who are in danger. Transporting radioactive cobalt ore in open trucks spreads the dust along the roadside..."

journalist Madelaine Drohan is the author of Making A Killing: How Corporations Use Armed Force To Do Business.

Madelaine Drohan emailed Richardson Nov 23rd 2004 to say "...I'm really pleased you found the article useful and I'd be happy if you shared it with your students...."

What is cobalt

What is cobalt
used for

"Cobalt is a brittle, hard, transition metal with magnetic properties similar to those of iron."

"Cobalt is a naturally occurring element found in rocks, soil, water, plants, and animals. Cobalt is used to produce alloys used in the manufacture of aircraft engines, magnets, grinding and cutting tools, artificial hip and knee joints. Cobalt compounds are also used to color glass, ceramics and paints, and used as a drier for porcelain enamel and paints."

"high cobalt prices, caused predominantly by China’s huge demand for the metal for use in mobile phone batteries"

"most of the world reserves lie in Congo"

commentary on the violence and war in the Congo region as a consequence of the competition for access to mining Colbalt

" It is a key component in the batteries developed for new fuel-saving hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic...The Cobalt Development Institute in the United Kingdom estimates that global demand for cobalt, which was 43,000 tonnes in 2003, will soar to 130,000 tonnes by 2020."

Globalization, some specific examples of the consequences for terrorism and nuclear proliferation
Todd Pitman
Congo ban doesn't end work at old uranium mine site
Pitman wrote a story in June 2004, which was widely carried in many newspapers, about the old uranium mines in the Congo that are being exploited by people trying to sell to international buyers
Pitman writes "Business is booming in the mining zone that supplied uranium for the atomic bombs unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – despite a decree by Congo's president banning all mining activity here.

President Joseph Kabila ordered the zone closed three months ago amid growing concerns that unregulated nuclear materials could get into the hands of so-called rogue nations or terrorist groups. Yet 1,000 miles away from the capital, Kinshasa, thousands of diggers are still hacking away at a dark cavity of open earth in this southeastern village, filling thousands of burlap sacks a day with black soil rich in cobalt, copper – and radioactive uranium."

Pitman says "The illegal mining provides stark evidence of how little control Africa's third-largest nation has over its own nuclear resources, highlighting the government's lack of authority beyond the capital in the aftermath of Congo's devastating 1998-2002 war.

"They're digging as fast as they can dig, and everyone is buying it," John Skinner, a mining engineer in the nearby town of Likasi, said of the illegal freelance mining at Shinkolobwe. "The problem is that nobody knows where it's all going. There is no control." 

. Student Tushar C. in MGTC46 in Jan 2011 at UTSC sent an email in which he noted finding a useful video talking about how things are made - which, if you understand this, can help you understand the background to globalization and the pressures in sustain able development.

Tushar wrote
"Professor Richardson,

I was on your website doing some reading on the sustainable development topic and remembered an interesting video that I watched in my elective course "Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development". The video is called The Story of Stuff  storyofstuff.comand provides a clever and in-depth overview of the consumerist society and how it effects the environment, while making relationships to sustainable development. 

Stuff Tushar continues
There is different chapters and it is 20 minutes in length, so if you get a chance, please check it out because I think it would add a strong media element that you might be able to encorporate to the unit if you'd like.

When watching this video last semester, it definately helped me understand the overall picture and this understanding might help facilitate other students as well in their understanding of how businesses can either take advantage or lose a competitive advantage in the future. "

WTGR replies
I agree, I watched it and it is very informative and I recommend it for students

Prof. W. Tim G. Richardson
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License (see )

- this means other professors and teachers and students can use my stuff for teaching and learning without having to ask first
- it would be nice if you identified me as the source, just refer to