Making viability sustainable
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Conventionally, the neoclassical economic discourse is used to interpret sustainability. Sustainability is regarded as an economic problem and sustainability policies focus on maintaining various forms of capital. This approach is conceptually inadequate and it is unable to recognise or correct systemic non‐sustainability that perpetuates unsustainable behaviour.This thesis challenges the epistemological authority of neoclassical economics as being an appropriate policy framework for creating effective sustainability policy.The extent, significance and persistence of sustainability issues suggest thatremediation is beyond the capacity of conventional policy approaches. The newunderstandings of complexity and uncertainty make new conceptual andmethodological demands on policy makers. The dominance and intransigence ofthe neoclassical economic episteme means that changes towards sustainability aremore than simple reform processes; conceptual and cognitive change is needed.This thesis suggests that economics needs to be, and can be, reconceptualised and reframed within a sustainability‐informed ontology that includes economic, social, cultural and ecological layers. It describes a Viability Analysis framework that accommodates pluralist, multidimensional viability constructs. It proposes a sustainability‐informed system of national accounts in which economic activity is recalibrated with qualitative data within a reconceptualised sustainability‐informed taxonomy of categories. The sustainability‐informed system of national accounts provides policy makers and businesses with information that can be used to steer economic activity towards sustainability paths. Using an opt‐in approach, businesses can qualify for lower tax rates by demonstrating their movement towards sustainability. By framing economics within a sustainability‐informed ontology and accounting narrative, a symbiosis between economics and sustainability is possible so that sustainable behaviour can be economically viable, and economic viability can be sustainable.
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