If pollution prevention is profitable, as the previous chapter has argued, the obvious question is this: why do we still have environmental problems in an economy dominated by the profit motive? The absence of a profit motive might be one explanation for some of the excessive environmental degradation witnessed in the former Communist bloc of Eastern Europe in the years between 1940 and 1989. But surely, in a market economy, the profit motive should ensure that profitable pollution prevention is implemented? So, why is this not the case? Is it the result of market failure? Or are there some other kinds of obstacles to cost-effective environmental protection? Have we already reached the limit of what it is profitable to do? And if so, where must we now turn if we want to develop a sustainable industrial economy?
Answering these questions is going to lead us deeper into the workings of the industrial economy than we have so far had to travel. In the process of this journey, we are going to discover just how demanding the idea of preventive environmental management is. We must also gain some insight into the complex driving forces of the industrial economy. And only by gaining this insight will we be in a position to go beyond the simple platitude that 'pollution prevention pays'.
Before engaging in this crucial exercise, however, we can dismiss the idea that the potential for cost-effective pollution prevention has been fully exploited. Time and again experience has shown that pollution prevention opportunities remain undiscovered until a firm specifically searches for them. The work of US-based INFORM, and the experience described in the previous chapter from a number of recent local case studies, both demonstrate that there is still a considerable untapped potential for pollution prevention. Armed with this knowledge, it is certainly worth making a determined effort to identify obstacles to the realisation of this potential.
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