Sustainability and the Return of Commerce


As a species, we are as greedy as we are fecund. We have a tendency towards wanting more, sooner. In moderation and isolation, those can be useful traits, the sort of impulses that drive innovation and progress. But we generally lack the ability to limit ourselves to moderation (oh, look, there’s that greedy gene again) and in any case, we do not live in isolation.  

Some have been linking the circumstances that led to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic with profound questions around the sustainability of the way we chose to live on earth: our constant demand for more products, more land, more convenience at almost any price. If you discount conspiracy theories about COVID-19 being a creation released (whether intentionally or by accident) from a Chinese lab, it is possible it isn’t new at all, simply unencountered, until habitat displacement pushed the bats carrying it out of the forests and into our towns.

It seems like a good time, therefore, to look a little more deeply at green business issues in Hungary. Here, too, COVID-19 and the way we work and live are linked. For several years, Hungary’s office buildings have been exclusively built to ever stricter green accreditation standards.

But do we really need them at all? Will the realization we can work from home quite adequately render them surplus to requirements? Or will we still need offices (as one developer and one local head of a major multinational company have both separately told me), if only as a meeting point, a resource center and place for team building and creative interaction?

It is too soon to definitively answer those questions right now, but you will find plenty of food for thought inside, and not just about office life. We also offer you, for example, the seemingly counterintuitive argument that one measure of success for the ongoing campaign to repopulate the Danube with sturgeon will be the return of commercial fishing, albeit on a sustainable level.

The return of commerce is something we all look forward to, and surely no nation more so than Germany, which took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1. According to the website of #EU2020DE, the mission statement for its six-month occupation of the hot seat is a desire to see the EU “emerge from the current crisis stronger, more united and with a new sense of solidarity.” I think we can all say “Amen” to that.

Germany has always been a major player in Hungary’s post-communist economic recovery, a fact based largely on simple geography and initial cost advantages. But there was also an element of gratitude for the role Hungary played in letting East Germans through its borders as the Iron Curtain crumbled, and further back as a place where West and East Germans could meet on the shores of Lake Balaton.

Political relations between Budapest and Berlin might well be frostier nowadays, but there is still plenty of bilateral trade (COVID aside). Since 2014, the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency has negotiated 123 German projects, worth EUR 6.6 billion in FDI volume, and creating 28,000 jobs. As HIPA tells us inside, there are now some 300,000 Hungarians employed in around 6,000 German-owned firms. A good time then, to check in with investors such as Penny Market and Lufthansa Technik and, indeed, the German chamber, celebrating 100 years since the founding of its predecessor body.  

Robin Marshall


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