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Allmende: The Tragedy Of The Commons and How To Overcome It

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

The tragedy of the commons, or in German the Tragik der Allmende, is a situation which can be considered metaphorically through social sciences, literally in environmental science but also adapted to the business world. At the core of it is a common resource that could suffer from the clash between self-interest and the common good. However, it is possible to overcome this dilemma through various efforts to ensure beneficial results, which will be detailed later.



The concept originated from British economist William Foster Lloyd but became widely known through American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin in 1968. The meaning of ‘commons’ was taken to imply any shared and mainly unregulated resource, such as oceans, air, fish stocks and land. The tragedy of the commons by Garrett Hardin mainly referred to human population growth and the use of natural resources of Earth and these pressing issues are still present in the 21st century.


In Allmende’s interpretation, the common resource is our Earth, depleted for short-term interest, such as using non-renewable sources for energy, while also causing pollution. Instead of having people act independently by their own self-interest, we unite forward-thinking business leaders who are committed to sustainable development. We believe that by combining a sustainable strategy with social innovation, the private sector can step up and drive growth and prosperity.


With socio-economic business transformations, taking the individual as well as group interests of the general public into account, the negative consequences of exploiting common property could be diminished. Business models need to work for the many, not only for the few, treating the ecosystem with respect and dignity, while also leveraging resources and talents for a higher purpose - one beyond the accumulation of wealth.


The tragedy of the commons in environmental science can also be brought to the business world, to keep in mind when constructing an agenda for sustainable development. A powerful solution to overcome the strategy is to collectively take a stand to ensure mutual and individual benefits, without exploiting natural resources when government regulation is missing on that regard.


A notable effort by the United Nations aims to ensure environmental sustainability with 17 Sustainable Development Goals, ratified in September 2015 and to be accomplished by 2030. Among these goals, which are vital for the future of our planet and society, are affordable and clean energy, innovation and infrastructure, responsible consumption and production, decent work economic growth and partnerships for the goals.

Allmende supports the United Nation’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, leveraging core principles of the newest academic findings, shared potential of some of the most forward-thinking companies and the high potential of a new generation of entrepreneurs.

The cornerstones of a good business that stands out from the competition were identified as the purpose, the shared vision, the shared values of the company, and sustainability, further emphasizing the need for development that does not compromise the needs of future generations for shared resources, but serves the common good.


A brand purpose encompasses the reason for the company’s existence, how it serves the society in terms of long-term benefits, rather than individual interests. A shared vision is important to foster commitment, moving leaders and teams to work toward a common goal, rather than acting independently without a clear common vision.

Having a shared value makes sure the economic and social values align, creating a competitive advantage and driving innovation, while improving the life of the communities. And last but not least, combining all mentioned components with a sustainable strategy concludes the holistic approach of Allmende on being a good business, ensuring the survival of the common resource, our planet Earth.


Development strategies incorporating the bottom line of People, Planet and Profit create success that is sustainable in the long run, that is our belief. Hence we adapted the name of Allmende to refer to the common land in German but imply more of a mindset, striving for empowering business leaders of today and tomorrow to overcome the tragedy of the commons by driving socio-economic transformation leading to growth and prosperity.


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