GIFT's Founder and CEO, Chandran Nair’s newest book: The Sustainable State: The Future of Government, Economy and Society has been published by American publisher Berrett-Koehler, and has just been released on 9 October 2018.

Drawing upon themes first explored in Consumptionomics: Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet, Chandran's latest book dives deeper into what the non-Western world will need to do to resolve the coming sustainability challenge. 


Book Launch Events


Chandran Nair will be speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on March 15th, from 12:00 to 2:00pm.

In his latest book, The Sustainable State, Chandran Nair shows that the market-dominated model followed by the industrialized West is simply not scalable. The United States alone, with less than 5 percent of the world's population, consumes nearly a quarter of its resources. If countries in Asia, where 60 percent of the world's population lives, try to follow the western lead, the results will be calamitous. Instead, Nair argues that development must be directed by a state that is willing and able to intervene in the economy. Corporations, which demand ever-expanding consumption, need to be directed toward meeting societal needs or otherwise restrained, not unleashed. Development needs to be oriented toward the greatest good—clean drinking water for the many has to take precedence over swimming pools for the few. 

Nair provides three compelling case studies demonstrating the benefits of such strong state governance and the failings of weak state governance. This will mean rethinking the meaning of concepts such as prosperity, freedom, and rights and whether democracy is always the best way to ensure responsive government. As Nair writes, "A democracy that cannot work to improve the life of its citizens is not better than a non-democracy that can actually improve quality of life." Many people will find these to be challenging ideas, but what Nair offers is a model suited to the realities of the developing world, not the assumptions of the dominant culture.

Registration starts at 11:30, and the programme starts at noon. Chandran will be signing books from 1:00 onwards.


A tough task awaits governments, convincing a skeptical public that simplicity is more rewarding than prosperity that destroys our world and home. Nair’s timely book is a valuable service towards persuading a cynical public.
— YaleGlobal
In his new book, The Sustainable State, think tank founder Chandran Nair argues that the state, democratic or otherwise, may be the only institution capable of leading an effort to deal with climate change.
— Andrew Sheng in the SCMP
Collectively, planet Earth needs to get behind the idea that the growth of the physical economy cannot continue forever, and must find different models to live by. Nair is right in saying that in order to survive, society must limit mass consumption and increase material efficiency and equity, while giving high priority to internalizing negative environmental externalities. It’s up to the next generation’s leaders to actualize the solutions.
— The Asian Review of Books
In his latest book, The Sustainable State, Nair has set himself an ambitious task – to redefine the contemporary state in terms of its responsibility to the environment, and ultimately, the survival of the species.
— Alex Lo in the SCMP

PAst Book Launch Events

Our book launch in Hong Kong was a great success! Please enjoy some photos from a night of vibrant discussion and debate. Our sincere thanks to Metta for hosting us, and to Zoher Abdoolcarim, former Asia Editor for Time Magazine, for acting as interviewer and moderator.

Stay tuned for more book launch events in your country or city!


When it comes to sustainability, the developing world (unlike mature economies) faces a dilemma. Both advanced and developing economies need to become much more sustainable given the challenges of the 21st Century (e.g. peak population, climate change, increasingly scarce resources, and so on). However, the developing world has yet to achieve a basic standard of living for all its people. The development models available to them (based off a Western experience) all rely on the overuse of resources and over-consumption, but these options will no longer be appropriate in a more resource constrained world. When it comes to sustainable development, developing countries need to achieve both sustainability and development. But under current models, developing countries can only achieve either sustainability or development.

It is strong state governance, with its legitimacy, accountability and authority, that is the foundation upon which strong global and local governance is built, and it is the only viable pathway to sustainability for the developing world. What is necessary is a “sustaining state”: one which preserves public and common goods to ensure that all citizens receive the basic “rights of life” through the equal and fair access of resources.

A strong state is the best vehicle for governance if the developing world is to achieve a universal basic standard of living without dooming the planet. This strong state will have an active and consistent government presence in the economy to resolve the system-wide market failure that encourages overconsumption, and will directly act to provide basic needs to a wide population.

You can order your copy from Amazon.

Chandran Nair has been discussing his views on the role of the state in sustainability at summits and in mainstream publications for several years.

Chandran debates against the motion "Business Should Take the Lead in Driving Sustainable Growth for Asia" at the 2013 Singapore Human Capital Summit.

Chandran has often written on the need to challenge traditional free-market approaches to sustainable development. A few recent examples are below:

Praise for The Sustainable State

The book has received positive reception in the region’s business and political circles, and has been endorsed by academic and public intellectuals alike.

“Chandran Nair asks difficult questions and offers bold, provocative answers. One may disagree with his answers but has to admire his willingness to tackle thorny problems. These pages open our eyes to some of the most urgent problems facing humanity. A must-read.” —Moisés Naím, Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and author of The End of Power

“Nair is saying it when others are shying away. Liberal democracies and capitalist markets have not helped mankind to achieve sustainable development. These are the rich countries of the world – the biggest of which don’t believe in too much regulation. In developing economies, competing thoughts have emerged that argue for the necessity of comprehensive state intervention. Nair gives us a fulsome narrative to consider this crucial debate that has finally dawned.” —Ms. Christine Loh, Former Under-Secretary for the Environment in Hong Kong (2012-17)

“Nair shows that more than ever, state capacity matters for sustainable prosperity, and this is precisely the Achilles’ heel of most of the developing world.” —Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound, The Difficulty of Being Good, and India Grows at Night

“Much of our current understanding of the nature of the state and its role comes from Western experience, eg, Westphalia, Industrial Revolution, the Cold War, Internet. But this is not what government and good governance means to most people outside of the West. Chandran Nair’s ground-breaking book tries to explain from the non-Western perspective what governments can and must do for the global majority in an era of resource constraints.”—Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Investigation Commission

“First with Consumptionomics, now with The Sustainable State, Chandran Nair describes an alternative path and meaning of progress: governance, when good, is an essential antidote to irresponsible, injurious capitalism and individual license. This is a book for our times.” —Zoher Abdoolcarim, former Asia Editor, Time

Praise for Consumptionomics

"Two virtually certain major trends will create a massive global collision. First, Asian living standards will rise spectacularly. This is good. Second, Asians will replicate Western consuming patterns. This is bad. How do we gain the good and avoid the bad? This will be one of the biggest questions of the twenty-first century. Chandran Nair's book could not be timelier. We need to seriously address the major questions that he raises and heed his valuable advice." Kishore Mahbubani, former Singapore Ambassador to UN and author of Can Asians Think? and The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East

"Terrifying, but terrific! Consumptionomics is an outstanding analysis of what the rise of Asia means for our world. Chandran makes an incredibly compelling argument about why business (i.e. consumption) as usual just won't do. Rather than acting as an impediment to growth for the region, addressing this issue head-on becomes an opportunity to innovate and shift towards a low-carbon economy, growing even more, faster and better."José-Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, and former MD of the World Economic Forum

“He doesn’t say it but Nair is describing a kind of Asian Norway, with the benefits of natural resources controlled and socialised to a high degree, rural communities subsidised to keep people on the land, fisheries protected, a high commitment to energy efficiency and high taxation to support high levels of social welfare.”—Financial Times.