Why We Need Sustainability

In today’s increasingly competitive business landscape, more and more companies are beginning to realize that sustainable activities can deliver business benefits as well as benefits for the community and environment.

What is sustainability?

In the purest sense of the word, sustainability means “the capacity to endure.” In business, translates to practices that will keep you in it for the long haul. It means setting up a resilient business that will thrive in the long term.

Sustainable businesses generate profit while improving environmental and societal conditions. This includes what they do, as well as how they do it. Making sustainability improvements does mean investing a good chunk of their time and energy. To get good, sustainable results, it is important for the business to analyze their operations and measure performance. This will help them decide which areas to apply sustainability in order to sustain the stated business goals.

You will need to choose the most effective sustainability strategies for the business then plan how to put them in practice. This may require factoring in capital expenditure, allocating staff and investing in the workforce to develop certain skills. It may be necessary to make real improvements by updating daily procedures and fostering a culture of sustainability in the workplace.

Why is sustainability important?

Most enterprises that invest in sustainable practices realize direct benefits from their investments in terms of energy efficiency, cost savings and staff engagements among other business benefits. Businesses can reap benefits from sustainability activities whether they choose to focus on product improvement projects, big ticket technology, or low cost efficiency drives aimed at delivering productivity gains as well as a better carbon footprint.

Some of the sustainability benefits reported by businesses include:

  • Skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated staff that perform consistently to deliver quality products on time.
  • A whole business view that support innovation from all levels in the enterprise
  • Reduced fuel and energy costs
  • Improved processes and efficiency
  • Reduced trade waste and trade disposal costs
  • Reduced risks of costs from compensation, legal proceedings, rehabilitation, and environmental mitigation and clean up
  • Increased opportunities in green markets, whose value is estimated to reach $2.7 trillion per year globally
  • Improved public profile and reduced risk of negative public opinion

Today, the quest for sustainability is already beginning to transform the competitive landscape, and this will force companies to change the way they view products, process, technologies and overall business models. Innovation will always be the key to progress and just as pioneering internet companies survived the bust in the year 200 to challenge incumbent, so too will businesses that pursue sustainability lead the way in today’s landscape and upset the status quo.

Sustainable Business is Good Business

In the world of business, sustainability is the capacity of a business to partner economic profitability with social good. A sustainable business runs on the principles of social responsibility and respect for the environment. This is considered green virtue by many and not good for the businesses’ bottom line. In the past, most business owners did not want to threaten profitability in favor of social good but today, that attitude is changing at a very fast rate. Sustainable development has become a core strategic competence for most modern day businesses.

There are a number of reasons for this “megatrend” ranging from pressure from well-informed customers to morality on the part of business owners. However, the biggest reason is that sustainable business is good business. That is, while still effecting positive change within the local community and on the environment, sustainable businesses have the capacity to grow and make profit.

Sustainability should be the top priority for all businesses for a number of reasons, the first and most obvious one being because the world needs it. Since sustainability has a role in all sectors, private corporations are in a better position than the government and also have more resources to tackle the world’s biggest challenges such as poverty, hunger and pollution. For example, auto companies can reduce GHG emissions by building greener vehicles and food-processing companies can minimize food costs to alleviate world hunger. The wellbeing of the planet and the people living in it has a direct impact on the success of all businesses in the world.

Secondly, sustainability can have a direct impact on profits in a number of ways. One is cutting production costs by reducing waste production in manufacturing and processing firms and limiting the use of fossil fuels by investing in renewable energy. Another way is improving the brand value of the business, which in turn improves its relationship with the local communities and authorities hence expanding the number of loyal customers while avoiding crisis, inappropriate regulations and new taxes. A strong socially responsible management should also help a business attract highly productive new employees and win the loyalty of the existing ones. Happy and productive employees mean high profits for the business.

Lastly, sustainable business is good because it is what the people want. From employees to customers, people are demanding for sustainable businesses. With strengthened communication across the world, it would be unwise for businesses to alienate themselves from the concerns of the people. Working in partnership with the local communities leads not only to work that aligns with global sustainability goals but also to long-term profits for the business.

Sustainable businesses are more resilient to shock, more competitive, more adaptable in a fast-changing world, more at ease with regulators and more likely to attract and retain the best employees and loyal customers.

What is Environmental Sustainability?

Environmental Sustainability is defined as the study of natural systems and how some practices and factors affect the use and availability of the resources indefinitely or in the long-term. If the resource is used more than it is produced or available, then it is not sustainable since it will get depleted overtime. The natural systems which include renewable and nonrenewable resources play a vital role in creating balance and diversity of the ecology. Inability to sustain the environment means that the future generations won’t be able to make use or benefit from the current natural systems.

Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources

Natural resources are divided into renewable and non-renewable resources. The two will be looked at differently when it comes to environmental sustainability.

-Renewable resources: The environment is said to be sustainable if the rate of harvesting the resources does not exceed the speed of renewal/regeneration. This is defined as the sustainable yield. For instance, the environment is sustainable if the number of trees cut down is less than that planted.

-Non Renewable Resource: The sustainable yield is measured between the non-renewable resource and a renewable substitute. A good example is comparing petroleum products such as diesel fuel with bio-fuels.

NB: Pollution is also factored in sustainability and measures the rate of waste generation and sustainable waste disposal. Methods such as recycling play key role in making the environment sustainable in regard to pollution.

The Three Pillars of Environmental Sustainability

During the World Summit held in 2005, three pillars of sustainability were identified and are used as basis of evaluating and coming up with new measures. According to the Brundtland Commission, these pillars affect the current generation and won’t affect the future generation’s ability to sustain their needs.

1. Economic Development

This focuses on providing people with what they need to improve the quality of life without causing any extra burden or “red tape.” The natural system should be used properly to keep up with the law of supply and demand.

2. Social Development

This pillar seeks to educate and make people aware of their natural environment and how best to protect it. Through use of legislation and mass education, people are taught how pollution and bad business practices can affect their health as well as the environment. A common talking point is sustainable housing where quality housing can be achieved without undermining the ecology.

3. Environmental Protection

Focus is on regulating businesses and ensuring there is minimal to zero pollution and environmental destruction. Producers and manufactures are required to keep carbon emissions and carbon footprints at a minimal and also embracing renewal resource instead of non-renewable resources.

The goal of learning and understanding environmental sustainability is to help maintain or improve environmental quality in the long-term. It takes concerted effort from everyone to live in a greener and cleaner environment and guarantee the future generations of the same.