“You can make a lot of speeches, but the real thing is when you dig a hole, plant a tree, give it water, and make it survive. That’s what makes the difference”. Wangari Maathai – (Environmental activist, first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004)
Sustainability in the changing global business environment has emerged as a result of significant concerns about the unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences of rapid population growth, economic growth and consumption of our natural resources.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
What sustainability means?
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. The word sustainability is derived from the latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus,up). Dictionaries provide more than ten meanings for sustain, the main ones being to “maintain”, “support”, or endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources. From a corporate perspective, “sustainability” can refer to a variety of initiatives from corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to environmental compliance.
Generally sustainability means improving the present life style without affecting the future… It means taking the long-term view of “how our actions effect future generations”. In a changing business environment sustainability is rapidly becoming a strategic priority for business. This word is being relating to almost all the areas from environment to business… from culture to social responsibility.
No Universally Agreed Definition
There is no universally agreed definition on what sustainability means. There are many different views on what it is and how it can be achieved. The idea of sustainability stems from the concept of sustainable development which became common language at the World’s first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
The original definition of sustainable development is usually considered to be:
“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” [Bruntland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development (1992)]
Since then, there have been many variations and extensions on this basic definition.
Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important because all of the choices we make today will effect the future. By continuing with our current unsustainable actions the opportunities for future generations will become increasingly limited. All natural systems that we as humans rely on for sustenance are generated by the planet. If we continue to degrade and disrupt these systems, the plants and animals that function within them will suffer. This will in turn affect us as humans as we rely on them for our survival.
As per UN population projections, by 2030, a mere two decades from now, the world’s population will have touched 8 billion. By that time, 3 billion people are estimated to live in areas of extreme water scarcity. The world will have to produce more food in the next 20 years than it has produced in the last 3000 years to feed this large population. Energy needs will increase exponentially over this period with rising incomes and urbanisation. Clearly, a rising population of such magnitude will pose new challenges as the global demand for food, fuel, feed, and fibre increases with a consequent reduction in arable land and water availability.
(Source: ICSI Sustainability & Reporting Series)