Sunday, 14 July 2013

Sustainability – What does it mean?


Last week I shared where one could get information on the science, opinions that matter and where to actively engage in discussions about Climate Change and Sustainability. This week I would like to concentrate on just the term "Sustainability".

The most popular definition for Sustainability or Sustainable Development is -
“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” -  Brundtland Commission, “Our Common Future"

So what does THAT mean? Does it mean planting plants on your campus? Going "GREEN"? Or is it taking care of the Social and Environmental impacts while keeping an eye on the Economic aspects?

Everyone today is using it, but how many know the true meaning of the word? What does that term mean to an individual, enterprise or Nation? Does it mean different things? And if you don’t truly understand the meaning, how can one practice it? I would like to clear any doubt or confusion – right here, right now.

Climate Miles Pvt. Ltd has a training arm called EcoSlate which about 3 years ago started working with school children and has slowly moved on to college and MBA level students.  If you look within yourself, you will know what Sustainability means, but how to explain it to a student? Is it keeping half a bar of chocolate back in the fridge so that you can enjoy it later in the day? Is that considered Sustainability? We sat for hours discussing the best way to come up with it and we found it in an old bedtime story that you, I and generations before us would have heard over a million times since time immemorial!  
The story about The Goose that laid the Golden Egg. Remember that one? Where a farmer found a goose that lays one golden egg a day. He got rich but also greedy and he couldn't wait to open up that goose to find all the gold inside. Naturally, the goose has none inside and the farmer lost his fabulous source of wealth. 
Sustainability is something like that. Using just what we need for now and keeping some for later. Now was that hard? Although the moral of the Goose story is about greed, it holds true for this discussion as well. Don't you agree?

Now having discussed the meaning of the term we can attempt to understand how we can take action as individuals, families and companies. 

Discussing Sustainability would be incomplete without mentioning Pavan Sukhdev. We shall discuss him in detail at a later date, meanwhile to know more about him check out his website
It would be useful to check out his book too titled - Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow's World which quotes -"Change won't just happen as there are no easy or elegant solutions" - Pavan Sukhdev
Follow the links to find reviews for the above book Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow's World by islandpress.org and linkingsustainability.com

Let us look at what other pioneers in the field have to say about Sustainability  and its relationship with development for Companies and Nations.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in his interview says "sustainable development is not possible without action on Climate Change" - meaning we need to take care of the issues or problems brewing at hand in order to be able to move towards Sustainability.


Al Gore, former Vice President, USA, in this greenbiz article - says short-term thinking is "functionally insane". "It's not only insane where the values that we share are concerned, its functionally insane where the well-being of that business is concerned. It's the wrong decision for the investors, for the shareholders, and for all the stakeholders."says Gore. He goes on to say, "Customers, too, want to do business with companies that are part of the solution, not part of the problem".

Here'es a look at Al Gore's seven business points about Sustainability.
1. Pollution is waste and the result of inefficiencies. The message: Polluting companies are inefficient.
2. Sustainability enhances brand reputation.
3. There are long-term returns in being sustainable. At some point, stakeholders will hit companies with short-term focus.
4. Customers and partners are demanding sustainable business practices.
5. Carbon tracking will be integrated into business processes as regulators require it across the globe.
6. Sustainability can boost employee morale and attract the next generation of customers. 
7. Tackling a topic such as innovation leads to new innovations.
       
        Till next week. Where we share more of our learning!

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