Environment can be wisely described through the words of Mr. Walt Disney –
“Landscapes of great wonder and beauty lie under our feet and all around us. They are discovered in tunnels in the ground, the heart of flowers, the hollows of trees, fresh-water ponds, seaweed jungles between tides, and even drops of water. Life in these hidden worlds is more startling in reality than anything we can imagine”.
And sustainability is simply everything that we need for our survival and well-being, either directly or indirectly from our environment. 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.
Environmental sustainability involves making decisions and taking action that are in the interests of protecting the natural world, with particular emphasis on preserving the capability of the environment to support human life. It is an important topic in the present time, as people are realising the full impact that businesses and individuals can have on the environment. Environmental sustainability is about making responsible decisions that will reduce your business’ negative impact on the environment. It is not simply about reducing the amount of waste you produce or using less energy, but is concerned with developing processes that will lead to businesses becoming completely sustainable in the future.
Currently, environmental sustainability is a topical issue that receives plenty of attention from the media and from different governmental departments.
Businesses now are wary of quick fixes and short-term gains. They want to grow in a manner that’s mindful of all their stakeholders, including global and local communities, economies, and the environment. In other words, they want to practice business in a more sustainable fashion. Businesses are expected to lead in the area of environmental sustainability as they are considered to be the biggest contributors and are also in a position where they can make a significant difference.
Businesses can potentially cause damage to all areas of the environment. Some of the common environmental concerns include: damaging rainforests and woodlands through logging and agricultural clearing, polluting and over-fishing of oceans, rivers and lakes, polluting the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, damaging prime agricultural and cultivated land through the use of unsustainable farming practices etc.
For much of the past, most businesses have acted with little regard or concern for the negative impact they have on the environment. Environmental sustainability forces businesses to look beyond making short term gains and look at the long term impact they are having on the natural world. You need to consider not only the immediate impact your actions have on the environment, but the long term implications as well. For example, when manufacturing a product, you need to look at the environmental impact of the products entire lifecycle, from development to disposal before finalizing your designs.
Many large and small organizations are guilty of significantly polluting the environment and engaging in practices that are simply not sustainable. However, there are now an increasing number of businesses that are committed to reducing their damaging impact and even working towards having a positive influence on environmental sustainability.
As a business priority, environmental management is on the rise. Enterprise is already preparing for a future in which green regulations are mandatory, green consumers are the majority, and green IT is a requirement. Environmental management can help enable companies to make efficient use of energy and material resources, as well as help them implement strict controls on greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental contamination.
You might expect the recession would end that trend. But the recession has actually motivated many of our customers to implement more cost-effective, environmentally friendly improvements such as consolidating data centers, upgrading networks to fiber optics, and using hosted and managed services. Some are taking things a step further by investing in environmental and energy management software. It’s these companies that are looking to gain deeper insights into their environmental impact, as well as seeking to monitor reduction actions on an automated basis.
To create a more sustainable business, these efforts will need to continue. However, only when companies move beyond technological efficiency—and begin to critically examine their current business practices and required resources—will they approach authentic sustainability.
Environmentally sustainable businesses may also have a competitive edge when it comes to attracting customers and investors. Modern consumers are aware of social and environmental issues and keep themselves informed about which businesses are acting responsibly in the community. Investors are equally aware of these issues and there is a trend developing towards investing in environmentally sustainable companies. Many countries like Australia have been taking many initiatives to support the businesses caring for environmental sustainability. The Australian Business Award for Environmental Sustainability recognizes organizations that implement policies and/or execute initiatives that demonstrate leadership and commitment to the enhancement, preservation and protection of the environment.
Admittedly, the process of changing corporate mindsets and culture to embrace sustainability can be a challenge for some enterprises. But even so, the underlying concept shouldn’t be too unfamiliar. The contemporary idea of sustainable business is, at its heart, merely an extension of principals that underpin value and wealth. After all, maintaining an environment that enables continued prosperity is imperative for any organization’s survival and growth.
But to achieve authentic sustainability, companies may need to broaden their view of resources that are critical to business. Once that shift occurs, it will be natural for companies to anticipate how decisions may impact both current and future stakeholders—because they recognize that those decisions will ultimately impact both their current and future business.
Technology will be an important part of the solution. But only partly. The key will be to nurture a culture that has the discipline, patience, and courage to look beyond short-term solutions and opt for business practices that can offer the greatest positive impact and longevity. “The great challenge of the twenty-first century is to raise people everywhere to a decent standard of living while preserving as much of the rest of life as possible.”
Essay by Ms. Aastha Singhal
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