Population growth continues to exacerbate unprecedented pressure on the earth system. As we continue to undermine the stability and the ability of the planet to support human development, the risks we face are so immense that business as usual is no longer an option. Pollution through unsustainable waste management, loss of biodiversity, and climate change are just but some of the challenges that businesses will need to address to become sustainable and resilient. We only have one planet to live on.
Any business that is not environmentally conscious is oblivious of the opportunities lurking within the economy.
Almost every sector in our economy is under pressure as a result of the growing population. Growing demand for products and services, the need for improved healthcare, and growth in information technology have led to enormous consumption of materials, especially plastics. Industry projection indicates that we are likely to see more plastics in the oceans than we will have fish by the year 2050. Plastics touch almost every part of our lives and economy. Yes! We need plastic because of its unique properties like being lightweight, durable and flexible. However, there is an urgent call to citizens and businesses to adopt circular models of production and consumption. The current linear model is no longer working; taking, making, using, and disposing of plastics has resulted in its ubiquitous nature.
Understanding the impact of continuous extraction and constant unsustainable disposal of end-of-life materials and products is the responsibility of everyone. Our activities are hurting the planet and if not careful, the earth’s ecological boundaries will no sooner than later tip-off. Exceeding the planet’s boundaries threshold leads to massive and irreversible changes in the earth’s ecosystem. We need to safeguard the planetary boundaries with which biodiversity can develop and thrive for generations.
As demand for products grows, businesses are rushing to the natural capital for resources, they take-make-use-dispose. The reality is that these raw materials are finite and are depleting at an alarming rate as demand skyrockets. Businesses have no strategies aligned to the value retention policy that looks at the conservation of resources to their original state, through the R-Imperatives (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Refurbish, Remanufacture, Re-purpose, Recycle, Recover, and Re-mine for production) but one-time fixes to meet the demand. Adopting models that encourage the production and designing of longer-lasting products through life extension is a call to all production and manufacturing industries.
This is in addition to adopting sustainable ways of responding to environmental challenges through mitigation by addressing the cause and adaptation that address the impact of these challenges. Recent evidence suggests that planetary boundaries for climate change, biodiversity, and land system change have degenerated and we are about to face irreversible effects.
A new way of thinking is critical for businesses in the current economy. As the economies grow, the need for products and services increases, and businesses are rushing to meet this demand.
We must reimagine the relationship between nature and business and work towards achieving business prosperity and well-being without depleting or degrading the natural ecosystem. We need to safeguard the earth’s system and ensure we operate within a safe space by ensuring the stability and resilience of the planet. With the unsustainable practices of the linear economy, we continue to cross the planetary boundaries hence increasing the risks of irreversible environmental changes.
To achieve this, change will only come when all stakeholders at all levels are involved. The government should endeavour to implement and enforce working policies, offer financial incentives to businesses, and trigger community action through a shift of mindset. Businesses should take bold steps to avert practices that cause depletion of the already finite resources, pollution, and climate change. Addressing environmental abuse by avoiding unequal use of resources and unsustainable extraction without allowing ecosystems regeneration is an urgent action that we must take.
Protecting the environment will benefit nature’s compass to help enhance business resilience and address a range of development issues.
As Kenneth Boulding says, ‘’Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist’’.
Pracksidis A. Wandera
Admin & Events Officer Sustainable Inclusive Business