“For any organisation attempting to become more sustainable, there is a fundamental need to ensure the people within that organisation understand both the issues and the need for action.”
Lindsay Parnell, CEO InterfaceFLOR Europe
"84% of senior executives state that education and awareness is the key to achieving organisational sustainability."
KPMG Climate Change
Business Leaders Survey (2007)
"The average daily web user prints 28 pages daily- 1000 pages a month. Approximately 10L of water is required to produce each page."
Environment Canada; Gartner Group and HP
What is Sustainability exactly? And what does ‘being sustainable’ actually mean? How can we achieve it? As a relatively new concept to most people, sustainability invokes a lot of questions. We can offer you some answers on this very hot topic.
Sustainability (or sustainable development) is a term that we hear a lot these days, but for many people it’s a concept that still lacks real meaning. Simply put, if something has the property of being sustainable, it means it can continue indefinitely. And obviously, we therefore want and need human society to be sustainable; but if we consider most of the ways our society functions at present, we realise that it cannot be sustained.
Over the course of the 20th century, technology and populations advanced to such a degree that we realised we were causing radical and unintended changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, soils and oceans. We know there are certain things which are necessary or vital for human beings to survive which are in finite or limited supply. These can be divided into sources, which provide us with crucial resources (e.g. fresh water rivers and lakes); and sinks, which are natural systems that absorb and recycle our waste (e.g. trees absorbing CO2). We are rapidly depleting the Earth’s sources, and overburdening its sinks beyond their capacity.
According to the Global Footprint Network, every year we use up 140% of what the whole planet is able to regenerate in that year; i.e. we are using the resources of 1.4 planet Earths. And this is increasing every day.
To compound the problem, developing countries such as China and India have rapidly growing middle classes adding substantial growth to human consumption levels.
There is also a social side to sustainability. Our companies and institutions consume social resources (e.g. labour, health) in their operations. As these organisations have grown both in reach and influence, their impact on communities has become more and more pronounced. Just as with environmental resources, if we consume all our social resources, then the social fabric of our communities will shatter, leading to conflict, poverty and human misery.
If we continue on the current trend, we will inevitably be faced with a massive crisis. And the earlier we start working to become sustainable, the more hope we have of a successful transition.