“meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
What is Environmental Sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is the responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect global ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future. Because so many decisions that impact the environment are not felt immediately, a key element of environmental sustainability is its forward-looking nature. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines it as “meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability
Companies clearly have a responsibility to society to implement environmentally sustainable practices, but these practices do not have to be at odds with business goals. In fact, environmental sustainability done right should align profits with people and the planet.
We now know unrestricted consumption takes a significant toll on human welfare. As GDP climbs, so too does our energy use, leading to more polluted environments and depleted natural resources. But, that doesn’t mean businesses can’t be successful and sustainable. Some growth works in step with sustainability. Renewable energy companies represent a source of new jobs. Using less energy and plastic in production represents an opportunity to grow profit margins. This mindset requires a long-term outlook and a regard for environmental impacts in corporate cost-benefit analyses, but achieving this alignment is an investment in a future economy where businesses can thrive.
What can we conclude?
Exponential population growth has led to increased farming, which leads to greater greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Industrial and technological growth means we need more power than ever. Yet our planet is reaching a breaking point. We are beginning to see the consequences of global warming on ecosystems and communities. That’s why now more than ever businesses need to invest in environmentally sustainable and socially responsible practices, like using clean energy and paying living wages, to secure a livable future.