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 at 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. This is a result of the amount of research going into assessing the impact that human activity can have on the environment. Although the long term implications of this serious issue are not yet fully understood, it is generally agreed that the risk is high enough to merit an immediate response. 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
• Samaging prime agricultural and cultivated land through the use of unsustainable farming practices
For much of the past, most businesses have acted with little regard or concern for the negative impact they have on the environment. Many large and small organisations 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.
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 finalising your designs.
Establishing a business case is an important step in assessing the viability of environmentally sustainable practices. If there was no business case behind operating an organisation in an environmentally sustainable way, then it simply would not be practical to expect businesses to consider it as an option.
Fortunately, there are a number of points that strongly support the business case for environmental sustainability. The first point to consider is the fact that moving towards environmentally sustainable practices presents few or no risks to business operations. If a business acts now and environmental sustainability continues to become an increasingly important and heavily regulated issue (as it is likely to do), you will have a head start over many of your competitors. Besides some initial outlay involved in moving towards environmental sustainability, there are not likely to be any long term negative impacts or expenses incurred.
Business Case for Environmental Sustainability However, if you fail to act now and environmental sustainability becomes more heavily regulated by governments, there could be significant costs involved. For example, regulators may begin charging businesses based on their negative impact on the environment, leaving you to play catch up and incurring expenses in the process. There may also be incentives schemes introduced that will benefit businesses that operate at better than the minimum standards in relation to environmental sustainability, providing businesses that are sustainable with a clear advantage.