Sustainable development is a term that’s been widely used for many years. It’s goal is to reflect the mindset you need – and the importance of considering the consequences of every decision you make. The most favored definition is from 1987, classifying sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This sounds great on paper, but how do we actually go about it? There are three main pillars that make up sustainability, namely the social, economic and environmental needs that make up the majority of our decisions today. Social needs are ensuring equal opportunity in a community, encourage diversity and cohesion while having an open and accountable governance structure. This course covers many of the points that are critical in maintaining diversity. Economic needs are primarily concerned with the production, use and management of resources, especially if there is a limited supply. Environmental sustainable development is the final category, and is based on the idea of keeping the natural environment as pristine as possible.
When it all boils down to it, sustainable development is looking at the world as a system, and making the best effort we can to ensure that system remains healthy for our children.
Sustainable development has two major themes. The first is that the entire world is a single space, and nothing happens in isolation. What one country or company is doing can have a far reaching impact to another part of the globe. Air pollution from North America can affect the quality of the air across Asia, so a responsible business owner will take measures to improve it. Pesticides sprayed in South America have a massive impact and can harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia, so you should be using as little as possible.
No action you take is in complete isolation.
The second theme to consider is the impact from decisions made over time. The way our grandparents farmed the land is still the primary influence in how agriculture is done today. Perhaps there are better, or different ways that farmlands could be managed that have less of an impact on the health of the world? The economic and social policies we endorse today have a massive impact on the urban community as our children grow into adults. We need to think not only about what’s best for us today, but what’s best in the long run.
Your quality of life is part of the entire ecosystem. Being physically healthy is great, but what happens when you don’t have access to education? Having a secure income is fantastic, but what if you’re breathing polluted air every day? It’s amazing to have the freedom to support any religion you like, but what happens when you can’t afford to feed your family? All of the problems we face are complex, and serious – but they can’t be addressed in the way they were created. We need to adopt new practices. As follows are best ways we can improve all three pillars of sustainable development and leave the world a better place for future generations.
- Support needs to be provided on ticket prices for every group on everything from movies to transport. This ensures that people from every demographic have an equal ability to access these.
- Diversity is encouraged through employment policies, and there is no bias based on gender, race or age.
- There is scope for employees to be part of labor unions, and collective bargaining groups within industry to protect their own best interests.
- Support is provided for the less fortunate, and ensuring that every member of the community has access to shelter, food and education.
- The provision of green spaces like parks where plants and wildlife can thrive, and offer the public an opportunity to enjoy sports and recreation outdoors. This is especially important in dense, urban areas.
- Access to healthcare is provided for every member of the community.
- There are adequate accessibility points so that people with disabilities can navigate through every part of their community, like shopping malls with ramps for wheelchairs.
The key here is to ensure the most efficient use of assets so that profitability can be maintained for the longest amount of time. This is also key in putting together a winning business proposal, which you can learn about in this recent post.
- Crop rotation in agriculture is fantastic because it requires less chemicals, and has been proven to maximize the growth potential of land. This benefits both large scale farmers and even those who have a small garden at home.
- Renewable energy is key, because it is available in a limitless supply and also reduces pollution from traditional fossil fuels. Your business can make use of solar panels to harness the sun, or invest in a windmill and make use of the wind. Replacing your non-renewable energy sources with those that are in limitless supply makes sense when looking at long term sustainability. You can learn more about energy and the environment here, or take a course and discover all the benefits of solar power
- Efforts should be made to limit energy consumption, replacing traditional light bulbs with energy efficient replacements, maintaining air conditioning at 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit), and switching off electronics at the outlet when they’re not being used.
- Water is another resource that is rapidly being depleted, and a simple practice you can even do at home is to install water-efficient shower heads and toilets to conserve one of the world’s most precious natural resources, our fresh water supply.
- Logging is an industry that has dramatically changed over the last 15 years, with the best companies now working with renewable forests and replacing every tree logged with new plantations to ensure they follow environmentally responsible practices.
- Reuse, recycle and repair are the three fundamentals you can use to apply to your daily life.Donate clothes or any goods that you no longer want, to save them simply ending up as landfill. Sort your trash into the separate parts that allow for efficiency in recycling and buy quality products that last and can be repaired – instead of having to replace them every 12 months.
- When purchasing look for locally made, organic products and support the companies that are promoting and pushing environmental objectives, and support supply chains that omit the lowest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Be very careful about the pollutants you pour down the drain because often they can do a significant amount of harm when they reach the waterways.
When you make decisions without considering the future impact of your actions you may be making short term progress, but you are undermining the long term progression of the entire ecosystem. If a community is poorly planned it has a negative impact on the lives of everyone who lives there. But as you look into the details, there are many puzzling concerns when you start to become involved in sustainable development.
- How can you meet the economic objectives of sustainable growth without having an impact on the local areas biodiversity? Which has the highest priority?
- What happens when the basic needs of a household cannot be met, perhaps there is pollutants in the water supply and all drinking water must be boiled. To do so requires resources to bur, so water can be boiled and made safe, so which is a priority? Having drinking water or the risk of deforestation?
Ultimately sustainable development is all about striking a balance. You need to take actions that support your short term objectives and necessities, without disregarding the long run implications of your actions. When you can logically consider both, that’s when true sustainable development can be reached.
What Can We Do?
Everyone has a part to play in sustainable development. Every decision you make, no matter how small – the contributions you make act to support sustainability. So make sure you’re choosing to support the right things.
Business owners need to take all of the above to heart, and adopt these practices into the daily running of your enterprise. If you’re new to strategic thinking you can learn the main principles in this course, and remember to not just look at the bottom line profitability. Future profitability is what will set your entire family up for success, no matter how long you’re in business.
For individuals, many of these actions can also be implemented in your home and your daily practices. Put a value on what sustainability means for you, and make your choices wisely. The future state of the world for our children will be decided now, in the actions we take today.