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The well−being of humans is dependent upon the environment in which they live. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of deaths of human beings can be traced back to environmental reasons that can be avoided if sufficient measures to create a sustainable environment are taken.
People need clean air, safer drinking water, and places that are free from hazards and toxic substances to live. However, as society is going through a drastic change due to industrial progress, we need more energy and resources apart from more lands and places to live. In such circumstances, finding sustainability is a real matter of concern.
Image 1: Venn Diagram showing Sustainability as being in the Intersection of Society, Economy and
What is Environmental Sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is the responsibility to conserve nature and the environment. The resources we get from the environment must be protected for the present and future generations and this is where environmental sustainability comes into play. It infuses the responsibility on the current generations to meet their needs by keeping enough resources for the generations to come.
In other words, we must protect our environment so that both we and future generations can use the resources from the environment. The responsibility to do so lies in our hands at the present but we must consider the future needs too to do so. Therefore, environmental sustainability is the process via which we will need to use and protect resources for ourselves and future generations.
Environmental Standards and Regulations
Environmental regulations differ according to local environmental, social, and political standards in the world. However, in most countries, there are environmental guidelines issued by central authorities to safeguard the environment nowadays. There are laws that govern these regulations and there are also monetary fines and legal actions for violations of these laws. These laws are usually made to keep the standards of air, soil, and water intact.
The laws are made looking at the carbon footprint and emission standards are set according to the conditions of the environment. In some cases, state governments make stringent guidelines along with central laws to limit pollution and harmful acts on the environment. Many cities in the world now limit the use of diesel vehicles and old cars that emit more pollutants than normal.
Research has however shown that a broader, global set of guidelines is necessary to keep environmental sustainability intact. A report by Harvard Business Review found that MNCs follow the environmental safety and sustainability guidelines in places where the laws are stringent but start violating them where the laws are lenient.
Environmental Sustainability and Economic Growth
Image 2: Wind turbines on a green field − an alternative energy source.
It is a matter of fact that companies do have a responsibility to create an environment that is sustainable and secure. However, this must not be a hurdle in the path of profitability and growth of businesses. Many businesses are reluctant to embrace environmental sustainability guidelines as they think that embracing them would cost very high. However, the reality is not so.
In general, with the increase in GDP, the need and use of energy also go up constraining resources and putting more pressure on environmental sustainability. However, research has shown that companies that embrace a sustainable business process win in the long run.
For example, renewable energy companies offer enough opportunities for jobs. Using less plastic and energy opens the path for more profits in the long run. Similarly, businesses that recycle their waste tend to be favorites among other industry players.
The need is to have a long−term and sustainable view of the business model. Businesses that embrace environmental sustainability can be more profitable than companies that do not. The need is to change the outlook in favor of sustainability and protecting humans and the planet at the earliest.
ESG and Sustainability
The term ESG refers to Environmental, Social, and Governance which is interchangeably used for Sustainability. The two have similarities. However, ESG is used more while benchmarking and disclosing data while sustainability is used in green concepts and corporate responsibility.
The term ESG is used more by investors and in capital markets. It has a finance angle associated with it. The term can be considered an expansion of sustainability to include ESG practices, performance, and capital opportunities through the use of sustainability.
The term ESG is applied to measure data in risk−adjusted returns and has gained popularity recently due to the better performance of companies that adopt sustainability in their operations. An emphasis on all three pillars of ESG has helped shift the outlook of capital−intensive companies in how they perceive sustainability. It has also focused on the process of performance and disclosure of profits regarding the use of sustainability in general.
In the last few decades, there has been an exponential growth of population which has resulted in more need for farming. This, on the other hand, has produced more greenhouse gases and consumed more farmland leading to deforestation. We need more power now than ever to meet the growing needs of human beings to survive. However, the reckless use of resources has created a void in the balance of the ecosystem.
The need to imbibe environmental sustainability is the most now as we are at a critical juncture of civilization. Our industrious are harming us and the emissions from them and the vehicles we use are emitting poisons. We urgently need to bring the balance back and there are ample methods to do so.
It just needs extended awareness and sharing of responsibility to lead to the path of environmental sustainability. If we act now, we will get a brighter future while if we miss the opportunity, the whole human community may be threatened. So, we must take care of the environment in a sustainable manner now more than ever.
Companies must also understand that profitability can be increased by sharing common goals and therefore they should also embrace green practices to take environmental sustainability to the next level. Environmental sustainability is for the betterment of our planet and this should reflect in the operations of companies.
Lastly, a joint effort by all individuals is a necessity of the present moment too. Without our participation, environmental responsibility would remain half−done. So, the responsibility to conserve the nature and environment must be shared.
Frequently Asked Questions
Qns 1. How many deaths according to WHO occur due to environmental reasons?
Ans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of deaths of human beings can be traced back to environmental reasons that can be avoided.
Qns 2. What is meant by ESG?
Ans. The term ESG refers to Environmental, Social, and Governance which is interchangeably used for sustainability.
Qns 3. Can the growth of GDP go along with environmental sustainability from the point of view of businesses?
Ans. In general, with the increase in GDP, the need and use of energy also go up constraining resources and putting more pressure on environmental sustainability. However, research has shown that companies that embrace a sustainable business process win in the long run.
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