Sustainable economies: What have we learned?
Sustainable development is seen as the method of capturing long-term value for businesses, shareholders and for global society in general. Businesses that consider broader, progressive agendas are both future-proofing and positioning themselves to capture opportunities. They’re also mitigating risk and serious existential threats.
Our time now is defined by a global call to action, encapsulated in creating a better tomorrow that’s driven by data, innovation, business resilience and sustainable practice.
With COVID-19 affecting our global economy in a myriad of ways, we’re left wondering ‘what comes next?’ What lessons can we learn from this new normal and apply to the future?
- The reality of sustainability: What have we learned?
- Securing equity, trust and security within the fourth Industrial Revolution
- Promoting a thriving vision for business
The reality of sustainability: What have we learned?
In a speech by Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, the CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and Jamshyd N. Godrej, the Chairman of Godrej & Boyce and Chairperson of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, they write:
"Given that a single zoonotic outbreak can incur trillions of US dollars in costs across the globe, economic recovery focused on climate action and a healthy natural world is the best means of long-term prosperity. There are ample opportunities for governments to simultaneously address environmental objectives and ensure that recovery leads to more sustainable outcomes overall."
According to that same speech, the World Economic Forum estimates the transition to a sustainable economy can generate over USD 10 trillion and 395 million jobs by 2030. While purely an estimation, it’s a compelling part of a growing argument for more responsible approaches such as shifting to a circular economy.
Our current problems highlight the fundamental flaw and deficiency of the ‘take-make-dispose’ model of linear irresponsible consumption. Economics 101 tells us that resources are, by their nature, finite. It isn’t any wonder that the planet is being irreparably damaged because of pollution, over-mining, overproduction and how we carelessly discard products.
It’s a ripe time to call a time-out, take stock and re-assess what we consume, doing what we can to regenerate our finite world.
From a business perspective, our collective COVID-19 experiences have taught us many things, which can either be applied to short-term post-COVID rebuilding or as part of longer strategies that secure lasting legacies. So what are they?
Securing equity, trust and security within the fourth Industrial Revolution
Progress is only progress when shared. As we develop our technology to align people and businesses alike, we should make sure these developments - and their benefits - are accessible to all. We are in this together and so should help each other. Not only does our developing tech allow us to solve very real problems, but it also has the holistic benefit of bringing us closer together and closer to the “truth”, which is great for profitable decision-making.
Building back after COVID-19 is predicated upon supplying employees and the citizenry at large with more resilient, more sustainable mindsets - and the relevant technological advancements that help to support change for the better.
Now is not the time to return to ‘things as they were’, it’s the time to expand how connected we are and improve our ‘resilience thinking’ and preparedness for what worse thing comes next.
We can find inspiration in our current circumstance. We’re currently experiencing one of the worst pandemics in living memory. The World Health Organization states that ‘climate change will also affect infectious disease occurrence’, due to changes in the environment that can aid viruses in their spread.
This is just one example of how interconnected our issues are and how something like resilience thinking can improve, not only our well being but also our future prosperity and way of life.
This can be captured in many different ways, from utilizing modern technological services to improve business methods or simply connecting previously disconnected people.
Promoting a thriving vision for business
In the last five years, there’s been an ever-increasing conscious revelation for some businesses to look into their carbon footprint, to conserve and reduce waste to try to save humankind from the effects of climate change. That, plus the need to look attractive to potential investment funds searching for ethical investment. For example, in the UK, there has been an increase of 32% in sustainability-linked employment.
Similarly, the Financial Planning Association has identified an increase in ESG investments. In 2017, 26% of financial professionals stated they were either using or recommending ESG funds to clients. In 2020, this had risen to 38%.
It hasn't been a successful push across the board, with some businesses failing to reduce their footprint and others choosing to ‘greenwash’ certain practices. This type of faux-sustainability fails to capture the purpose and essence of why we need to do it.
Without true innovation, complete transparency and the right culture and attitude to get behind, organizations cannot fully realize their potential and purpose to influence and contribute to all their stakeholders and the community at large .
A simple example with IT asset disposal illustrates how a narrow-minded focus on maximizing the residual value of an asset, alongside a secondary regard for compliance to environmental regulations and data protection, would be the recipe for reputational disaster.
If we’ve learned one thing during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that every single business process, such as recycling, needs to be inspected to implement the best version of itself. Not only does this help to optimize the value, but it also better highlights the risks involved now that the world has changed and we’re in a different normal.
Now more than ever, a company's vision needs to be long term and incorporate safety and security in appropriate dealing with opportunities and threats.
Building a more sustainable business
In our next blog, you can discover how businesses can establish sustainability as a core business purpose, learning the key practices that create the next generation of practised sustainability.
Alvin Piadasa, Group Sustainability Director
Alvin is a global advocate for sustainable stewardship approaches to Information Communications Technology (ICT) and battery energy management. At TES, Alvin is realising the mission to deliver more holistic sustainable approaches in IT lifecycle services.