We seem to be taking unlimited growth for granted
1.7 – That is the calculated number of earths that would have been needed to meet the annual global demand for resources in 2017. Every year, the Global Footprint Network calculates the date by which humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year – this is the so-called “Earth Overshoot Day”, when we have used up all the resources that would have otherwise lasted us a whole year if we hadn’t consumed them faster than Earth can renew them (1).
The first time Earth’s limit was overshot was in 1971, and that was on the 21st of December (2). Last year, that day already fell on the second of August (3).
Year after year, the day comes earlier. Looking at individual continents or countries, we see that the date is moving forward especially fast in industrialized nations. Germany’s population, for example, used up their entire natural resources budget for 2017 by the 24th of April. Of course, we also have to consider that smaller nations can’t produce as many renewable resources. The graph below shows how many times their own land area various countries would have needed in 2017 to satisfy their own citizens’ consumption habits without overshooting their resources:
But how can it even come to this?
In our blog post “A Principle with Many Faces”, we already discussed how sustainability is interpreted and how it is being handled. We also mentioned that the “ecology – economy – sociology” interpretation of sustainability has caught on most strongly, internationally. So, why is our consumption of natural resources still increasing every year (4)?
Many nations and societies consider an unlimited consumption of resources to be completely normal. As we continue, unchecked, to consume ever more with each year in our globalized world, we are accelerating the depletion of natural resources and the associated environmental harm. And we seem to be forgetting that this comes at a price for other people, animals and countries. Even though nature is already giving clear warning signs, people on the whole are still far from consciously acknowledging this and actively changing their ways to become sustainable.
A growing number of companies and corporations are therefore making it their business (quite literally) to integrate sustainability as an indispensable part of their corporate strategies, in the interests of long-term growth and prosperity.
Sustainability as an integral part of business
Indeed, to generate this long-term growth and prosperity, implementing a successful sustainability concept is the only way to go. And it is not enough to apply this concept to individual divisions alone; it must be applied across the board for all company divisions – exemplified by role models and upheld by all. The way to do this is through solid quality and process management, as the only responsible means for ensuring, implementing and creating transparent, effective and efficient processes in all areas of the company.
How do you implement and rate sustainability management?
The first thing to do is raise awareness of sustainability in both the private and the professional sphere. Sustainable action can only be achieved if companies and employees are properly aware of what behavioural patterns need to be abandoned and what new measures for improvement need to be implemented to bring about a change for the better. Sustainable management can therefore be achieved first and foremost through targeted sustainability analysis, which can be carried out using internal resources, such as workshops or surveys, or alternatively using external consulting firms (5).
A common instrument for presenting companies’ sustainability performance is the “Sustainability Balanced Scorecard” (SBSC), which provides a way of reviewing the effectiveness of a sustainability strategy and thus of strategically managing all things relating to sustainability (6).
Improve sustainability performance through CSR performance monitoring
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a term economists or companies like to use to describe a voluntary contribution towards sustainable development that goes beyond the legal requirements (7).
Performance monitoring is supposed to help companies make it easier for their customers to procure their products sustainably and allow suppliers to create transparent pricing models. Via a collaborative platform, CSR ratings are provided and thus made comparable for global supply chains in the form of a Sustainability Balanced Scorecard of suppliers. These ratings are based on an evaluation of various performance areas, which fall into the four following categories: environment, social affairs, ethics and sustainable procurement.
Depending on the sector, industry and company size, the individual subject areas are weighted differently and yield a final rating of the sustainability performance, which can then serve as a guide for future purchasing decisions. Working with a platform operator like EcoVadis is therefore one of many ways of integrating sustainability as a permanent component of the company (8).
Finding a better future through responsible action
Although platforms, certification bodies and authorities show and dictate how we should handle our earth’s valuable resources more conscientiously, there are still many more ways in which we can act sustainably and responsibly of our own accord. It is becoming increasingly important for all of us, as individuals, to become mindful of sustainability and what it means in our own environment, and to wake up to the consequences of the limitless consumption and growth we take for granted.
Product & Sales Manager Chemicals
I got to work for IMPAG by sheer chance - what started as a summer job has now turned into the position as Product & Sales Manager.
After my studies I decided to join the Chemicals division. First as an assistant, today I am responsible for this field and work in a great team.
I grew up about 20km from Frankfurt. While I appreciate the cosiness in the countryside, I also enjoy spending fun evenings in the big city with its skyline view.