“Sustainability is something everyone can work towards, whether it is picking up garbage you see on the street or boycotting a company that practices environmentally harmful business methods, we all can make a difference.

I’m sure you must have heard this word a lot nowadays- ‘Sustainability’. Have you ever thought about what sustainability is or why sustainability is so important for society, or why most brands today focus on sustainability?
Sustainability, put simply, means “the ability to sustain” or in other words “the capacity to endure”. With an increase in the world’s population it has become essential for all of us to work on achieving a basic quality of life for future generations. There’s lot happening around us right now; from global warming, ozone depletion, air and water pollution, acid rain, waste management and more, our planet’s ecosystems are deteriorating. Have we ever thought about the fact that we are consuming so much and so quickly that we are already living far beyond the earth’s capacity to support us? Our globalised world is more interconnected and volatile than ever, making us all more vulnerable.
Sustainability has not only become a necessity for the future of our society but is also crucial for today’s industries and businesses. The mandate to transform businesses to respect environmental limits while fulfilling social wants and needs has become an unparalleled platform for innovation on strategy, design, manufacturing and branding, offering massive opportunities to compete and to adapt to a rapidly evolving world.

Energy and Conservation

The sustainability experts are looking at various measuresthrough which we can slow or prevent pollution, conserve natural resources and protect remaining environments. Some such ways are:

  • Energy Conservation:The elimination or reduction of energy use can be as simple as switching off appliances or preventing heat loss from buildings.
  • Energy Efficiency: Better-designed heat and power stations, as well as everyday appliances, can cut down on needless energy losses through methods such as LED lighting and cars with improved fuel efficiency.
  • Sustainable/Renewable Energy Production: This includes energy production from sources such as the sun, wind and tides, as well as biofuels. The ultimate goal is to improve energy accessibility and affordability while reducing environmental harm.
  • Low-impact Energy Production: Low-impact energy solutions make the use of non-renewable natural resources more efficient and less damaging in the long term. The reduction of nuclear waste, and carbon capture and storage are two examples.
  • High-impact Energy Production:This is the current norm: the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources (oil, gas and coal) for cheap and reliable sources of power.

 Sustainable Society

A sustainable society is founded on equal access to health care, nutrition, clean water, shelter, education, energy, economic opportunities and employment. In this ideal society, humans live in harmony with their natural environment, conserving resources not only for their own generation, but also for their children’s children. Each citizen enjoys a high quality of life and there is social justice for all. The following are ways in which we can contribute:
Raise Public Awareness :Individuals and countries both need to take direction to promote sustainable practices viawebsites, speeches, movements and rallies that all contribute to raising public awareness.
Promote Education: Promoting free and fair access to a quality education for all children, both girls and boys, produces a number of positive outcomes. It increases children’s level of understanding about the environment; it empowers them to make personal choices about family size and lifestyle; and, it provides the world with informed and productive citizens.
Increase Government and Business Investment: New technologies and infrastructures, built using environmentally sound practices, have the potential to transform modern society. But this is only possible if governments and businesses are willing to invest much-needed capital in their development.
Conserve Resources and Eliminate Waste: Like it or not, the earth’s resources are finite. Large-scale efforts to conserve energy and water will have an impact, but personal choices are just as important. The more steps we take to eliminate waste and needless consumption, the better off future generations will be.
Re-Evaluate Values
Is the current culture of disposable consumerism, fossil fuel dependency and heavy automobile use what we hope to pass on to our children? Do we wish to overcome inequalities in education, standards of living and economic opportunity? Then our personal values, as well as our actions, must change.

 Sustainable Business

Businesses are facing a new paradigm. They’re being asked to create long-term practices that do more to respect the environment, the well-being of employees and the prospects of future generations. In addition to saving the planet, sustainable practices generate a number of benefits. These practices help a company:

  • Save Money: Employing eco-friendly technologies and cutting down on waste in energy, resources and employee time generates significant annual savings. Even simple steps like turning off computer monitors can have an effect.
  • Boost Market Share: Lean, efficient businesses with a reputation for earth-friendly profits now attract a lot of attention from savvy investors, new customers and the press. Investors, in particular, like to see that cost-saving measures are in place.
  • Create Green-Collar Jobs: Thanks to an increasing focus on sustainability, a lot of new titles have been introduced into our lexicon, including passive solar building designer, wind energy engineer and energy-efficient construction worker. Some believe that renewable energy development could create millions of new jobs.

Attract and Retain Employees: Businesses with fair and ethical practices are like catnip to highly qualified employees. Happier workers also tend to perform better, circumventing the expensive process of firing and rehiring.

 Sustainable Technology and Development

Amid all the gloom surrounding the future, the promise of science shines brightly. Optimists hope that new technologies and urban infrastructures, built with environmentally sound practices, can support a sustainable, healthy and happy population.All over the world, sustainability experts are looking at innovative ways to build (and maintain) cities, including:

  • Green Construction: e.g. recycled construction materials, green roofs for stormwater management, zero-energy buildings (those that generate at least as much renewable energy as they use), natural ventilation systems, etc.
  • Next-Generation Infrastructures: e.g. sustainable urban drainage systems, xeriscaping (low-irrigation landscaping), renewable energy sources such as biogas created from sewage, etc.
  • Sustainable Transport Systems: e.g. public trains and buses that run on renewable fuels, coordinated bike paths and walkways, increased access to transport, tolls for private vehicle use, etc.

Local Resource Production: e.g. recycled rainwater for drinking and irrigation, farmscrapers, urban agricultural plots, farmers markets, etc.

 Global Warming

The overall scientific consensus is that global warming is real and dangerous. If we wish to have a sustainable society built on sustainable energy resources, governments and businesses need to take direct and immediate action on climate change.

  • Investment in Low-Carbon Energy: To meet climate targets, the 2014 IPCC report suggests that annual investment in fossil fuel power plants will need to decline by approximately 20 percent in the coming two decades; investment in low-carbon energy will need to double.
  • Taxing Carbon Emissions: Wealthy countries are often sluggish about reducing high carbon emissions and many developing countries are still building coal-fired power plants; high taxes on carbon emissions may be the only way to spur action.
  • Higher Efficiency Standards: The more energy we save, the less we have to create. Stronger efficiency standards for items like vehicles, buildings and consumer goods contribute to reduced emissions.
  • Reforestation: Forests and woodlands act as terrestrial carbon sinks, soaking up atmospheric carbon dioxide. Efforts are underway across the world to combat industrial deforestation.

Individual Action: There are plenty of steps that individuals can take to reduce carbon emissions, including limiting vehicle use, purchasing energy-efficient products and switching to renewable energy sources.

 Adapted from Sustainability Degrees