Environmental Sustainability: Importance, Issues and Benefits
Food insecurity, an outcome of class difference, climate change, and excessive wastage, affects 25.9% of the population. This is more than one out of 4 humans on the planet. If we don’t start taking environmental sustainability seriously, this number will keep increasing.
The situation either stays the same or is even worse in other areas. For instance, we are not only eating through fossil fuels at a rapid rate, but we are also destroying the air, land, and water quality through the emissions associated with this industry. The central idea, once again, is we need environmental sustainability.
We don’t have a healthy future without taking care of our environment. Climate change is resulting in massive disasters, and they’ll keep increasing unless we somehow reverse it. Currently, the world is targeting to stay under 1.5 °C by reaching net zero by 2050. A tough call but let’s stay optimistic!
As we mentioned earlier, environmental sustainability is key in this regard. In this post, we’ll share why environmental sustainability is crucial, what are the current problems, how can we achieve it, and what are the benefits. Let’s dive in!
The Importance of Environmental Sustainability
Environmental sustainability is one of the biggest hopes in reversing the climatic disasters taking place on the planet right now. In this section, we’ll have a look at why we need it for a healthy future:
There Isn’t a Future Without Environmental Sustainability
Many people still believe that environmentalists are overreacting when they say that our future is bleak without environmental sustainability. Unfortunately, they are wrong on so many levels. To understand this, let’s have a look at some of the climate disasters happening in the third quarter of 2022 and their impacts.
More than 33% of Pakistan is underwater due to severe floods caused by climate change. So far 33 million people have been displaced and 1,200 have been killed. Everything started with a severe heat wave that melted glaciers, followed by an extreme monsoon, which coupled with the water from glacial melt, flooded the country.
Image via Nature
More than 66% of Europe is under drought warning. Preliminary data suggest that it might be the worst drought in at least 500 years.
EU suffered from the worst heat wave since the Renaissance in the summer of 2022, with excess deaths in numerous countries. Germany, alone, recorded 3000 excess deaths during the July 18 week in comparison with the last five years.
Human development and well-being are closely associated with wildlife, so maintaining their habitats and food chain is crucial. Unfortunately, we are failing at it miserably, thanks to all the harmful emissions, poaching activities, industrialization, excessive waste, and ocean pollution.
Here’s why we need to protect wildlife:
- They are a major food source and many of them provide vitamins that are rare to find in plants, for instance, Vitamin B12.
- We need bees for pollination. Without them, we might as well say bye to the majority of the world’s plant species.
- Seafood, meat, and chicken are some of the world’s largest industries.
- The ecosystem is dependent on animals.
- Without biological diversity, Earth would be pretty bland.
For Improved Health
On average, 6 to 8 million people die globally due to pollution. This clearly shows that we need environmental sustainability to not only improve our health but also remove a major life threat.
From breathing in polluted air to eating contaminated food, there are numerous ways in which environmental degradation is taking a toll on our lives. Here are a few diseases that stem from pollution:
- Air pollution causes stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, and obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Consuming microplastics with diet and water harm the placenta.
- Contaminated soil may cause cancer, including leukemia.
- Contaminated water causes cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, and hepatitis A.
What are the Issues of Environmental Sustainability?
Currently, we are facing numerous environmental issues that have brought the planet to the brink of a climate crisis. The main ones include:
Image via NASA
If we say that we are surrounded by pollution then we won’t be wrong. There is a major chance that currently you are breathing in air pollution as there are very few areas in the world that are free from it. Similarly, if you are not filtering your water in some way, then you are ingesting numerous water pollutants. Your food isn’t safe either as most of it either contains microplastics from the soil or has been introduced to harsh chemicals for preservation purposes.
To put this in perspective, let’s have a look at a few stats:
- Currently, CO2 concentration in the mid-troposphere (8 to 12 km or 5 to 7 miles above ground) is 419 ppm, which is the highest in numerous past millennia.
- Ocean pollution kills over 100,000 marine mammals and a million seabirds every year.
- Every year, land pollution causes a loss of 24 billion tonnes of topsoil.
Our climate is changing drastically, and none other than, we, humans are responsible for this shift. From intense emissions from fossil fuel-powered energy sources to the leachate from landfills penetrating the soil, we are contaminating the planet to such an extent that we need desperate measures to reverse the damage.
It is predicted that if the world continues emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs) at the current rate then by 2100, we’ll have global warming of as much as 9.7°F or 5.4°C.
Natural Resource Use
We are eating through our natural resources at a rapid rate. This not only threatens the extinction of some of the crucial natural resources, but it’s also increasing the access difference between the wealthy and the less advantaged.
Currently, 1.1 billion people lack access to water, which is more than 14% of the overall world population. Unfortunately, a massive chunk of these people is a part of the developing countries, which enunciates the lack of climate justice.
Improper waste management severely impacts the environment. Piles of trash biodegrade in aerobic conditions and release leachate, which gets absorbed in the soil and destroys its properties. Similarly, plastic enters waterways, ends in the oceans, suffocates marine life, and releases GHGs.
In addition to these, other major and hazardous waste types include radioactive waste and e-waste. Previously, radioactive waste was dumped into rivers, which wiped out large portions of their biodiversity.
Approximately, only 25% of all the e-waste is recycled, while the other is trashed. Their proper recycling would allow metal extraction from various parts, which could then be used in manufacturing, resulting in massive emission reductions from metal manufacturing and production.
Forests are the most diverse ecosystems on land, but we are destroying them with no mercy by either setting them on fire to clear out agricultural lands or cutting them down to expand wood businesses.
They are essential for our well-being as they remove massive amounts of CO2, prevent floods, reduce erosion, and are a major source of numerous medications (the Amazon rainforest contributes to 25% of all drugs!).
How do You Achieve Environmental Sustainability?
Achieving environmental sustainability isn’t possible without striving on both personal and professional levels. So here’s how you can make your life and business more sustainable:
In Personal Life
Change starts from within oneself, so there’s no better way to improve the environment without changing our day-to-day lives. Here are a few tips that you can incorporate into your daily life that can help reduce your carbon footprint:
- Don’t shop for things, specifically plastic ones, unless you desperately need them.
- Ensure that whichever big purchase you make has a positive environmental impact, for instance, energy star certified appliances.
- Try and eliminate plastic from your life. You can start with something as simple as getting reusable straws, cups, and grocery bags.
- Don’t purchase products that stem from wildlife, such as rhino horn products (trust us, they don’t work!).
- Thoroughly look through the labels, specifically on clothing (steer clear of polyester!), before purchasing anything.
- Don’t waste water. If possible, recycle water and do rainwater harvesting.
- Opt for public transport, cycling, or walking, rather than driving.
- Have an eco-friendly home with maximum emphasis on recycling, reusing, and repurposing. Choose green household products, such as plastic-free detergents.
- Go for renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind.
- Reduce meat consumption, purchase from your local farmer’s market, and don’t waste food.
- Spread the word!
In the Business World
The business world is different from our personal lives, but it also has massive potential for improvement. Following are a few ways in which you can make your business eco-friendly:
- Conduct a life cycle assessment of your product or service.
- Become certified by a green certification system. Such organizations have specific requirements that will force you to be more eco-friendly and will also improve the business standing.
- Rethink your supply chain. Change the manufacturers or service providers who don’t consider environmental sustainability in their business.
- Conduct Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). We’ll be discussing more of this in an upcoming section.
- Make your employees a central part of your environmental sustainability strategy.
- Make your office space eco-friendly.
- Incorporate the circular economy in your manufacturing process.
- Purchase carbon offsets.
- Collaborate with companies working on improving the environment to reduce your carbon and plastic footprint. Like CleanHub! Companies invest through us in the collection and safe processing of non-recyclable plastic waste in Asia's coastal regions. Head over to our live dashboard to see real-time data of the recovered material coming in.
What are the Benefits of Environmental Sustainability?
Embracing sustainability is crucial for reversing climate change. Its benefits aren’t just limited to nature, but also provide numerous commercial and financial benefits to organizations. In this section, we’ve discussed a few of them in detail:
Fewer Energy Costs
Energy and water consume a massive chunk of organizations' finances. When companies focus on reducing their quantity to achieve environmental sustainability in the manufacturing process, they observe long-term savings. For instance, according to the EnergySage market data, an average commercial property owner can save 75% of their overall energy cost by switching to solar power.
Expand Customer Base
73% of Americans, 64% of North Americans, and 84% of Europeans are likely to stop purchasing from companies that don’t incorporate sustainability in their businesses and don’t care about climate change.
This shows that sustainability isn’t a choice, you need it to stay relevant in the business arena.
Not just that, by publicizing your green initiatives you’ll not only retain your existing customers but you’ll also gain a new customer base that wasn’t aware of your sustainable business practices.
Many governments around the world have acknowledged the current environmental crisis and are providing tax incentives to companies practicing sustainable business practices. The main ones include:
Improves Workforce’s Morale and Innovations
Introducing sustainability in a business is a collaborative effort. When teams within organizations work and collaborate toward developing green initiatives, they feel a sense of pride, which improves their morale and positively impacts the corporate culture.
In addition to this, sustainability fosters research and ignites innovations. For instance, if you challenge your design team to reduce the use of cement, they’ll come up with innovative ideas to reduce the cement content in the overall construction.
Less Environmental Impact
Having sustainability within your business isn’t just about profitability and making your business look good, it can make a real difference. By incorporating eco-friendly practices, you’ll reduce your company’s carbon footprint and that of your product or service, which will result in less GHG emissions, improved air, land, and water quality, and less waste.
Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability
Many of the conventional business practices are immensely harmful to the environment, for instance, plastic packaging in e-commerce. Unfortunately, even though these practices might be cheaper, we need to ditch them to align profits with people and the planet because companies have a responsibility to society and the environment.
Research has clearly shown us that unrestricted consumption is impacting human welfare. As the companies grow and GDP climbs, energy use also increases, which is often derived from non-renewable sources, such as fossil fuels, and pollutes the environment.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the business world is stuck. All a company needs is a bit of innovation to become sustainable and it stands out amongst its counterparts. For example, companies opting for sustainable packaging for their products are gaining popularity, such as Blueland.
Sometimes, innovation isn’t required. All a company has to do is switch its business practices a bit to incorporate sustainability, such as switching to solar or wind power instead of fossil fuels, to improve its environmental impact.
The only issue is these innovations or switches in practices require initial investments, so in order to do them, companies need to have a long-term vision. Given that the expected future of the business world is all about sustainability, this seems like an obligation rather than a choice if a company wants to stay relevant.
ESG and Environmental Sustainability
The term Environmental, Social, and Governance or ESG is becoming common in the business world and is often used interchangeably with sustainability.
So, what is ESG?
ESG or Environmental, Social, and Governance is a criterion to check the sustainability and ethical standing of an investment in a business or organization. Basically, it is a framework that gives the investor an overview of how an organization manages the risks and opportunities associated with sustainability.
Sustainability entails many different green concepts and corporate responsibilities, so ESG is a framework that’s more applicable for investors and capital markets.
Different industries started their environmental consciousness journey by incorporating sustainability efforts, but they needed a criterion to showcase them for capital opportunities, so they started including ESG practices, performance, and reporting.
ESG helps with identifying risk-adjusted returns and aids in measuring and disclosing organizational performance on all these three pillars.
The bottom line
Environmental sustainability is the key to human well-being in the present and the future. It’s expected that by the end of this century, the global temperature rise will cross over 5°C. Given that the current increase stands at around 1.1°C and we are facing massive floods, heatwaves, and droughts, we can only imagine the consequences.
We’ll not only have to opt for eco-friendly business practices, but we’ll also have to change on individual levels. Otherwise, pollution, climate change, extensive waste, natural resource use, deforestation, and other environmental issues will go out of hand.
The only way to reverse climate change and avoid climatic disasters is to live in harmony with our forests, wildlife, water bodies, land, and air. By compromising them, we are comprising our growth, development, and even survival.