Sustainable business to survive

We take, we make, we use and we waste. We live in a mainly fossil fuel based economy. We threaten biodiversity and we contribute to climate change. In short, our current society is not sustainable. This while our world population is growing, world wealth is going up, demand is increasing and resources are becoming scarce. But planet Earth is not infinite. We are exceeding planetary limits. At the moment, humanity is using the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste[1]. This means that it will take the Earth one year and six months now to regenerate what we use in a year. Even worse, if everyone would consume as much as the average US citizen does, 4 Earths would be needed[2]. We are destroying our valuable unreplaceable planet.

It should be clear that things have to change in the way we think about products, technologies, processes and business if we want to have a livable planet for our next generations. To make this change, sustainable business is essential. Sustainable business is a way of business where the effectiveness of a company is combined with the protection of the environment and where social and economic issues are addressed. People, Planet and Profit, also known as the triple P’s, are central. The products and business processes are such that there will be no negative environmental impact as a consequence of their existence[3].

Unfortunately, the current belief for many companies is that the more environmental-friendly they become, the more it will ruin their ability to compete with other companies. They believe that sustainable business will only cost money, time and effort and will not result in financial benefits. This is not true. Sustainable business does make financial sense. In contrast with the general thought, sustainable business reduces costs. Savings will come from finding efficient ways to reduce resources usage and waste production. It will also increase the competitiveness of a company. A consumer research carried out by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) concluded that a company which is known to be respectful to its environment and society makes consumers 58% more likely to buy their products and services. A good reputation will positively influence the speed with which a company enters or develops within the market. Thereby, sustainable business will increase employee retention and recruitment because people want to work for companies which are mindful to the environment and society.

If sustainable business is indeed so beneficial, why haven’t we already made the change? The answer is barriers. The biggest one is financial short-termism. Business focusses on how to obtain the greatest economic growth today while sustainability is a long-term investment. Another important one is inappropriate regulations. At the moment, there is insufficient regulation which will stimulate change and encourage sustainable business.

But we don’t want to say sorry to our future generation as Prince EA does in his video below. Together, we can and should make the change to a sustainable planet. A change of necessity. A change where we need sustainable business to survive…


[1] http://www.footprintnetwork.org/ar/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/ (10-01-2016 14:19)
[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33133712 (10-01-2016 12:12)
[3] http://www.theevergreengroup.com/sustainable-business.htm (10-01-2016 20:30)

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2 thoughts on “Sustainable business to survive”

  1. Dear Aafke,

    I understand your point of view that businesses are to play an important role in creating a more sustainable environment. Have you however thought about the differences that could exist in the capability of businesses to change to a more green ‘environment’ ? What i mean by this: is that perhaps some businesses wont have the financial capabilities to actually drastically change their production processes. This might add to unfair competition between businesses who are able to change and therefore become more popular. Now with this said, government aid could partly solve this problem. For example, regulations could support smaller businesses in order to become more ‘green’ and therefore be able to actually compete within the market.

    Gr Arash

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  2. Dear Arash,

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, I did think about the differences in capability. Actually, I tried to incorporate this by mentioning the fact that there is insufficient regulation to stimulate change. To maintain fair competition and to stimulate change to sustainable business, I also think governmental aid is necessary. But governmental support won’t be enough. To make the change we also need to overcome the social barrier and the evaluation and monitoring barrier. When it comes to the social barrier, the current way of doing business and way of living actually increases the unsustainable consumption. Most of the people aren’t aware of the damage they actually cause or they don’t care about it enough. There is also a lot of vagueness how sustainable business should look like and how you can satisfy the definition of being a sustainable business when it comes to measure and monitor. A lot of effort is necessary to make the change. Effort within the economic field, but also in our way of living.

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