Why the World is Crazy About Sustainability

Personal effectiveness advocate and author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the late Steven Covey, defined success as “achieving your goals in such a way that you can keep achieving your goals.” In other words, true success is sustainable; today, the world has both adopted and endorsed this philosophy as threats of climate change, global warming and ozone layer depletion get more real.

Sustainability is now the name of the game, and this is serious business. As part of the Millennium Development Goals passed by the United Nations in the year 2000, a global commitment was made to “Ensure Environmental Sustainability (MDG #7)” with sub-goals spanning the reversal of environmental resource loss to reducing biodiversity depletion. Fifteen years later, the heat is still on and newer imperatives are emerging for businesses, governments and all players in today’s economic ecosystem.

There is now such a thing as the “triple bottom-line” concept where profits of organizations are no longer purely economic but include social and environmental dimensions. Therefore, the present definition of a successful company is not necessarily a company that makes humongous profits and impressive dividends for its shareholders but one that benefits the full spectrum of stakeholders by also improving the social lot of the region it operates in and making bold commitments and actions that improve upon its operating environment. This is the new meaning of corporate success.

Companies are now expected to engage in responsible sourcing of raw materials in such ways that don’t degrade the environment or contribute to the extinction of already endangered species. Suppliers are now increasingly screened and made to conform with these new imperatives as all components of the supply chain are optimized with a sustainability mindset. These corporate entities must now succeed in inclusive ways such that their host communities succeed as well.

Campaigns for more sustainable practices have been never-ending as the mass and social media continue to carry them. Environmentally friendly companies have become the “cool” places to work in and the world has seen a dramatic surge of “green-collar jobs” with very environmentally-friendly roles. Environmentally compliant technologies have increased in number as the world’s inhabitants continue to raise their “green quotient.”

The developing world must not be left out in this sustainability movement because all available data on climate change suggests that this region would be the worst hit from global warming and its sister climate change. Africa, in particular, remains both vulnerable and volatile due to weak infrastructure, faulty social support systems and a host of other non-ideal conditions. The campaign must not stop, we must now succeed in ways that ensure that we keep succeeding.

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