GLOBE Foundation

The here and now of Sustainability

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Courtesy of Courtesy of GLOBE Foundation

There are two persistent misconceptions about sustainability that can confuse many and delay implementing measures to cut carbon emissions, save energy or eliminate wastage.   

The first is that sustainability can deliver long term benefits, but only through high upfront costs. The second is that while being more sustainable is good for the environment, more pressing economic stability and growth concerns must take precedence.  

Both are profoundly wrong. 

It's how we do it.

The introduction of more sustainable practices in one's personal or business life will generate returns almost immediately; and in many cases any upfront costs are recovered in very short periods of time. 

We see this every day in terms of how we reduce energy costs by better  insulating our homes; by saving money by driving more fuel efficient  cars, and on the job through making incremental changes to the way we  work and what we do.

The key sustainability issue here is not what we do, but how we do it.   

If we make something using fewer parts, with less energy resulting in little or no left over waste, simple logic says we will save money.

In reality we live in an interconnected world and sustainability is the most powerful unifying force in that reality. 

Investing in technology 

If we can do this in a manner that is ecologically friendly and compliant with rules and regulations designed to protect both people and the environment, we also save money.   

Behind this simple axiom is the need to look closely at how things are being done and to determine where economies can be realized. That is where innovations in technologies and job creating knowledge factors come into play.  

With respect to the environment versus economy argument, that issue has been debated for decades and proven to be false so often that most serious business leaders give it no credence.  

Sustainable economies

Our research at GLOBE has proven time and time again that 'clean' technologies and sustainability solutions generate more high-paying, downturn resistant jobs and more investment than any other form of economic activity.  

A related point is the suggestion that people are less worried about the environment because the global economic crisis has become their primary concern.  

Without doubt, financial hardships and loss of a job create immediate and pressing issues that must be dealt with as a matter of priority. But to imply that people's underlying value systems have been fundamentally changed due to the precedence of these more immediate economic issues is false.  

Sustainability and the economy are linked, that is beyond doubt. But they are not either or issues. In truth, they are one in the same. A more sustainable economy creates more jobs, more wealth and more lasting social and ecological benefits than any other way of doing business.   

Admittedly, that has not always been the hallmark of business values, but in today's more interconnected world, this fundamental reality is becoming more and more accepted. 

The interconnectivity between environmental sustainability and economic stability, job growth, energy efficiency gains, and better business practices is the one overriding fact to be kept in mind when reading the many essays in this publication.  

Sustainability is the integrating factor linking corporate responsibility and business survival; creating sustainable and safe cities; developing more fuel efficient and 'green' transportation options; using more clean energy and using all energy sources more efficiently; and laying the foundation for career development and personal growth.  

In reality we live in an interconnected world and sustainability is the most powerful unifying force in that reality. 

Dr. John D. Wiebe, is the President and CEO of the Vancouver-based GLOBE Foundation. This article also appears in Building the business case for sustainability a Media Planet Special Feature on Sustainability that appeared in the Toronto Star, May 3, 2013. 

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