how it changes the way companies and institutions act
Environmental sustainability: a fundamental pillar
We use the term “sustainabilityto indicate a balance that can be sustained over time and in which we are able to make the best use of the resources available to us. We can analyze it under three fundamental aspects: environmental, social and economic. Naturally, these three pillars are closely linked to each other in a relationship of interdependence, one in which their coexistence is essential and without which the individual aspects could not develop properly and sustainably.
Among these, environmental sustainability consists of a ongoing commitment to interact responsibly with the environment and to implement a range of strategies that can improve the current condition but also ensure continuity for future generations. According to award-winning economist Herman Daly, three conditions must be met for human society to be considered sustainable:
- The rate at which renewable resources are used must not exceed the rate at which they regenerate.
- The rate at which non-renewable resources are used must not exceed the rate at which the corresponding renewable substitutes can be used.
- The issuance of Pollution and waste must not exceed the rate at which the environment can absorb them, assimilate them and render them harmless.
Closely related to the concept of environmental sustainability is the one from circular economy, “a production and consumption model that consists of sharing, lending, reusing, repairing, reconditioning and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible”, as defined by the European Parliament. It is therefore a type of economy that has the potential to persist forever and with infinite resources, operating, as its name suggests, in cycles.
And this is precisely the concept behind environmental sustainability: reduce waste and ensure that every object and product in circulation is used to its fullest and best capacity. But for that, it is not enough to recycle: it is necessary to implement a profound change of mindset both at the individual and collective level.
Corporate commitment to sustainable development
Today, more and more companies decide to join programs that promote environmental sustainabilityfollowing requests from citizens and therefore from the media and public institutions.
The sustainability of companies is above all to reduce their impact on the environment in terms of energy, therefore to optimize and save as well as to use alternative energy sources, as well as the consequences of the production of waste and scrap metal from industrial activity.
Optimizing the management of incoming energy flows and outgoing consumption and waste requires rationalization of the management of these processes within the company in order to achieve significant objectives in this area.
An advantage for businesses
It may seem obvious, but being part of a system marked by eco-sustainable choices is neither easy nor immediate, especially for businesses. They must review their internal organization, update and add the standards and practices necessary to embark on such a path. But even before they can do this, there must be a first change on the part of companies: a greater sensitization and sensitivity to these questions is the basis for greater involvement and better success in achieving the objectives established for these purposes.
Companies that decide to enter this world can therefore feel underperforming and disoriented, not knowing exactly what strategy to put in place to adapt to a market increasingly oriented towards green choices. Also, another obstacle could simply be the lack of sufficient resources they can deploy to implement sustainable strategies.
However, nowadays it is almost necessary for a company to go down the road environmental sustainability, and not only, because failure to do so could present serious risks in terms of credibility, value creation and lasting relationships with consumers. It is crucial for a company to understand the needs of the market and to follow them, otherwise it will fall into oblivion.
Planning for sustainability
The first step for a business is to create a action plan through which it can communicate to the stakeholders its strategy, its objectives and all that is necessary for their achievement in an optimal time frame.
A internal company analysis must be carried out in order to define the mission to be implemented, depending on the period and the sector. This should be followed by a external market analysis to analyze current trends and the regulatory environment. The second phase is the real strategy phase, where a concrete plan is defined according to the objectives they have set themselves. The constant involvement of committed members is essential in this phase. The last is the Implementation phase, where a series of actions are put in place. Here again, it is very important that everyone believes in the values they want to spread, so that a feeling of sincerity and social credibility can be transmitted to consumers.
Institutions and sustainability
The issues inherent in environmental sustainability also concern public and private institutions, the former being guarantors of legislative processes and the application of the sector, and the latter as repositories of environmental culture, acting as civic intermediaries with the media in order to disseminate values and innovation of such ecological approaches.
Public entities are responsible for requesting and promoting specific studies to serve as a basis for the legislator, with the aim of producing current and technically consistent standards and codes to support the development of any initiative falling within the framework of improving the environmental performance of Moral people. In addition, public bodies are responsible for granting permits for sustainability-oriented activities and the related monitoring of the implementation and execution phases of these activities.
Private entitieshaving the promotion and development of environmental initiatives in their social object, act partly as cultural vectors of related values and partly as civic mediators and controllers, with the means to share information and the proper implementation of projects public and private.
There are five towns certificates that a company can obtain:
- ISO 14001 certificate: is applicable to any public or private body; it establishes the requirements of an Environmental Management System, which allows the monitoring of environmental impacts and the implementation of performance improvement policies.
- EMAS Certification: The Eco Management and Audit Scheme is an internationally recognized certification, obtaining which allows the company to be referenced among the most responsible organizations.
- ISO 50001 certificate: defines energy management needs and enables the implementation of energy improvement and cost reduction policies.
- Eco-label certification: a European environmental label which identifies environmentally preferable products and services and can be used to distinguish competitors.
- Environmental Footprint Certification: demonstrates the company’s commitment to respecting the environment, the impact of its products and services, and the quality of the processes it has adopted.
Limits and Perplexities
Of course, there are also negative aspects that are not immediately visible in some of the processes aimed at environmental sustainability.
For example, one of the most ambitious goals in the field of the environment is the achievement of what is called “net zero emissions”, and the transition to get there is obviously fraught with pitfalls and costs. Such an effort, however, implies a reorganization of the business model, and among these is the move to greater digitization of its internal and distribution structure.
However, even such an operational structure involves energy consumption because the ease of digital communication increases the use of such tools: for example, sending a single 1 Megabyte e-mail emits around 19g. of CO2, in addition to the energy consumption of the PC and that of the servers involved in the traffic. It is clear that the company, if it really wants to make progress in terms of energy, must require its personnel to use these tools in moderation, in order to obtain an environmental benefit and not to incur the opposite. of the desired effect.
Also in the field of operations management and logistics, among others, great attention must be paid to the means used to move goods and people. Here, too, there are contraindications to current trends. The growth in the use of electric cars does not take into account an important fact: for the same performance, the electric vehicle pollutes more because the quantity of fossil sources necessary to produce energy is greater, and the problem of waste batteries at the end of its life has not yet been resolved. So, the only advantage here is the lower concentration of pollutants in urban areas.