Consumers and investitors are willing to spend more for products that are environmentally friendly. That’s why more and more companies are now operating with greater regard for the environmental impact of their activities. They’re offering eco-friendly products and carrying sustainability certification. But what’s led to this spread of sustainable corporate practices? Could it be that the message is getting through that what’s good for the environment is also good for business and that sustainable companies make sense?
There is now overwhelming consensus from scientists that wasteful use of resources and lack of consideration of the impact of production and consumption by the human population is damaging wildlife, fisheries, soils and seas. This is impacting our ability to sustain a healthy quality of life for us in the long (and in some parts of the world short) term. So what are the major environmental issues that companies, and the rest of us, face?
Pollution comes from energy generation, transportation, waste products and the introduction of chemicals like pesticides and fertilisers. All over the world – from London to Lagos in West Africa, air pollution is overwhelming cities and contaminating land. According by UNICEF, more than 300 million children are living in parts of the world where levels of outdoor pollution are toxic. Around the world, pollution is becoming an increasingly serious – and in many cases deadly – problem.
2. Global warming
The greenhouse gasses warming our atmosphere and seas are generated through fossil fuel use, farming and food production. Deforestation to create land for crops is reducing the earth’s natural ability to absorb carbon dioxide as well as leading to soil erosion and flooding. Preserving rainforests helps agriculture as they regulate weather patterns and manage water flows.
We see waste everywhere – strewn around fields and roadsides and littering the tidelines of our beaches. It’s been predicted that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Our seas and rivers are suffering as run off from polluted land pours into rivers and seas. When waste ends up at the landfill, chemicals in the trash can leech out into the soil, contaminating it. This will hurt plants, along with animals and even humans who come into contact with the soil.
4. Depletion of natural resources
Plundering natural resources with no thought of they’ll be replenished has led to loss of the biodiversity critical to maintaining the ecosystems sustaining life on earth. The use of pesticides is linked to a decline in bee populations and many of our food crops depend on bees for pollination. Intensive crop farming depletes soils – and artificial fertilisers provide only a temporary fix, leading to predictions that in the UK the ability to grow food crops is in decline.
Common methods used to produce our food have led to a list of environmental problems only touched on here. With all this in mind it’s no wonder more and more people are seeking eco-friendly products and more green companies are taking care of marine conservation and wildlife conservation. But what is sustainability in business?
Briefly, sustainability in business can be defined as a business managed so as to ensure human needs are met for present and future generations, while conserving natural resources and avoiding damage to the environment.
The best way for consumers to be reassured they’re buying from green companies is by looking for food with a recognised certification. Food products certified by Friend of the Earth reassure consumers strict sustainability criteria are being adhered to. Similarly seafood approved by Friend of the Sea is sourced from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Supporting sustainable certification is in the best interest of green business and green consumers.