Common Misconceptions About Sustainability

Sustainability refers to the development of products, goods, and services that meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability acknowledges that the environment is an exhaustible resource where resources must be well used and protected for the good of Earth, our environment, humanity, all living and nonliving things as interaction takes place. Though many persons relate it with the environment, sustainability can be analyzed in several other contexts, including economic development and social responsibility. These contexts include the earth’s carrying capacity, ecosystems, biodiversity, occupations, behavioral patterns, and so on.

Sustainability is crucial as it improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem, and preserves natural resources for future generations. It is allied with an organization’s holistic approach, which considers everything, beginning from manufacturing to logistics to customer service in the corporate world. To embrace sustainability means ensuring a future for all, reducing energy usage, providing a healthy habitat for all, and societal impact that can reach far and wide.

In a sustainable society, humans live in coherence with the natural environment, conserving resources for future generations to ensure social justice and high quality of life. When we make simple choices, life is more lasting and still enjoyable. To live sustainably does not mean that we give good things up or reduce the quality of life. Instead, it brings fulfillment and happiness as contribution to a better world is the goal.

11 Misconceptions About Sustainability

Sustainability appears to be on everyone’s lips, and there is no shortage of ideas about it, what it means, and how to achieve it. However, there are quite a few misconceptions about sustainability, which might eventually hinder it. They include:

  1. Sustainability isn’t well defined

Some get confused about what sustainability means. For example, a few think that sustainability means reducing the quality of life. Though the word may look ambiguous, it has been specifically defined by a United Nations committee as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

2. Sustainability is only about the environment

Owing to current worldwide movements like #FridaysForFuture and #ClimateMarch, which have shed light on the state and health of our planet, most people link sustainability with only climate change. Yet, sustainability is broader, covering all human activities. To achieve an inclusive sustainability, a sustainable climate, a sustainable economy, and sustainable political systems are required. The sustainability concept comprises three pillars: economic, environmental, and social, popularly referred to as profits, planet, and people.

3. Being sustainable is expensive

Sustainability management may look like an extra cost but these costs are primary short-term. In identifying sustainable business opportunities, investment in sustainability management software, or hiring people, essential or indirect costs might be added for adopting innovative and sustainable approaches in meeting the people’s needs. It’s not about spending more money but prioritizing budgets to what will give the most lasting value. The question should be: which is the most expensive? Achieving a sustainable society or continuing the march towards collapse? Though it may not come cheap, sustainability remains a better option.

4. Sustainability is a phase

Sustainability entails Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and thus should not be seen as a mere trend. People and organizations with good knowledge about sustainability have always cared about social and economic prosperity. The only difference is that now, the consequences of climate change, urbanization, and others are right in our faces and we’re ever more familiar with human rights issues, all of which cause sustainability to be at the center. The world is becoming clearer and investment in reducing the negative impact of our activities will bring positive change in the long run.

5. Sustainability is part of a strategy

As sustainability becomes a buzzword, most organizations see it as just another strategy. It should not be an aspect but the foundation of strategies. Sustainability should be a lifestyle instead of a ‘nice-to-have’ as it builds a long-lasting image, boosts an organization’s morale, and capitalizes on unique business opportunities that keep them ahead of competition. It should be an organization’s culture.

6. Sustainability is an end station

Today, sustainability management is focused on reporting sustainability information, reviewing what needs to be done, and keeping up with the trends. Just as financial information is vital in risks identification, business opportunities, and the overall health of an organization, likewise sustainability should inform integral business decisions. Again, sustainability is a mindset that varies, develops, and conforms to the needs at hand, both in the short-term and long-term, which implies that it is not a steady, once-a-year review used to endorse decisions.

7. Sustainability is equal to recycling

While recycling is an important segment of sustainability work, it is not all of it. In fact, recycling may not help at all in some cases where scarce and limited resources are dealt with. It may just work as a temporary quick fix, but the actual solution is something else.

8. Sustainability will take us backward in time and make us poor and miserable

This is absolutely wrong as it wouldn’t be possible for us to go back to the old lifestyle as the earth’s population cannot be sustained in that way. A sustainable society should follow the path of innovation and efficient use of its resources. This means being much more technically progressively to pull through this. A sustainable future will entail proper direction and thorough research to identify the solutions we need today, for a better life.

9. Technology, not sustainability, will solve all our problems

Technology will definitely solve a lot of problems, but sustainability depends to a high degree on each and every one of us making smarter decisions and planning our lives better. A deliberate decision ought to be made for a greener, healthier, and more sustainable life, even as we embrace technology.

10. Sustainability is simply ‘going green’

When sustainability comes up, many think of it as using only what’s natural or going green. Making “green” choices for food, energy, and lifestyle will make one feel good and doubtless good for the health in comparison to many other options, but this doesn’t mean sustainability. To achieve sustainable development, tough choices have to be made, but not all of them require going green. For example, getting electricity from nuclear power is merely considered green by anyone, but in some cases, could be the sustainable choice, if we want to keep on living the way we do and even better.

11. The earth’s population is unsustainable

Things might be made easier if the earth’s population is reduced, but where does this line of thinking end up? Focusing on the detected overpopulation of our planet won’t lead to anywhere as the optimal population is not known. It’s a matter of managing our resources in a reasonable way for the benefit of all. Sustainability onus lies on us making some small adjustments to our lives for a positive change.

It’s Time to Embrace Sustainability

Sustainability is not an easy nut to crack because if it was, we will not be where we are today. It is true that we all have to make individual adjustments to our ways of living and most of them may be minute, but it’s barely enough. This builds on the assumption that all problems are local but it is not true. Most sustainability problems are global and warrant large-scale solutions. We will move forward only when we work with sustainability at all levels of society (SDG 16 and 17).

Irrespective of who we are, where we live, and what we do, we all have a moral obligation to each other, our future generations, and other species for this planet to be sustained. Our present choices and actions have vast long-term impacts on future generations. If the earth’s resources are depleted, future generations will be depleted. For example, if the oceans are overfished, the supply of fish is not only depleted but also the supply of every organism in the food chain related to that fish is depleted.

Sustainable actions cannot be overemphasized as it aids in making a real difference in our society. Commitment to sustainability will reduce our carbon footprints as the environment becomes safer due to the reduction in the measure of toxins released into the environment. We should all focus on sustainability just like it is done in REES Africa for a cleaner and healthier living world.

Author: Gift Ifokwe

Photo: cbc.co

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