To live is to consume. But beyond the non-negotiable life essentials like food, drink, shelter and in some cases medication, we also consume an awful lot of products.
In fact, we consume so much that there are now more than 1.7 billion members of “the consumer class”—nearly half of them in the developing world.
Unfortunately, uncontrolled consumption has dire consequences for the environment and social inequality.
A significant chunk the products we consume come from the natural world. Over-extraction of finite resources results in collapsing ecosystems, habitats and species and increases pollution and waste. Here's a scary stat that highlights the urgency of the problem: globally, humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute. 91% of said bottles aren't recycled.
Unfettered consumerism is responsible for up to a whopping 60% of global greenhouse emissions, and household consumption takes its lion's share of the negative impacts on the planet.
Smart businesses know that the big issues like climate change and the environmental impacts of overconsumption can't solely be left to governments and NGO's to solve.
Driving real, effective change requires a shift in global thinking, habits, and values. Alas, consumers are often indifferent to global issues, and governments lack the creativity to tackle difficult, long-term problems.
For systemic change to really happen, we need businesses on our side to fight the good fight.
While the challenge may seem overwhelming, businesses hold the power and the scale to drive significant positive change.
But why exactly should companies care about issues like climate change and overconsumption?
Without a thriving, healthy environment, we run the risk of threatening the very foundations of the free market. Will the populous really be concerned about the latest gadget when they're faced with incessant flooding and terrifying climate volatility?
Another incentive to integrate sustainability into the core of your ethos is that businesses that find solutions to tackle difficult problems while making a positive social impact are rewarded with great benefits and opportunities.
But the reasons to be a sustainable business don't end there.
There is a significantly increased demand from stakeholders for businesses to embrace sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Not only do stakeholders demand strong economic performance, they are increasingly concerned with social and environmental sustainability. Thus, Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics need to be integral to an organisation’s strategy.
Cost savings are a nice perk of being a sustainably-minded business. The less energy you use, the more money you'll save. Energy efficiency is good business.
Plus, research shows that nine-in-ten consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate sustainably and responsibly to address social and environmental issues. We can all safely agree that consumer demands must be met.
It's thus undeniable that adopting sustainability-related business strategies isn't simply the right thing to do, but it is also simply good business.