Unfortunately, for the past 50 years we have been doing exactly the opposite. Resources have been overexploited to support financial growth without accounting for the short and long term social and environmental impact of these actions. This has brought about the consolidation of the dominant culture of make, use, dispose and how it currently functions as a linear model.
In simple words, we have been measuring a country’s output based purely on Gross Domestic Product — GDP. GDP is the monetary value of all finished goods and services made within a country during a specific period of time, and therefore measures the ability of a country to generate financial income.
In no way have we considered the environmental or social factors at play in this equation.
Some forward thinking countries have started to take action against this and have, over the last two decades, slowly introduced certain mechanisms to support the shift toward a more sustainable system (e.g. Carbon Taxes, etc.).
If we want to achieve true sustainable development, we have to reverse our current vision of growth, well-being and of many other social structures. We need a huge shift toward a circular system where products are made to be reused, remanufactured or recycled and stay in a closed loop for as long as possible. Products should be made to last, unlike what is currently happening, and once there is no more use for them they should go back into the system as raw material.
The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the goals.
Things have started moving more quickly over the past few years. People have taken to the streets asking for government action before it’s too late (see movements like Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future). The Paris Agreement has been signed by 195 counties and, even if the nature of the agreement is not binding, it is a step forward for many nations.
Businesses are also starting to understand that to remain competitive in the market and attractive to customers, they need to start measuring and mitigating the social and environmental impact of their products and processes.
Companies like Patagonia have made it their mission to be a profitable business while delivering a positive social and environmental impact. They are leading the way and more companies are following, see the Adidas for Parley initiative for example. Many brands are realizing that sustainable start-ups are threatening their market position and are deciding to do something about it.
It is a widespread belief that as individuals we don’t hold much power to change things, aside from urging government and businesses to change how the “system” works, and hold those accountable who operate without respect for our planet.
Indeed, this is one of our duties. Activism is needed today more than ever. But we definitely need more than an activisms based on catastrophism and overwhelming anxiety. The kind of activism we need today is one where each of us tries, one step at a time, to make more conscious decisions in our daily lives.
Often times, we don’t place enough value on the power of our actions because we don’t look beyond what we see. Yet, every moment we’re making small decisions that can have a much larger impact than we appreciate. Look at the reusable water bottle market that has already reached a value of 8 billion USD and is estimated to have eliminated 60 billion plastic bottles annually.
Controlling our diet also makes a huge difference. The food industry is one of the most polluting sectors and carefully choosing the food we buy and eat has huge benefits, not just for the environment, but for us and the producers too.
At ECo, we believe in the power of people and we believe that this is the perfect time to realize that WE, as voters, as consumers and as a major financial force in society have the power to change how things work. To achieve this though, we need to be conscious of our potential and of what needs to be done, we can’t just blindly trust advertising and brand claims (“greenwashing”).
That being said, we don’t need to change how behaviour overnight. To embrace change we need to first fully understand what it means and what benefits it offers us in the short and long term. Only then will we be able to make conscious decisions and truly improve our quality of life.