A large and growing number of businesses are realizing substantial financial and environmental benefits from sustainable business practices. There is much to be gained through responsible and environmentally friendly operations, and it is becoming more of an expectation than an option. In this blog series, we will take an in depth look at environmental sustainability, including the policy framework and best practices by leading companies around the world.
Environmental sustainability is defined as responsible interaction with the environment to avoid depletion of natural resources and allow for long-term environmental quality. The practice of environmental sustainability helps to ensure that the needs of our population today are met without jeopardizing future generation's needs. Sustainable development for businesses means adopting strategies that meet the needs of the enterprise and stakeholders today while protecting and sustaining the human and natural resources that will be needed in the future.
When we look at the natural environment, we see that it has an impressive ability to revive itself and sustain its viability. Although, when humans enter and disrupt the natural environment through using many of the natural resources provided by the environment, things change, and natural processes may break down.
Protecting an enterprise's capital and asset base is a well-accepted business principle. Yet many still do not extend this notion to the world's natural resources. If sustainable development is to achieve its full potential, it must be integrated into the planning and measurement systems of businesses.
Human actions may deplete natural resources, and without the application of environmental sustainability policies, long-term viability can be compromised. Developing an effective framework for environmental sustainability requires addressing both decision-making and governance. The concept must be integrated both into business planning and into practical application and implementation.
Environmental issues generally addressed by sustainability policies are air and water pollution, waste/recycling management, ecosystem management, biodiversity protection, wildlife and endangered species, and the preservation of these natural resources for future generations. Environmental policy has also recently extended to the communication of environmental issues.
It is useful to consider that environmental sustainability policy comprises two major terms: environment and policy. Environment refers to the physical ecosystems, but can also take into consideration the social dimension (quality of life, health) and an economic dimension (resource management, biodiversity). Policy can be defined as a course of action or principle adopted or proposed by an organization. Environmental policy focuses on problems arising from human impact on the environment, which retroacts onto society by having a negative impact on human values such as good health or the “green” environment.
An environmental sustainability policy is your company's statement regarding commitment to sustainability and environmental management. Having a formal policy shows employees and customers that actively managing environmental issues is a high priority for your company. Below are the key elements included in an environmental sustainability policy:
In an upcoming blog post in this series, we will explore the framework of an environmental sustainability policy in detail and provide an explanation of each section and an example of what that element might look like. Each policy should be unique and tailored to your specific company's values and objectives.
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