Sustainable development: all you need to know

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In recent decades, industrialisation and technological developments have helped spur economic growth on a global scale.

These advancements have however come at an environmental cost. It is paramount that world leaders find a balance between economic growth and eco friendly product and lifestyle practices.

Some examples of the environmental costs include:

– Environmental degradation

– Climate change

– Social inequality

just to name a few.

That’s where sustainable development comes in, described by the Bruntland Comission Report as “development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainable development promotes a balance between economic growth, environmental safety and social benefits to reach a sustainable and better future for all.

What are the sustainability development goals?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are guidelines established by the United Nations in the “2030 Agenda”, to solve current environmental and social problems such as eradicating poverty and protecting natural resources.

The only way to achieve these goals is with the participation and cooperation of governments, the private sector, institutions and people like us!

Here are some of the most prominent Sustainable Development Goals:

Eradicate Poverty
According to the World Bank, a large majority of people around the world still live in extreme poverty, preventing them from enjoying a decent standard of living.

Solving this problem is crucial in order to improve the quality of life for vulnerable communities, i.e. providing them with access to basic services.

The creation of more job opportunities and innovative solutions is what this principle/goal looks for in order to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.

Affordable and Clean Energy
Energy is essential in ensuring a decent standard of living, as well as supporting new technologies in industries such as healthcare.

Sustainable development relies on the use of clean energy sources in order to  ensure economic growth and social benefits. Maintaining environmental friendliness is of course the top priority here.

However, there are of course many places where these resources are either extremely scarce or simply not available. In other parts of the world, energy production is still largely sourced via fossil fuels.

This goal therefore focuses on promoting the use of renewable energy sources and making it as accessible as possible for all communities.

Reduced Inequalities

According to the United Nations, many people around the world have limited access to many services due to differences in:

– Income
– Sex
– Religion
– Sexual Orientation
– Race 

and more.

These inequalities must be addressed in order to ensure equality. This goal looks to promote the creation of inclusive practices.

Responsible Consumption and Production
It’s no secret that the existing levels of global consumption and production is causing serious environmental damage.

Some examples include:

– Air Pollution
– Water pollution
– Soil pollution
– Plastic pollution
– Loss of biodiversity

just to mention a few.

Many of these problems could be tackled if the economic sector adopted more sustainable practices and in turn reducing their carbon footprint and consumption of natural resources.

Consumers also have the responsibility of embracing sustainable practices – the aim that this goal promotes.

Climate Action

Climate change is the result of excessive greenhouse gasses causing environmental problems such as:

– Stronger hurricanes
– Rising sea levels
– Global warming

Climate change has and will affect everyone around the world. Sustainable development will only be possible with low-carbon economies and solutions such as new technologies to help combat and mitigate these problems.

Common examples of sustainable development

If you’re still unsure on how sustainable development goals can be incorporated into society, here are a some examples highlighting the balance between economic activities, social benefits and environmental protection:

Recycling is a great example of sustainable development. This sustainable activity uses materials such as aluminum, paper and electronic devices and turns them into valuable new materials.

Renewable Energy Production
Using renewable energy sources such as wind, sun, hydropower, biofuel and others to produce electricity is becoming an increasingly common market opportunity.

Adopting renewable energy sources over fossil fuel burning boast benefits to both the environment and human health.

Clean and renewable energy sources are crucial for sustainable development as they don’t emit greenhouse gases, helping to prevent global warming and health diseases.

Sustainable Farming
Conventional farming comprises of many practices that are harmful to the environment.

Some of these practices include:
– Monoculture farming
– Using synthetic pesticides and fertilizes that pollute the air, water and soil.

Sustainable farming utilizes crop rotation in order to reduce the pressure on soils with environmentally friendly techniques. These techniques are better for both the farmers and for the consumers well-being.

Sustainable Construction

Sustainable construction is refers to using:

– Sustainable materials
– Recycled materials
– Water and energy efficient appliances

There are many other practices that are not only more environmentally friendly, but also more cost-effective in comparison to conventional construction.

Why is sustainable development important? – The three principles of sustainability

The principles of sustainability highlight how sustainable development can benefit the environment, society and the economy.

Environmental Benefits

Sustainable development aims to ensure that governments, businesses, individuals and institutions all have sustainable practices and policies in place in order to reduce environmental damage.

This principle also promotes the development of new technologies to help tackle problems related to climate-change. All of these practices lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and forest areas, better protection of biodiversity and more.

One environmental challenge faced by companies adopting this principle is that a companies ecological footprints are’t always fully attributable, meaning that it can be difficult to measure all impacts that environmental changes are having.

Therefore benchmarking and measuring external improvement is becoming a more important aspect of environmental science.

Sustainable strategy is an area of employment that is rapidly growing within corporation hierarchies.

Social Benefits

The pillar of social sustainability pertains to the preservation of social capital through investment and also through the creation of sustainable services. In other words, this pillar aims to preserve future generations along with acknowledging that our actions have an impact on both others and on the world. Social sustainability also aims to help benefit and maintain social quality through concepts such as reciprocity, cohesion and honesty. (Diesendorf, 2000)

Sustainable development seeks to build a future whereby everyone can live a better life regardless of where they live. This principle also promotes better opportunities in the form of tacking inequality and ensuring access to basic services such as education and clean water.

More and more businesses are beginning to focus on engagement and retention strategies, promoting employee benefits and flexible working arrangements (where circumstantially necessary).

According to the US Forum For Sustainable & Responsible Investment, between the years 2016 and 2018, investment aimed at sustainability and responsibility grew by more than 38%.

Economic Benefits

Economic sustainability refers to strategic decisions taken in order to promote the adoption and use of socio-economic resources.

A fully functioning, sustainable economic model proposes the allocation and distribution of resources. This principle promotes the adoption of these resources responsibly, ensuring positive financial longevity.

All of these environmental and social challenges are an opportunity for businesses to create new and better services, products and technologies that support their economic growth and solve these problems.

Another great incentive is the cost savings that arise from adopting sustainable practices and using sustainable materials.

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