How Do the 3 Pillars of Sustainability Help the Environment

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Posted by: Dana Colson Category: Corporate Sustainability

How Do the 3 Pillars of Sustainability Help the Environment

Climate change is real and millions of people across the globe are facing countless problems due to its many adverse effects. The recently concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Egypt from November 8th 2022 to November 18th 2022, brought together world leaders and entrepreneurs from across the world to discuss the future global actions of economic sustainability in order to combat the effects of climate change.

However, the conference drew mixed reactions from the public and environmentalists. Many environmentalists were shocked by the ambitious national targets discussed in the final COP27 meeting. Some of the resolutions meant that the stakeholders approved increased use of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and coal.

According to a recent report, the average Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.08 Fahrenheit since 1880. 2021 was the sixth warmest year, according to temperature data from NOAA. We must develop robust ways of curbing this trend to protect the environmental impacts.

One of the best ways of reversing the detrimental effects of climate change is by embracing the three pillars of sustainability.

What Are the Three Pillars of Environmental Sustainability?

The three primary pillars that can foster the sustainability of our planet are the environment, society, and the economy. They were first coined in the now widely accepted and studied Brundtland report, published in 1987. They also warn that burning of fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere carbon dioxide (co2)  which is causing gradual global warming.

We can only succeed in creating a sustainable environment by embracing the three pillars. Other important aspects of environmental sustainability include;

  • Environmental protection
  • Social sustainability and equity
  • Economic profitability and equitable sharing of natural resources

The three pillars are also widely discussed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. Different scholars interpret the pillars differently. One thing that is similar in all the explanations is that every environmental responsibility and pillar are different, and there is a hierarchy among the three pillars.

The pillars are the 3 Ps for sustainability, namely;

  • People
  • Profit
  • Planet

Let’s dive in and look at the three pillars of sustainability and how they affect the environment.

Environmental Pillar of Sustainability

This environmental pillar of sustainability entails regulations, laws, and tools/resources used to collect data and manage resources such as freshwater, oceans, forests, air, wildlife, and natural resources.

Implementing this pillar requires research and study of different ecosystems to determine their resilience. That is their ability to withstand the negative impacts of human activities such as mining raw materials underground and excessive use of agrochemicals in agriculture. Resilience refers to the ability of the ecosystem to recover after being degraded or polluted.

Other strategies used to implement this pillar and manage the demand for natural resources for human activities such as agriculture are;

  • Waste Management: It discourages using a linear waste management model that results in massive landfills and proposes a circular way of handling the waste. This new model is sustainable and planet friendly as it advocates for countries to recycle as much waste as possible. 
  • Energy Consumption: It encourages societies to embrace renewable energy sources that are more efficient, affordable, and cleaner. A robust energy consumption framework will also create a sustainable business environment for entrepreneurs. 
  • Food: It encourages people to embrace healthy and sustainable diets such as Japanese and Mediterranean diet plans. The two diets recommend consuming fewer animal products such as meat and milk. 
  • Freshwater: Investment in green technologies and upgrading existing infrastructure in agriculture will ensure that future generations have enough access to clean and safe water.
  • Lowering Emission of CO2: Greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2 exacerbate climate change’s impact and global warming, especially in developing countries such as Kenya. Increased use of renewable energy sources and use of new technologies is effective in reducing CO2 emissions.
  • Population: The population levels in developed countries tend to stagnate and, in some developed countries, it has slightly declined. However, most developing countries have the highest population, which exerts too much pressure on the available natural resources. Coming up with long-term solutions to problems associated with overpopulation, extreme poverty, such as providing better living conditions, is humane and helps control the global population growth rate.
  • Cities: We can live a more rewarding and sustainable lifestyle if the governments and other stakeholders work together to ensure that the infrastructure and urban spaces are appropriately planned for and managed.

Social Pillar of Sustainability

The social pillar encompasses initiatives that have positive impacts that are meant to better the livelihoods of the communities. These corporate social responsibilities (CSR) include public policies, planning, and regulation of social issues. Some of the things that this pillar seeks to achieve are;

  • Social justice
  • Poverty eradication
  • Improved quality of life
  • Better access to quality healthcare
  • Promote diversity
  • Foster community development
  • Nurture cultural sustainability and heritage
  • Education

Below is a detailed review of the main aspects of this sustainability pillar.

  • Better Access to Healthcare Services: Healthcare is the heart of this pillar. Research shows that most health-related issues are directly or indirectly intertwined with the economy and the environment. For example, green agricultural innovations reduce land, air, and water pollution, thus cushioning communities from diseases.
  • Poverty and Social Justice: Societies in developing countries cannot set and achieve sustainable development goals due to poverty and skewed social justice. 
  • Culture and Religion: Culture refers to the beliefs, heritage, and religion of different communities or societies. They directly influence sustainable development and environmental consciousness. Influential religious leaders such as Pope Francis have repeatedly called for the government and the United Nations to work together to combat environmental degradation. 

Economic Pillar of Sustainability

We must implement sustainability economic pillar for businesses to thrive in the current wake of climate change and global warming. Concisely, a company (existing or new) must be economically profitable to be sustainable.

However, profit should not be the main agenda of the business. An environmentally conscious entrepreneur should implement measures and protocols that foster a balanced culture at their workplace. Environmental and social factors are needed to promote attainment of social, economic, and development goals/objectives.

Sadly, most business models are hinged on an infinite exponential growth model that poses a great danger to the ecosystems.

Thus, it’s only possible to achieve long-term economic growth if the limited natural resources are used wisely. The capitalist system widely embraced in developed countries sadly does not consider the fact that our planet has limited resources.

Actions, such as the massive transformation of the forest into industries, resulted in the gross emission of greenhouse gasses that aggravate the effects of global warming. More often than not, companies that use non-renewable resources to produce products are not penalized for polluting the environment.

Corporate social responsibility regulations and policies have to be adopted in developed countries. Governments need to establish proper rules and regulations to deal with businesses whose activities ruin the environment by depleting natural resources and causing pollution.

Final Thoughts

More awareness campaigns are needed to empower the general public, governments, and environmental conservation organizations with information about the three pillars of sustainability.

Training and incentives should be offered to promote the full adoption of the pillars in developed and developing countries that are worst affected by climate change and global warming.

Discussions about environmental conservation, climate change, global warming, sustainable business practices, and future generations levels to meet are gaining momentum. Adopting the strategies proposed will improve the livelihoods of millions of people, create new business opportunities and promote economic growth worldwide.

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