Page 4: The Sustainable Business
The concept and support for, sustainable development is growing. Many businesses have integrated a strategy of sustainability (taking into account its 3 main aspects - economic, environment, social). It makes good business sense for companies to be environmentally friendly as improved efficiency in manufacturing in turn leads to a more efficient use of natural resources. Operating efficiently translates to competitive advantage for business and supports the economic pillar of sustainability as well. Therefore, all aspects of sustainability are seen as complementary, and mutually interdependent.
Agenda 21 states that responsible businesses should play a major role in improving the efficiency of resource use. This can result in minimising waste and protecting human health and environmental quality. For a business to be environmentally sustainable, the company must start by becoming environmentally aware from the inside. The whole ethics and culture of the organisation must reflect those of sustainable development. This includes what the company does, how it treats its workers, how it deals with other organisations, how the managers act and what messages these actions send out. Sustainable Development is an integrated approach including economic, environmental and social aspects. Therefore all three are to be put at complementary levels of priority each considering effects of the other components.
Agenda 21 lays out a seven point plan for businesses to start changing values and perceptions. It states that they should:
- develop policies that support operations and products that have lower environmental impacts
- ensure responsible and ethical management of products and processes from the point of view of health, safety and the environment
- make environmentally sound technologies available to affiliates in developing countries without prohibitive charges
- encourage overseas affiliates to modify procedures in order to reflect local ecological conditions and share information with Governments
- create partnerships to help people in smaller companies learn business skills
- establish national councils for sustainable development, both in the formal business community and in the informal sector, which includes small scale businesses
- increase research and development of environmentally sound technologies and environmental management systems.