When talking about sustainability, the focus is on primarily on clean energy, carbon and the environment. While all this is tremendously important, I want to bring into this word a much larger definition. Its about the direct repercussions of our ‘business as usual ‘ life; this added dimension is the heart of the reason for my interest in sustainability.
As I watch on the news, the brave people fight and literally die for change in the Middle East and the recent hunger strikes and demonstrations in India against corruption, I can’t help but connect the dots, with how ‘business as usual’ is suffocating and unfairly penalizes billions of people, in the same way that the environment is treated. I have heard so many arguments that businesses shouldn’t care about sustainability, that its not their function; but I question this – I ask, ‘What allows me to do business so easily while others are disadvantaged? Is it because I’m smarter or better?’ No. More often than not, its because I work in places with easier business laws or, in effect, I work in places where the low wages, lack of transparency, lack of safety, etc, are ‘outsourced’ to other countries.
Sustainability ultimately is about equality – thats what it means to me. Warren Buffet is famously quoted as saying that he has had his opportunities due to the ‘luck of the ovarian lottery’, born at the right place at the right time. The majority of us arrogantly assume that their wealth or their status is due to their hard work. We all need to study history, with an open mind, and look at the world in snippets of 10, 20, 50 yrs, and put where we are and why we have done what we have done, in perspective. An excellent book to put our own national identities in perspective is Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. The world has evolved by some effort and a lot of luck, in my opinion.
The world is in an interesting point of its history today. We have large numbers (billions) of relatively young people, who are educated, connected and globally aware and furthermore, more people are living in cities than in the country, which means they have better access to information. They are all demanding a better quality of life – that doesn’t mean just the environment, but means access to opportunities too. All this equates to demands for equality – opportunities for all, not just the privileged.
I digress. My point is that once we start applying the same standards that we expect from ourselves to everything we do in life, as we are demanding about the environment, then the goal of true Sustainability will be achieved.