Decades of industrial boom, quick consumerism trends and careless disposal techniques have changed our climate and environment. Odd rain cycles, increasing frequencies of natural calamities, new diseases and outbreaks are clear indicators of this. However, many countries and enterprises have been quick to identify the horrendous impact of mass production trends and now strive to leave a better planet for their future generations.
In my last blog, I spoke of SDG 12 that aims to achieve responsible consumption and production. Upon wording, this goal seems to be the most ambitious, yet most achievable. While it brushes upon everything from food scarcity to managing and disposing of resources cautiously, an effort towards a single aspect goes a long way.
Previously I noted the following challenges to achieving SDG 12:
- Marine plastic pollution
- Food waste generation
- Biodiversity and ecosystem damage
- Energy consumption
- Farming shortages
When we look closely, these challenges are symptoms of a fixed production cycle whose only aim is to manufacture goods to keep the economy growing. Considering we have grown out of the building stage of the process and have options of restructuring the production cycle, if businesses were to realign their goals, overcoming challenges to sustainability would not seem so distant. A great way to explain the lifecycle and production chain better is through Annie Leonard’s 22-minute documentary, “The Story Of Stuff” which takes the viewer through the five stages of production—Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal.
She traces the incredible trajectory of what goes on in the making of a simple cotton T-shirt—occupation of new lands, sourcing of the cotton, deforestation due to overyielding the land, use of toxic chemicals to enhance raw and natural materials and produce manufactured goods, exploitation of labour and fuels in production and transportation and creation of unwanted gasses through the cycle, all for a piece of clothing that would hold market value only for a couple of months.
Similar was the story of dirt-cheap radios in the market and computer chips that used tremendous energies to manufacture, polluted the environment and led to biodiversity damage only to end up in landfills that caused further deterioration of the ecosystem.
This is where an EMS or Environment Management System come in place, which is a structured framework that allows businesses to maintain resource efficiency and rethink life cycle considerations to achieve environmental improvement.
As an independent environmental consultant, I have full faith in EMS and believe they can be our world’s saving grace. Sustainability goals targeting access to clean water, energy and sanitation, economic growth, global resource efficiency, climate action, preservation of ecosystems, innovations in infrastructure and more, can be achieved by following the structure and intent of the ISO 14001 standards.
In simple terms, an Environmental Management System is a system or process that helps identify opportunities to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint and environmental impact by understanding the risks of climate change and, setting regular targets and objectives to enhance environmental performance, monitoring the progress while ensuring employee awareness and competence.
What are the benefits of implementing EMS and is it worth the trouble?
Given the impact of Covid-19 on supply chains and consumer awareness towards sustainability and climate change, it is imperative for businesses to take action to reach SDGs. However, it should not have to seem like a systemic change for the survival of businesses or social pressure into moral righteousness, rather crafted into a system that enhances productivity and results while curbing costs for the company.
A Trucost report from 2017 showed SDG alignment generated USD 233 billion in revenue for 13 of the world’s largest companies, and that should be a decent figure to bring new businesses on board. So far, over 14,000 organisations are certified in the UK and over 360,000 ISO 14001
certificates issued globally.
Furthermore, implementing EMS is a direct route towards longevity in social and financial terms too as you are building your brand’s reputation which in turn asks for your business’ accountability to stay in the community. In order to progress up the legal ladder, your business may require an ISO certification and that subconsciously builds the need for legal compliance, attracts efficiency, loyalty from your workforce and a stronger branding, while checking all boxes on the SDG list.
Following ESG frameworks is also likely to cut costs significantly as these measures are bound to reduce your energy and resource consumption. They also prevent accidents that otherwise could cost a lot to clean up and correct.
So yes, I believe implementing EMS is the best way to achieve sustainability practically. I feel businesses should be scrutinising the Triple Bottom Line—the ways in which they affect people, the planet, and their profits. Organisations should not be afraid of embracing the new changes and confidently undertake new challenges that supplement their growth in the ever-changing society. EMS implementation not only equips businesses with the tools to sharpen their environmental impact, but safeguards them from any mistakes that may harm their businesses.