Increased environmental awareness within the zeitgeist of society has brought about renewed consensus regarding sustainable development. Many have come to realise that such sustainability is hardly possible without the sustainable development of organisations and infrastructure. Large corporations owe it to the vast majority of the population to be responsible for their actions – whether it’s in the pursuit of profit or the betterment of the human race. Ultimately, these same entities must be accountable and transparent with their behaviour to secure a livable environment for future generations to come.
Existing Sustainable Business Initiatives and Why They’re Not Working
Existing approaches towards sustainable development, such as philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, and technological process/product innovation, have been deemed insufficient by critics. The big issue raised is their limited reach and impact, especially in the face of climate catastrophe. According to a report by the IPCC, climate change is viewed as a ‘code red for humanity’. These aforementioned efforts are but nothing more than a drop in the ocean when it comes to what companies need to be doing.
I propose that radical transformation is not only necessary, but it paves the way for genuine, substantive sustainability development. As entities that possess significant influence, it is only natural that they should create or modify their business models in order to radically reduce negative impacts of climate change. Of course, mitigating the impacts of climate catastrophe and enabling sustainable development are behemoth undertakings in their own regard. One foot in front of the other, the solution begins with tackling one issue at a time.
The most apparent of which is the concern of greenhouse gas emissions – both as a by-product of commercial manufacturing as well as for the generation of power and electricity through burning fossil fuels. The threat of these emissions are evident, as seen in a report by the WMO demonstrating how greenhouse gases have reached a new record as of 2020. By cutting down and drastically shifting to a net-zero carbon emission goal, we can lower these alarming numbers significantly by the next decade.
The Ideal Sustainable Business Model that Champions Renewable Energy
Let’s first define what exactly constitutes a “sustainable business model”. According to Schaltegger, Hansen, & Lüdeke-Freund (2016), a sustainable business model “describes, analyses, manages, and communicates (i) a company’s sustainable value proposition to all its stakeholders; (ii) how it creates and delivers this value; (iii) and how it captures economic value while maintaining or regenerating natural, social, and economic capital beyond its organisational boundaries.” In other words, it is the organisation’s imperative to be clear on their environmental goals, and how they attempt to achieve them. These plans should entail tangible and concrete actions that demonstrate how value is added back into the ecosystem.
In relation to the earlier challenge of greenhouse gas emissions, what does this look like for businesses? Firstly, they must identify, analyse and communicate the extent of their greenhouse gas emissions and its corresponding effects. They must communicate the need to introduce change on an individual, organisational and societal level, to induce a shift in behaviour. Following that, these businesses must also identify the changes that are to be introduced. For models that aim to reduce greenhouse gasses, a shift to renewable energy is imperative. As I have alluded to earlier, fossil fuels constitute a large sum of air pollution and production of greenhouse gases. By diversifying our energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels, the once apparently gargantuan task of curbing greenhouse gas emissions seems a lot more achievable.
Aside from directly contributing to sustainable movements, the end goal of an effective sustainable business model is to directly influence and generate insight, to help contextualise and explain the inherent values these initiatives bring to society, empowering businesses to thrive in the long run.