Defining “sustainable development”
In the week preceding the seminar the class members are asked to share with the class via this blog their short answers to and reflections on the following questions, to give us a short first basemark against which, among other things, to gauge the evolution of their thinking.
On a separate page please share with us all a short statement indicating your understanding of
- the concept of sustainable development (we ask you to define it in a few lines);
- how, if at all, it fits into the world of economy and business; and
- how the concept looks and is viewed in your country.
(Note: Each of us will be invited to make individual presentations in the first hours of the course to introduce ourselves and our initial understanding of these concepts to the others. This is a group learning process.)
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We share with you a selection of responses from earlier ISG students in this course, with the thought that it may encourage you in preparing your own opening statement for 2013.
From the UK
“We don’t pass on our planet to our children, but borrow it from future generations”. An Indian chief first said this sentence in the 1400’s, and it was later on written by Montesquieu. I believe this phrase resumes sustainable development in an way that makes people want to be involved in preserving our planet, resources and people.
There are three dimensions in sustainable development: social, economical and ecological. Each of these dimensions are linked by one key point: durability.
Sustainable development vs. the business world:
Although for a long time being green and mentioning sustainable development in businesses was a strong marketing argument, an increasing number of companies seem to start to believe what they preach, and are putting into place real action plans that they believe in. Of course, there are still huge numbers of companies that are only money driven, but I think this trend is slowly reducing.
Sustainable development in France:
I think that the business world represents a relatively honest description of the French society’s view on sustainability. For a long time, people buying fair trade or organic food thought this more or less resumed sustainable development. However, increasingly, the population realised the other dimensions that are present in the concept, and try to help preserve them. This is reflected in the recent elections, and will hopefully become more frequent in the years to come.
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Sustainable development is the economic growth of an activity on the long-term, taking into consideration the preservation of the environment. The sustainable development concerns all kinds of activities made by men.
In this context, the resources used for an activity are preserved and put at disposal of future generations. However, this definition does not take into consideration the damages caused to the environment by the previous generations. Should the sustainable development also replace and compensate for the destruction caused by the previous generations?
Sustainable development can be related to the economic and business activity and emphasis should be placed on the business activities to preserve the environment. Controversially, in business, sustainable development is not always practiced. The reasons may vary: lack of knowledge or simply lack of interest. On the other hand, sustainable development is considered to be a financial issue by some companies, which feel that sustainable development is an additional cost. Furthermore, some companies prefer to deal with current challenges and do not see the benefits they can achieve by practicing sustainable development.
In Italy, sustainable development is not practiced in the same way everywhere. Northern Italy learned a long time ago to integrate this value in the children education at school and in the households. The phenomenon is more recent in the South of Italy.
In the past 20 years, the government has tried to educate the country, especially by recycling waste. Lately, Italian institutions oblige most of the population to further recycle waste, including a differentiation between classic recycling waste and humid waste.
Government financial helps are given to those people who choose to buy low-emission cars. Most of the Italian cities and town (from 30,000 inhabitants) prohibit the use of the car in the city center. Many regions enhanced public transportation and reduced the number of cars on weekends, by applying the system of “pair/odd car plate”.
On the other hand, I am surprised to notice that recycling and pollution is not watched more closely in a such prosper city as Paris.
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The concept of sustainable development was defined in Brundtland Report which is released by United Nations in 1987 as: ”Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It contains within it two key concepts:
1. The concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
2. The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
By depending on this definition we can define the concept of the sustainable development as: the development that provides us the answers of needs of present generations by not consuming the needs of future generations.
This is a real challenging concept. Because first of all we need to realize the limits of the needs of present generations and the world with its continuously increasing population it is hard to realize what is the limits of our needs. We can easily see the examples of this challenge and failures on whole world today. We can do this by comparing the life standards in different continents. When we compare the differences between Europe, America and Africa, some part of Asia we can easily see our challenge to realize the limits of present needs. We can say the concept of sustainable development not fit on world economy when we consider the today’s conditions of whole world.
There are lots of international non-governmental organizations on world that are trying to improve these conditions but it is obvious we still at the beginning of the road. And this road is a stairway with hundreds of steps that will be tiring us by each other step of us.
In Turkey UNDP works closely with a number of government agencies, municipalities, private sector partners and NGOs, to integrate environmental and sustainable development principles into national and regional development policies and plans. Turkey’s vulnerable ecosystem has been placed under increasing stress by high population growth, rising incomes and energy consumption. In Turkey, as elsewhere in the world, environmental problems such as water shortages, land degradation, lack of clean and affordable energy resources severely hinder efforts to achieve sustainable development.
Turkey’s ecosystem is under high risk category. By growing population and ignorance of the governments to reaching the projected economic goals is a huge threat against the sustainable development concept. Especially signing contracts to build the hydro-electric plants by ignoring the ecosystem, chopping down forests to open new farming areas, uncontrolled industrial pollution rates or gold mining by using cyanide are the best examples of the barriers against the sustainable development concept in Turkey.
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From my own understanding, the synonym of sustainable is durable. Sustainable development is a development that will aim to ensure the long term existence of the project.
When implementing the business plan, one has to consider the factors that are more likely to be sensitive for changes in the future. Those factors have to be studied carefully and with different scenarios (optimistic, realistic, pessimistic). Being prepared for any situation could be a KSF in ensuring sustainability.
For example, in Tunisia, the political environment is very unstable and unpredictable so it is highly sensitive factor and could be a critical or key success factor for the business. In order to my business to sustain the changes, I have to develop a plan in which the change in the political situation will not harm the business.
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From the USA
My understanding of the concept of sustainable development is that it is a belief that each of us has an effect on the future of the world: our children, the environment, transport, waste management, etc. It is building a new common belief that all objectives can still be done while using ways that are safe, long term, and abundant. This is important for all people everywhere from their way of life to the way they do business. In the USA, the “green trend” has penetrated many companies across all industries, but still remains only a small part of daily business. Things like recycling are taught in school and how to be environmentally responsible, but many companies (and families) have a long way to go before becoming completely sustainable.
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The world now face two challenges; i) expanding economic opportunities for a growing global population and ii) addressing environmental pressures that, if left unaddressed, could undermine our living standard. Growing concerns about the environmental unsustainability of past economic growth patterns and increased awareness of a potential future climate crisis have made it clear that the environment and the economy can no longer be considered in isolation.
In this context, many countries now pursue the Green Growth Strategy as a new growth paradigm. They say Green Growth implies a conceptual shift; “Climate change and energy issues should not be seen as challenges, but rather as opportunities.” I think the Green Growth Strategy is one of the most important components of sustainable development. Questions from the perspective of the business;
1. Will be there a significant business opportunities from green industries? Which industries do you expect to be prominent from the perspective of the business?
2. What do you assess about the impact of those policy changes on business activities in a coming decade?
3. How businesses should prepare such kind of paradigm shift and adjust their own strategy, structure, operation and marketing
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I expect from the class to be able to;
1. Learn the basis of sustainable business development (past, current and future of this field).
2. Obtain the systematic understanding of how sustainable business development effects on companies, government agencies.
3. address related business opportunities and risks in real life business situation.
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My main expectations from this course will be finding answers to following questions:
- What is sustainable development?
- What are the criteria one (countries, organizations, and individuals) should include in his sustainable planning?
- What are the risks in transforming existing processes to be more sustainable?
- How can one ensure long-term sustainability?
- What/who are the barriers preventing sustainability?
- Where will it be easier to create sustainability? developed or undeveloped countries?
I hope from the class to be able to tackle the sustainable availabilities in the Middle East (as nothing is being done for it there) and see how that gap could be closed. I believe it could also be monetarily advantageous (though there seems to be a belief that it’s not). My frequent desire is to tap into undiscovered markets — and I belief that in the previously mentioned regions, a real potential exists for sustainable development of all kinds.
From a content point of view, I believe sustainable development, business and society are well interrelated making it a challenging exercise to balance them individually so that 1+1+1 makes a minimum of 4. I believe sustainable development can work in the same direction as society wealth and economic growth. I expect a lot of group discussions and interactions from this course to find out how this can work, exchange of ideas within our very international class to form ourselves a more elaborate opinion, guided by in-depth additional knowledge and vision of our lecturer.
From a format point of view, I expect a well outlined course with clear structure where we know the point we are heading to (sorry for being an engineer). As I am working fulltime, I’m doing the best I can to prepare, although it is impossible for me to read all preparation articles in 1,5 week time as expected, since previous final assignments are getting priority during this period (as will have this course too during the final assignment). I appreciate an intensive 3-days contact seminar, focusing on quality rather than “rushing” quantity. Finding extra material to read is never a problem and has no limits to know a topic, my main interest of the MBA lies in the exchange of knowledge and opinions we will have in class.
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The concept of sustainable development: Sustainable development is a system, which allows us to preserve world’s resources (e.g. natural resources or knowledge resources), so we could meet our needs (especially the needs of the world’s poor) and the needs of the future generations, improving the quality of life.
How, if at all, it fits into the world of economy and business:
Sustainable development is closely related to the world of economy and business. Each organization in one way or another makes an impact on the surrounding environment.
It is still a long way to go before every organization will make an effort to preserve the resources and to care about the environment. Nevertheless, there are more and more companies, which take initiative in this area. For example, in 2008 Ariel announced the launch of an initiative to donate 80 million liters of safe drinking water to children in developing nations. The company promised that it would donate 10 liters of safe drinking water for every special pack purchased.
Sustainable development concept should influence decision-making within every organization, and be part of its principles and business ‘values’.
Even though not every business can take an action as big as Ariel took in 2008, there are many other ways to implement sustainable development concept. These ways include providing information to the public in an open and accessible way and involving communities who are affected by the business decisions; openly reporting how the companies run their business and take care about the local environment and the people that work for them.
How the concept looks and is viewed in your country:
Belarus shows a growing interest in creating sustainable development strategies and in promoting environmental protection mechanisms such as recycling, water conservation etc. but the capacity for progress due to developing economy is currently insufficient.
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Sustainable development is something that we hear every day so my first expectation would be to know the true meaning of sustainable development.
Then, I would like to take out from this course information that will be useful and practical for my professional life and also in general.
Is that sustainable development would be easy to implement?
Do companies and society ready to really go for sustainable development?
What changes and impacts would it have?
How to implement sustainability in business practices and in society?
What is the role of the governments in those changes? Do they have to impose regulations and pass law?
This course will be my first contact with the subject. I’m looking forward to it as I would love to work in this domain.
As you can see from my CV, I have always been very involved in social activities. If I could combine business with sustainable development, it would probably be the ideal job for me.
Today this is an evolving domain. One has to take into account the environment and find ways to preserve it.
Personally I know it would be very difficult for me to work in a company that represents a high level of success without any consideration, for either the society or the environment.
I hope this course will provide me with the basic knowledge of sustainable development and answer the following questions:
– How to create a better environment?
– What are the sectors that need change, or improvements of their activities, in order to take into consideration the environment?
Who is responsible for all changes? Government or private companies?
Q: Definition of sustainable development:
A: This question was definitely answered when at the first seminar we were surprised by a guest speaker who wonderfully explained what sustainable development meant to her and discussed about car sharing. She used shock tactics to try and get through her point that we currently consume far too much CO2 and are depleting our atmosphere and environment.
Q: How can we propagate the idea of Sustainable development?:
A: This question was answered when we discussed that the key to propagation lies in collectivity and social networking. With the internet being our key source of communication and education, we can use to develop new ideas together. Facebook and twitter being two excellent sources of networking. Joining groups and connecting together is how sustainable development will take place. Students and entrepreneurs develop ideas by hearing and learning about what others have done, car sharing such as buzzcar, velib, zipcar etc.
Q: What are possibilities in the future for Sustainable Development?
A: this question is to be left unanswered as I would like to develop this in my final paper. However, throughout the guest speakers we learnt that car sharing is an example of sustainable development. The use of bikes such as velib and creating a walkable community are all possibilties of sustainable development.