There are many reasons why a company might not be able to make sustainable development a part of their mission. To make things more simple, we’ve categorized these factors into three main sections: economic, social, and evaluation barriers. If you’re considering taking your company on a more sustainable path, you should know the obstacles that might slow you down. Keep reading to learn what issues hinder efforts to achieve sustainability the most.
Economic and financial barriers are the largest hindrance to a business considering sustainable development because it requires major changes in plans and strategy. Specifically, the barriers listed below keep companies from using sustainable practices.
Currently, economies and markets are based not on sustainable principles, but on the idea of a limitless economic growth. This endless increase in profits would make sense if we lived in a market of infinite resources. However, this is not the case. Our planet’s resources are declining, particularly fossil fuels, and continuing to use resources in this way is not sustainable.
Companies that lack sustainability education see sustainability roadmap as an expense, not the opportunity to increase products, which it in fact is. Thus, instead of making sustainability a high priority, they devalue it and place it very low in their overall strategy. The companies need to recognize the business case for sustainability reporting and the fact that the current market system is also part of a bigger environmental system. Such understanding would then lead them to prioritize sustainability in their strategy.
Another form of economic barrier to sustainable development is incompatible strategies. As of today, sustainability is not properly understood or integrated into most company’s strategies.
Oftentimes this results from poor understanding of the importance of sustainability or not knowing the best way to add sustainability to a company’s strategy. Additionally, companies aren’t devoting enough resources into coming up with a sustainability strategy. It’s much more than a simple meeting and should take weeks, even months, to prepare.
Companies that value sustainability devote entire teams to this issue. Still, the sustainable development team and other employees may have differing priorities. As a result, sustainable development teams are often intentionally excluded from the planning process until it’s too late to make worthwhile decisions. To prevent such an outcome, it is important to engage all employees and educate them on the rationale for change.
Social barriers to achieving sustainable development are mostly the result of ignorance or misunderstanding of environmental issues. The first step in changing is to understand these misconceptions and then move forward, allowing the company to break through such narrow-mindedness.
Perhaps, one of the biggest threats to sustainable development - unchecked consumption - is also one of the most deeply-embedded. We live in a consumer society that encourages extravagant spending and wealth-display like never before. Personal value is often determined by the latest gadget or smartphone model, with little or no thought given to the consequences of constant production of technology that will ultimately turn into an e-waste soon.
In fact, iPhones are designed to become useless over only a short period of time, forcing consumers to buy the latest models. Planned obsolescence creates a lot of unnecessary waste, as old products are discarded in an un-ecological way. Such inconsiderate, unregulated consumption is one of the main reasons for depletion of our natural resources, in particular precious metals and fossil fuels.
Another social barrier keeping companies from committing to sustainable development is ignorance about the cost. At first glance, implementing any new strategy will take some amount of time and resources. The cost of making a sustainable development plan stops some companies before they get started. However, it has been shown that companies adhering to the goals of sustainable development cut costs over time. Waste reduction and lower maintenance costs are just a couple of the tangible benefits.
Any plan needs to be evaluated and measured for attainability. Currently, the ways to monitor and track sustainability are limited and fragmented. Improved monitoring methods would stimulate sustainable development, as companies that preach sustainability would better demonstrate the results to skeptical organizations and critics. Many organizations might discover that they aren’t aware of the true benefits of sustainable development over time.
Considering so many barriers to sustainable development might make you question whether or not it’s a worthwhile strategy for your business. The good news is that companies are constantly discovering new ways to overcome these issues. SustainOnline offers a variety of online sustainability courses for businesses of all kinds and sizes. Check out our offer to discover the best plan for your business.
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