by Marcos Fava Neves

People, planet, profit and proactivity

The big picture – an era of sustainability: 2010-2020

Sustainability includes: People, planet, profit and profitablity
sustainability.jpg

Several factors have contributed to this heightened sensitivity— rising consumer awareness and expectations, the emergence of a new generation concerned with planetary welfare, the scarcity of natural resources in light of an increasing population; floods, hunger and lost agricultural areas due to global warming; and the impact of mass communication, which allows the immediate transfer of news concerning disasters, and bad behaviors by individual firms and farm businesses.

At a company level there is a growing concern that firms have to reduce impacts on the environment and increase transparency, promote greater inclusion and less social imbalance, and finally, increase the efficiency of the company’s use of natural and renewable resources/energy.

Sustainability has three traditional major pillars; the economic dimension (profit), the environment dimension (planet), and the social dimension (people). We’ve added a fourth 'P', pro-activeness.

Without economic sustainability, any other request is impossible, since companies cannot operate without positive margins. This is the first and most important component. A company must be economically sustainable.

On the environment side (planet), major factors to consider are the impact of the company on the environment. These include: those of suppliers, transportation (food miles), packaging (trying always to recycle and reuse), waste management (generating less waste; separating and recycling; generating energy/fertilizers from waste), energy usage, emission reductions, water management, low impact building and facility construction. Consumers also have an incredible task as well to change their habits and become more responsible.

On the social (people) side, major factors include employee working conditions as well as the conditions in the company’s suppliers and distributors, health and safety, use of child labour, safety equipment, promoting actions for local community, incentives for co-operation, small holder initiatives, technology transfer to smallholders, improving local companies capacity and ensuring that product lines provide consumers real benefits, especially where nutrition and health are concerned.

Finally, a company must be proactive. They should not only be espousing sustainability, but demonstrating change through action. This involves building a code of conduct, following codes of industry associations and governments, budgeting for sustainability, initiating steps to reduce environmental impacts, monitoring and documenting activities, and assuring internal information is exchanged and communicated among various committees and boards.

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