Seminar 112: Sustainability
September 13th, 2018
Sustainability is an important aspect of humanity. As organisms living in and using the environment, we must understand that it is a closed system. All of our resources are limited and finite; trees WILL run out, rivers WILL dry out, ice WILL melt away. Ecosystems destroyed, species eradicated, resources depleted. Unless our consumption of these resources is heavily decreased while simultaneously sustaining what resources we take. The three generalized subsystems that contribute to the overarching system are the planet, people, and profit. This is also known as the Three Pillars of Sustainability. All three circles connect and without one, the other two will be in an unbalanced harmony. This model is important because it takes into account how, consumer habits influence profits of companies and eventually influence the GDP, and how both affect the environment. Monopolistic corporations are a large cause for the environmental strain we are putting on Earth but the true power for change is in the people and the trend’s they follow.
For example, there is more emphasis for consumers to have guilt free experiences with products they buy, especially when considering how they’re impacting the environment. People want to be able to enjoy plastic plates knowing that they’re biodegradable- if not presented with that option, they may cut plastic out of their shopping entirely. This would be devastating for a lot of different companies! So, to not alienate any possible consumers, companies rush to create new, sustainable ways of production. This trend is beginning to be a source of competition as well, further pushing companies to keep up with the consumer’s habits if they want to survive the market. For example, having eco-friendly cars is a huge deal breaker for consumers when choosing between automobile manufacturers. “If GM, Ford, or Chrysler had embraced California Air Resources Board’s fuel consumption and emissions standards in 2002, it would be two or three design cycles ahead of its rivals today—and poised to pull further” (Nidumolu 2009). Those who don’t keep up are eventually left in the dust.
Some ways to increase sustainability throughout the model is innovation. Companies profit immensely from environmentally friendly values, both through increased consumer loyalty but by simply cutting costs of production. For example, Cisco was spending “$8 million” on recycling scrap metal; but when innovated their internal review of the scrap and instead reused the materials, “recycling costs fell by 40%. The recycling unit has become a profit center that contributed $100 million to Cisco’s bottom line in 2008” (Nidumolu 2009). Benchmarking by-products companies make, like waste water and carbon dioxide, is also a way to increase responsibility of corporations; it is up to the people to ensure that they are being held accountable for what they produce. Consumers should also become more educated on these topics when making decisions in the marketplace or grocery store. When someone is more literate and able to understand where their products are coming from- as well as how they are negatively impacting the Earth- there can be an increased movement towards eco-friendly companies.
Nidumolu, Ram, Prahalad, C.K., & Rangaswami, M. R. (2009, June). “Why Sustainability Is
Now the Key Driver of Innovation.” IEEE Engineering Management Review, vol. 43, no.
2, 2015, pp. 85–91., doi:10.1109/emr.2015.7123233.