Managers need to see the link with the bottom line
The United Nations’ report ‘Sixth Global Environmental Outlook’ released mid-March sends a chill down the spine. Prepared by 250 scientists and experts from over 70 countries, the report states that millions of early deaths will occur by year 2050 if we fail to tackle growing challenges to the environment. Cities and regions in Asia, the Middle East (West Asia) and Africa will bear the brunt of this blow, the report asserts.
Urgent action is called for to protect people’s health. It is obvious the most grievously affected will be those occupying the lowest rung on the social ladder.
The report warns that “pollutants in the fresh water systems will see anti-microbial resistance become a major cause of death by 2050 and endocrine disruptors impact male and female fertility, as well as child neurodevelopment.”
With more and more people meeting pre-mature end and fertility being affected adversely, mankind will be gradually heading towards extinction. Children with inadequate neurodevelopment will turn out to be a burden on their families and the society. The relationship between a fast deteriorating environment and human health will become more and more fearsome and frightful.
The idea is not to create a scary scenario but to beware all about what may happen if we continue to remain complacent. The reassuring part of this situation is that things are not beyond redemption yet.
The UN report too states that all is not lost. The world has enough scientific, technological and financial resources to develop and practice a model of sustainable development. Incidentally, people, business and political leaders have still not developed the far-sight to realise this. They are still striving for short-term gains. As for the youth, it is enamoured of instant gratification. The environment cannot suffer this predatory attitude beyond a point. There comes a point when its balance is broken and it is compelled to react in the form of climate change leading to natural disasters, say, like rise in temperature. This alone makes glaciers, oceans, mountains, etc. go haywire. The devastation caused is unimaginable. Haven’t we heard or suffered typhoons, tsunamis, unpredictable floods and droughts, snow avalanches, drying rivers and water bodies, un-breathable air, choking smogs, etc.? And the strangest part is that all this does not spare the advanced and rich countries too. After all, they were the pioneers in environment destruction. Their smoke-belching factories robbed our air of its innocence and pristine purity and turned many of our cities into virtual gas chambers. This is both noxious and obnoxious.
What role can business managers play in protecting the planet from further degradation and initiating a healing and restorative process?
First and foremost, we need to ensure that our managers, particularly the younger lot, are made aware of the repercussions of neglecting and harming the environment. One cannot continue with out-dated production systems and still expect nature to remain benevolent towards us. How can mother earth do much for us when we have ourselves polluted its oceans, rivers and lakes and poisoned its air? It is wounded and crying.
Our managers need to abandon outmoded and traditional approaches and adopt innovation with fervour. The first objective should be to replace fossil fuels – that is coal and petroleum products – with hydro-electricity to run our factories and vehicles. Hydroelectricity can become Nepal’s major strength and a game changer for its economy. Electric mobility is picking up the world over. Solar energy also needs to be promoted. One can draw a lesson from Morocco which is successfully scaling up solar energy. The kingdom proposes to become a powerhouse of renewable energy and export electricity to Europe in a few years’ time.
The UN’s bid to turn the planet healthy is based on changing the ‘grow now, clean up after’ model to a near-zero-waste economy by the year 2050.
According to the Global Environmental Outlook, green investment of 2% of countries’ GDP would deliver long-term growth as high as the presently projected but with fewer impacts from climate change, water scarcity and loss of ecosystems.
The report advises adopting less-meat intensive diets and reducing food waste in both developed and developing countries, as it would reduce the need to increase food production by 50% to feed the projected 9-10 billion people on the planet in 2050.
Strategic investment in rural areas can reduce pressure for people to migrate. Attention has been drawn to the need to curb the flow of the eight million tons of plastic pollution going into oceans each year. But there is still no global agreement to tackle marine litter.
Thankfully, the UN report shows that policies and technologies already exist to fashion new development pathways that will avoid these risks and lead to health and prosperity for all people. What is needed is strong will to act on part of politicians and big business.
Business promoters and managers need to realise that going beyond business activities and taking care of the environment can bring business benefits. Now corporate companies have realised that business activity in an environmentally responsible way is not only a legal duty but also a responsibility. Though not so in Nepal so far, stakeholders increasingly require corporate organisations to become more environmentally aware and responsible. No wonder, CSR (corporate social responsibility) has become more focused and is known as CER – corporate environmental responsibility. Earlier in the traditional business model, environmental protection has been considered only in relation to the “public interest”, but now it’s a part of business. So the synergy between business and environmental responsibility is growing stronger in enlightened companies. In Nepal, younger managers, who are more aware about the business-environment bond, need to take the lead.
Experts have listed several environment conservation points like the following: storage of waste safely and securely, it’s appropriate treatment, collection by an authorised body such as your local municipal authority or a licensed waste contractor, managing waste for recycling by separating paper, plastic, metals and glass and for those organisations that are in the food businesses separation of food waste for recycling.
Managers need to take care that their business activities do not cause a statutory nuisance like production of smoke, noise, gases, odour, fumes, and accumulation of rubbish or light pollution which are injurious to health.
In case, business activities pose an imminent threat to the environment, then managers need to notify the relevant enforcing body to take steps to prevent the damage.
Managers need to be extra careful about the risks posed by chemicals or hazardous substances like oil, chemicals, pesticides, ozone-depleting substances, radioactive materials, electrical or electronic equipment solvents and biocides. Use of certain hazardous substances such as lead, mercury and calcium, usually in the manufacturing sector, should be handled with caution. Mangers should prevent placing products on the market with more than a certain amount of hazardous substances.
Similarly, extra attention needs to be paid to equipment containing ODS or fluorinated gases. Checking for leakages and record-keeping for recycling should form part of the managers’ regimen.
Conservation of biodiversity includes all species of animals (wildlife) and plants. Increasing human activities cause loss of biodiversity and needs to be prevented. This not only applies to land-based industries such as farming and forestry but also to all factories, industries, offices and other business activities based on or near biodiversity areas.
Managers have a lot on their platter. They need to pay adequate attention to all responsibilities so that business and the environment thrive together.