Albert Einstein once said that he never thinks of the future; -it comes soon enough.
It seems that the relevance of his last thought is growing exponentially but the pleasure of the first has diminished decades ago.
On our minor Planet of a very average star, one among the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, population of 7 billion humans is reaching planetary boundaries. For each of us the Future matters.
However, this Future is not completely unknown, it is already mapped by human past and present irreversible impact on the Planet.
Hence, can we still neglect the fact that demography, economy and environment are united elements of the planetary system?
Can we still convulsively hang on to the presumption that we have decades to change, and decades more to worry about the impact?
As the quantity of information at our fingertips increases, so too do the challenges of keeping up with analysis, pattern spotting and extracting useful information.
So how will the future shape this process and our approach to business?
What is Sustainable Development?
Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report:
“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:
- the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.
So is it all just about the environment?
Living within our environmental limits is one of the central principles of sustainable development. One implication of not doing so is climate change.
But the focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. It’s also about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal well being, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity.
If sustainable development focuses on the future, does that mean we lose out now?
Not necessarily. Sustainable development is about finding better ways of doing things, both for the future and the present. We might need to change the way we work and live now, but this doesn’t mean our quality of life will be reduced.
A sustainable development approach can bring many benefits in the short to medium term, for example:
- Savings – As a result of Sustainable Development Coals (SDC ) scrutiny, government has saved over £60m by improving efficiency across its estate.
- Health & Transport – Instead of driving, switching to walking or cycling for short journeys will save you money, improve your health and is often just as quick and convenient.
How does it affect me?
The way we approach development affects everyone. The impacts of our decisions as a society have very real consequences for people’s lives. Poor planning of communities, for example, reduces the quality of life for the people who live in them.
Sustainable development provides an approach to making better decisions on the issues that affect all of our lives. By incorporating health plans into the planning of new communities, for instance, we can ensure that residents have easy access to healthcare and leisure facilities.