October 01 2014
Sustainability is the only choice
01 Oct 2014 by Alejandra Araúz, Communication Adviser, UNDP in Panama
The term “sustainability” is increasingly being used among NGOs, governments, public sector and civil society, but unfortunately there is a huge gap between what is being said and what is being done.
Looking at the most basic meaning of sustainability - meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations - the list of individual, collective, private and public activities that could be considered completely sustainable in this day and age is rather short.
Guaranteeing the long-term success of people, companies and countries while contributing to the conservation of natural resources and the environment requires more than the usual rhetoric; it involves a social change based on an active, forward-thinking approach, which in turn drives a significant increase in the empowerment of all stakeholders.
Besides improving their reputation, which also results in better yields and prosperity, both public and private organizations that include sustainability as an inherent part of their operations establish stronger, trust-based links with their stakeholders and partners, thereby ensuring loyalty in the medium and long term.
How can we bring these same principles to the field of human development? What impact would this have on our societies? The concept of “strategic planning” has not been applied or does not exist when referring to human beings, but it goes without saying that it would be impossible to achieve sustainability in productive, business or corporate terms with an unsustainable human environment.
The path towards sustainability lies in social capital. Driven and backed by public policies consistent with their collective aspirations, the people themselves should create or elevate a concrete sense of citizenship. In other words, future progress in terms of human development requires improved social interaction by empowering women, men, young people, senior citizens and even children to influence the development and future of their communities and society in general.
From a global perspective, the challenges we now face as a society are disturbing. Climate change, caused largely by unsustainable production methods, brings about food insecurity, an increase in natural disasters, rising sea levels, etc. The reality is that there are not many options left to choose from. Sustainability is the only choice.
Fortunately, there is still time for businesses, authorities and citizens to make decisions and take action with the sole objective of human development in mind: an objective towards combining socially-balanced economic growth with the promotion of social equality and environmental development, as well as the defense of human rights and enforcement of democracy and social participation.
We must work towards achieving this goal and this is the most appropriate time as we are in the process of establishing a new global development agenda. There is still time to make sustainability an integral part of our lives on an individual and collective basis.