Business can no longer afford to ignore environment warnings

Apr 05 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

There needs to be a step-change in how business leaders think about the environment, and the effect of the corporate world on poverty, health, education and employment, if we are going to leave a sustainable workplace for future generations.

The warning from Paul Toyne, director of consultancy Article 13, comes amid growing concerns about the effect mankind’s activities are having on the future sustainability of the planet.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, published this week – one of the most comprehensive surveys to date into the state of the planet – came to the grim conclusion that human activities threaten the Earth’s ability to sustain future generations.

“Despite more than 20 years of concerns over environmental degradation, pollution and waste, little progress has been made,” Toyne told Management-Issues.

“There needs to be a step-change in the mindset of politicians and business leaders recognising the link between the health of the environment and other society concerns such as poverty, health, education and employment.

“We need to break the cycle and look at more innovative ways in which to tackle over consumption and unsustainable production,” he added.

The assessment, which was drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over four years, said how society obtained its resources had already caused irreversible changes that were degrading the natural processes supporting life on Earth.

Humans had changed most ecosystems beyond recognition in a dramatically short space of time.

The way society sourced its food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel over the past 50 years has seriously degraded the environment, it added.

This would compromise efforts to address hunger, poverty and improve healthcare, which in turn will have inevitable economic and workforce implications.

"Unilateral action is required now. Actions should have more incentives and enforcible penalties than current initiatives so speedy progress is made and the problems effectively tackled,” stressed Toyne.