OPINION: We only have one Earth! Let’s act together to safeguard resources, decarbonise economy, and transition towards sustainability

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OPINION: We only have one Earth! Let’s act together to safeguard resources, decarbonise economy, and transition towards sustainability
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This year’s World Environment Day theme – ‘Only One Earth’ – was also the slogan for the 1972 Stockholm Conference – the world’s first conference on the environment. Fifty years down the line, as we face the climate emergency, the actions we take today will determine how our future generation will co-exist with nature. As we commemorate this day to emphasise the importance of conserving our planet, addressing climate challenges while keeping sustainability in mind is the key to a better future.
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Today, natural disasters are occurring more frequently, displacing millions of people and causing significant economic losses. In 2020 alone, India reportedly faced a staggering loss of $87 Billion due to natural disasters. Climate change is a reality that we are facing in our daily lives. For instance, March 2022 was India’s hottest March in the last 122 years.
Therefore, today is a reminder for all of us to act on the climate emergency causing socio-economic disruptions globally. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India is the world's fastest-growing major economy, and we must safeguard ourselves from future climate disruptions that can affect its growth prospects.
This will only be possible through a strong climate action plan that will enable broader adoption of renewable energy, restore natural ecosystems, promote biodiversity and focus on water conservation and decarbonisation.
Safeguarding our natural resources
As we experience a global shortage in raw materials, we need to rethink our approach toward using natural resources. Today, industrialisation and overpopulation are creating excessive demand for natural resources, threatening the balance of our ecosystem. The continued extraction of raw materials would disrupt the organic foundations of our ecosystems, which may undo the years of sustenance maintained between the planet and the life on it.
An impactful alternative to the current linear method of consumption and production is a circular economy. A circular model can help contain the demand for newer materials and effectively utilise the available resources. This is where we design supply chains, products, manufacturing, and distribution for circularity and resource recovery, to reduce the amount of virgin raw materials in products and reclaim old products from the market to be refurbished and reused.
Collective initiatives by organisations can help create a faster impact on restoring the planet, sharing ownership between every stakeholder of the planet. For instance, in cities like Chennai, which witness severe water scarcity, activities like waterbody restoration campaigns will offer long-term, sustainable solutions for better-nourished ecosystems. Multiple private, non-profit and academic organisations have come together to restore the 100-acre Sembakkam Lake in Chennai. Such efforts can holistically enhance the resilience of the ecosystem while recharging groundwater and restoring essential resources.
A less carbon-intense economy
Today, as businesses bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, supply chains are becoming stronger and more connected. There is energy and water consumption involved in various stages of the supply chain ecosystem, leading to increased carbon and water footprints across product lifecycles.
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To move towards an economic structure that is less carbon and water-intensive, we should implement policies that help businesses adopt green supply chain models, formulate material assessment strategies, and make a mandatory framework for sustainability finance to power their green initiatives. These should be included in the company policies related to materials purchasing, logistics and packaging.
Technology can play a key role towards ushering in such a transition. For instance, a recent tech partnership to build a blockchain-based Circular System for Assessing Rare Earth Sustainability ( CSyARES) is expected to help companies improve the transparency and sustainability of their supply chains when it comes to critical and rare earth materials.
Preparing for the future
As we strategize to build a sustainable future, it is essential to cultivate environment-friendly behaviours across various levels of society. Businesses need to understand the direct and indirect impact they are creating on the planet and need to shift to making their operations more sustainable.
Customers need to be sensitized about the benefits of using products with longer lifecycles and how to responsibly handle them to reduce their footprint. There is no planet B, hence individuals, in their capacity, should start adopting sustainable living practices to make a difference.
All stakeholders, public and private need to work together to help protect our ‘only one Earth’!
George Rajkumar is the Country President at Grundfos India.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are of the author/interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Business Insider India. The article has been partly edited for length and clarity.
This column is part of June 2022’s month-long awareness campaign on the theme “ Only One Earth: Sustaining People, Planet and Prosperity ” by Business Insider India’s Sustainability Insider .
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