Is the Life Cycle of Sustainability finished?
I remember my first contact with sustainability, I guess in the 80’s, when young people were frightened about air pollution and acid rain. Later on the discussion was enhanced by other environmental aspects regarding water, waste, energy consumption to name only a few of them. Soon we tried to support environmental protection by “IT for Green” before we recognized that IT itself is energy consuming and therefore generating carbon. More recently “Green IT” solutions were brought to perfection to minimize the carbon footprint of IT services.
It seems that these challenges are solved and the life cycle of sustainability is now finished. Not at all! I believe that sustainability is more than the environmental impact we have described in a former publication by the three pillars of sustainability: Environment, Economic and Social. While societies focused mainly on the economic aspects where minimization of energy consumption reduces costs and therefore generate ROI and profit, today we face the difficulty that sustainability is needed to ensure our quality of life and the fact that those who need to invest in sustainable progress are not always those that benefit from it later.
The social impact of sustainability becomes a key success factor for our future wellbeing and for several social aspects, we have the first concepts for future solutions. Other challenges are still to be investigated to identify solutions that address the needs of all relevant stakeholders. In its recent research paper Ascent Journey 2016, the Atos Scientific community offers a deeper insight into the trends and challenges faced and how organizations might best prepare themselves.
Over the few next years, we will see whether mankind can manage to deal effectively with the various concerns, barriers and dependencies to find a holistic approach to sustainability thinking and whilst the life cycle of sustainability might be close to its zenith, it is not yet finished. As the Scientific Community authors conclude …
“sustainability must move beyond environmental impact thinking to embrace the entire ecosystem of resources and players that contribute to an organizations operation. To develop a ‘natural capital’, profitable product or service that benefits businesses AND society, organizations must cooperate with their customers, partners, critics and even competitors. Enterprises will need to assess both the short and long term impact of actions and adjust strategies as appropriate.”