“A people will grow when their elders start planting trees whose shade they will never enjoy”, some old saying goes something like that.
The word “Sustainability” could refer to the ability of an organization, a business, a person, a people, to continue over a longer period. It's highly relevant in the context of setting strategic policies within the immediate setting, choosing operational priorities and ensuring a balance between economic, social, and environmental aspects of the entity.
The word “Sustainability” could also mean not to compromise on social and environmental aspects to make a profit and financial fortune alone/only. This can be done by when the entity includes ''Strategic Balance'' as a priority in the decision-making process. “Strategic Balance” in this sense means to take care of economic, social, and environmental aspects of the everyday activities of the entity.
This article will briefly touch on different sustainability models, an African perspective and investors' influence in setting positive sustainability development choices. These choices should lie in areas of highest resource utilization with enhanced ability to recycle/reuse the products, or process before sale. These choices should also be about rethinking how to bring a social and environmentally friendly change. And one of the options can be to gain this strategic competence via a circular economy.
Circular economy – this economy is about using resources to add continuous value. Product/waste is not thrown away but used repeatedly to protect the environment.
The universal concept of sustainability is linked with the three aspects of human evolution. These aspects are:
- Economic sustainability
- Social sustainability
- Environmental/ecological sustainability
Economic sustainability refers to the effective utilization of financial resources. It's about profitable operations. Without earning profits, a business, an organization, a country, is not expected to survive in the long-term. So our institutions need to remain profitable. For instance, phones are not recycled in the environment when we are done with them which leads to economic loss. This loss is globally estimated to be $4.5 Trillion. (weforum, n.d.)
As per the report from United Nations Populations funds, there are over 200 million people between the age of 15 and 24 years in Africa. Further, demographic trends suggest that this strength is expected to be double in the next 25 years (weforum, n.d.). This demographic strength of the continent can be used to earn profit in terms of strong, competent workers and strategic competence to earn a financial fortune. Actually, the youth can be an exceptional resource if certain things are controlled and directed in that specific direction.
In addition, Africa’s largely entrepreneurial youth are expected to benefit from the African Continent Free Trade Agreement, a revolutionary step to promote trade and bring financial prosperity to the region as this agreement comes with the potential to unlock a market of 1.3 billion people. All these show that the African region is of higher expectations in terms of product innovation and market creation. (UNDP, n.d.)
Implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become one of the core strategic competencies worldwide. There is increasing awareness of social sustainability among entrepreneurs and business policymakers.
It is important to note that social consideration in the business has massive potential to impact its stakeholder relations. For instance, operational aspects of a business’ performance include but are not limited to fair labour practices, health and safety of the staff, work-life balance, quality, empowerment, volunteerism, community engagement, philanthropy, human rights and living standards.
From an African perspective, the region's culture is diverse and vibrant with a rich heritage and increasing economy that increasingly supports the culture of business and trade. However, overall productivity is limited because of the region's enduring poverty and social inequality. This leads to the underutilization of natural resources like agricultural land and resource degradation (ISPI, n.d.). Hence, a strict approach to bring social reforms and connect society is expected to bring massive profits and prosperity for the region.
As per reports from United Nations Environment Protection Agency, if 10,000 tonnes of goods are put in the land, six jobs are created, recycling creates 36 jobs, and reuse is expected to create 296 jobs. Hence, steps taken to recycle a massive quantity of goods can be a welcoming aspect from an economic and environmental point of view. (weforum, n.d.)
Suppose goods are reused in the economy in the form of recycling. In that case, such an economy is termed a circular economy, and it's expected to protect organic life on the planet. There has been an increasing awareness in terms of protecting the environment with green efforts. For instance, recently, giant organizations and companies like UNICEF and giant telecommunication companies have called for innovative ideas to bring green innovation in the region. (Forbes, n.d.)
Interconnection of “Sustainability” to “Development” and “Model”
Today, we live in a dynamic world where consumers better understand the products and services. So, consumers have a clear preference for selecting business partners that take care of the environment. A recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review reveals that 65% of consumers want to purchase products from companies that take account of social and ecological sustainability (HBR, n.d.).
This is the reason that companies have been advertising their sustainability efforts to their target customers. So, if the company is well known to comply with social and environmental aspects, more and more customers are expected to do business with them. Hence, it's highly logical to expect enhanced market share, customer loyalty, and higher turnover from organisations that adopt sustainable business policies and models. (HBR, n.d.)
Business Model and Sustainability perspective
The business model (BM) is a formal description of organizational activities that are used to generate and deliver value for the stakeholders. BM is considered an essential document used in pitching your business idea to raise finance.
However, it's important to note that the business model is not complete without comprehensive aspects of sustainability. It's because investors prefer to invest in an idea committed to society's social and environmental aspects.
Further studies have proven that environmental and social values in one’s business model have massive potential to add value and enhance the bottom line of the profit and loss statement. (Rosa, n.d.)
What is “development”?
In the context of sustainable development, the word “development” can mean to make progress leading to the long term continuity of an entity/institution. It is more about creating a balance between economic, social, and ecological aspects. It is important to iterate that the institution must remain profitable in strategic and operational aspects. Likewise, a business must not bypass the social and environmental aspects to earn more profit; such a compromise is never helpful in the long-term.
Sustainability in Africa
Africa has served the globe with major supplies in terms of forests, farms, minerals, slaves, etc. The environmental history of Africa is pre-dominated by legacies and the colonial era. Still, the continent has great plains and animal spreads.
This region has seen tough and difficult times in the past through drought, war, colonial disputes and weather conditions. Drought, for instance, has been a frequent phenomenon and resulted in water distribution, storage and scarcity management challenges. In addition to this, Africans have always put forth efforts to adopt conservative policies to tackle challenges presented by the environment and overall cultural myths of our society. History has been tough for the Africans that kept fighting with the harsh environment and drought conditions. (Environmental History, n.d.)
Why Africans need Sustainability Development Models
The African economy has been facing acute needs to implement sustainability development models in terms of environment and ecology. The 21st century can be an excellent opportunity to enhance agricultural productivity and achieve sustainable development.
The close analysis of African GDP reveals that agriculture is the main constituent and implementation of sustainability measures can lead to effective and efficient land utilization. This utilization is expected to achieve the following.
- Job creation for more people.
- Reduction of hunger and poverty in the economy.
- An overall increase in investment.
- Economic diversification and rapid industrialization.
It is equally important to note that agriculture is expected to be the most sensitive industrial sector in the future. It is estimated that 90% of main crops are going to face stagnant growth. And these crops include essentials like rice, wheat, and maize. Hence, focusing on agriculture can be strategic competence in the coming time. (ASCENT, n.d.)
Sustainability Development Models
Sustainability refers to long term social and environmental aspects while making strategic decisions. It aims to balance the business economy, the social value of society, and environmental operations.
Companies and businesses have been following green concepts to take care of society and the environment. Implementation of circular economy concepts is one of the environment-friendly aspects leading to recycling of goods with more job creation with environment protection.
Sustainability works on three basic pillars: economic, society, and environment. The economy concept states that the institution must be profitable at the bottom line. Social aspects mean the institution needs to consider social responsibility. That's because people want to do business and work with entities with a certain place for sustainability in their operational and strategic processes. Environmental CSR means adopting policies that do not negatively impact the environment in the long term. Usage of recyclable material is one of the examples.
Further, sustainability development models are interconnected, and policymakers must consider the same in decision making to take our institutions to the next heights.
I hope you enjoyed the read. Hit me up and let’s keep the conversation going! I read all the feedback you send me. Also, feel free to throw at me topics you’d like to read or hear my thoughts on. You can always head to my Calendly to schedule a quick chat by going to calendly.com/maxwellampong. Or connect with me your way through my Linktree: https://linktr.ee/themax.
These are all facts. And this has been an opinion piece.
Have a blessed week!
ASCENT. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://africasustainability.org/climate-finance-and-agriculture-in-africa/
Environmental history. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.unecefaoiufro.lsu.edu/certificate_eccos/documents/2013Mar/ce13_03.pdf
Forbes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2021/05/27/sustainability-in-africa-how-rwandas-young-innovators-are-building-a-circular-economy/?sh=2ca8b41e7910
HBR. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/07/the-elusive-green-consumer
ISPI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/environmental-and-social-sustainability-africa-15132
Rosa, M. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bse.2576
UNDP. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.africa.undp.org/content/rba/en/home/presscenter/articles/2021/africa_s-youth-must-drive--and-benefit-from--the-african-contine.html
weforum. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/our-impact/the-african-circular-economy-alliance-impact-story/
Dr. Maxwell Ampong is the CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, a leading supplier of impact products & services and ICT worldwide. He is also the Co-Founder of The RIO Corporation, connectors between impoverished communities and impact solutions worldwide. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.