The latter part of the twentieth century saw an increasing concern for the environment. The concept of “sustainable development” (as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987) is: “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are many views about the nature of sustainability. In its simplest form it is about ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for future generations. To achieve this, sustainable development is concerned with achieving economic growth alongside the protection of the environment and also at the same time making sure that these economic and environmental benefits are available to everyone. These three aspects - economic, environmental and social form the basis of the sustainable development concept.
Rio and after
By the early 1990s there was considerable pressure for governments to create agreements concerning the environment and its protection. In 1992 the United Nations Conference on Environmental and Development (UNCED) was held in Rio de Janeiro. The main outcome of the conference was Agenda 21, which marked an important landmark in the sustainable development fight, and inter country co-operation. Agenda 21 was the main document signed at the conference. It was over 800 pages long, and represented a new global commitment to sustainable development. It was not a legally binding document, but was devised as a working plan which countries would follow. The conference marked the start of global co-operation, which was needed to deal with the many issues, including concern for the environment.
The environment is a key subject that affects us all. Protection of the environment and the move towards sustainable development remains a responsibility that must be shared between the public, governments and the private sector.
efficiency in manufacturing in turn leads to a more efficient use of natural resources. Operating efficiently translates to competitive advantage for business and supports the economic pillar of sustainability as well. Therefore, all aspects of sustainability are seen as complementary, and mutually interdependent. Agenda 21 states that responsible businesses should play a major role in improving the efficiency of resource use. This can result in minimising waste and protecting human health and environmental quality. For a business to be environmentally sustainable, the company must start by becoming environmentally aware from the inside. The whole ethics and culture of the organisation must reflect those of sustainable development. This includes what the company does, how it treats its workers, how it deals with other organisations, how the managers act and what messages these actions send out. Sustainable Development is an integrated approach including economic, environmental and social aspects. Therefore all three are to be put at complementary levels of priority each considering effects of the other components. Agenda 21 lays out a seven point plan for businesses to start changing values and perceptions. It states that they should: develop policies that support operations and products that have lower environmental impacts
ensure responsible and ethical management of products and processes from the point of view of health, safety and the environment make environmentally sound technologies available to affiliates in developing countries without prohibitive charges encourage overseas affiliates to modify procedures in order to reflect local ecological conditions and share information with Governments create partnerships to help people in smaller companies learn business skills establish national councils for sustainable development, both in the formal business community and in the informal sector, which includes small scale businesses increase research and...