Perhaps the biggest threat to our continued existence as humans on this planet is our rapidly dwindling resources. Natural resources like water, oil, and gas are being rapidly depleted from the environment, and it’s up to us to conserve what is left and find ways to protect our fragile ecosystems before it’s too late.
Resource conservation is the responsibility of individuals, small businesses, and large corporations alike. You can make a difference at the individual level in a number of ways, from reducing food waste and conserving water to making donations to organizations that are dedicated to conservation efforts.
Corporate responsibility is also imperative when it comes to resource conservation. Businesses should be aware of their CO2 output and the amount of waste produced in daily operations, then take practical steps to reduce those numbers. The good news is that many corporations are putting sustainability at the forefront of their responsibilities, employing tactics that include circular economy principles and intelligent supply chain management.
Population Growth and the Circular Economy
The global population is growing at an exorbitant rate: There will be nearly 10 billion humans on the planet by 2050, which also equates a considerable need for more global resources. According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), we will need 50% more food and 30% more water to sustain that population. Because of those needs, it’s more important than ever for corporations to identify patterns in their business model that deplete the Earth’s precious resources.
NJIT also notes that, in 2014 alone, the top 5,589 publicly traded companies in the U.S. created 342 million metric tons of waste, the majority of which ended up in landfills. Paper and organic materials account for more than half of that corporate waste — items that could instead be recycled or used as compost. It’s clear that large corporations need to be held accountable for waste production if we have any hope of preserving our natural resources on a large scale.
The circular economy may provide a solution to resource waste at the corporate level. The traditional linear model of “make, use, dispose” is no longer viable in our current era, especially since we have so much waste reduction technology at our disposal. Within the circular economy, resources remain in use for as long as possible and are thoughtfully regenerated or repurposed at the end of service life.
Preserving Our Natural Resources
One surprising example of the circular economy in action can be seen at the Walt Disney World Resort. The organic waste from many restaurants at the resort is collected and diverted away from landfills to an anaerobic digestion facility, where it is converted into renewable biogas and fertilizer.
Along with food waste reduction and re-purposing, water conservation provides another avenue towards widespread corporate sustainability. Although the Earth’s surface is comprised of about 70% water, the majority of that is saltwater, and only about 1% of water on the planet is drinkable. Unfortunately, especially within developing nations, many sources of freshwater have been polluted and overused, even during times of heavy rainfall. As a result, global demand for it has tripled in the past 50 years.
Developed nations aren’t immune to water scarcity and the effects of pollution, however. Between 2012 and 2016, for example, California experienced a severe drought, leading state officials to impose water restrictions and source potable water from the Nevada Irrigation District (NID). Thanks to the mandated water restrictions and similar conservation efforts, NID customers saved more than 7 billion gallons of water in 2015. Their success indicates that water conservation can indeed occur on a large scale and make a huge impact, and corporations should take note of such efforts.
A New Era of Supply Chain Management
Water consumption is an important consideration within a company’s supply chain, which includes production, transportation, and distribution. And as the global need for resources continues to climb, companies need to change their priorities where supply chain logistics are concerned.
Sustainability is a major factor in supply chain policy changes, and small businesses and large corporations alike should develop a greater understanding of a product’s total environmental impact. Even e-commerce businesses can do their part by using data analytics to create a lean supply chain, a trending approach to supply chain management in regards to reducing waste and pollution.
Today, it’s easier than ever to calculate that environmental impact, from tracking traffic patterns in truck fleets that may lead to increased fuel consumption to identifying water waste at the production level. Corporations also have the ability to compare source materials and quickly locate those that are renewable and/or recyclable, and better integrate those materials into the production process. In many cases, switching to sustainable or repurposed materials whenever possible gives companies a better return on investment thanks to decreased waste disposal costs.
Corporate-based resource conservation is truly an art form, as business owners and managers often have to think outside the box to solve sustainability problems. As the purpose of a company is ultimately to turn a profit, business leaders have to balance that purpose with a growing global need for resource conservation. By diverting waste from landfills, investing in sustainable materials, and identifying water waste issues, companies of all sizes can do their part to ensure humanity’s survival well into the future.
Photo is pexels creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.