“It is the time of transformational change towards a sustainable way of doing things”

Here is a thought worth repeating: we cannot allow ourselves to continue to export emissions and injustices for the sake of our worry-free consumption. It comes from Jan Peter Bergkvist, senior advisor in the field of sustainable business since the early nineties and co-author of The Textile Challenge. Here, he explains the urgency of this seemingly obvious idea.

The challenges have never been bigger, but the feeling that a paradigm shift is upon us brightens up even one’s darkest moments. Just as we can’t use yesterday’s energy to exhaust tomorrow’s resources, neither can we allow ourselves to continue to export emissions and injustices for the sake of our worry-free consumption. 

Is it too late or not? Hard to tell but we are for sure beyond the age of tactical adjustments and well-meant CSR initiatives with little or no impact. It is the time of transformational change towards a sustainable way of doing things. As companies, as countries and as individuals.

We are lucky to live on a planet that is extremely forgiving and resilient. The last 18 months has luckily seen a change in the global understanding of our huge challenges, resulting in the Sustainable Development Goals, the new EU legislation on public procurement and non-financial reporting and an animated discussion about a circular economy.

Never before has the need for leadership in combination with a holistic understanding of sustainability been bigger. Leaders that build their organisations’ strategy on a firm decision to achieve full sustainability over time.

« Just as we can’t use yesterday’s energy to exhaust tomorrow’s resources, neither can we allow ourselves to continue to export emissions and injustices for the sake of our worry-free consumption »

Water is in many parts of the world a very obvious indicator on the health of the ecosystems. We who live in the Northern hemisphere must understand that the time when we could export the pollution problems are over and that the modern consumer will demand products that have been produced without compromising the quality of life for the people or the state of the nature, in the production countries.

The Swedish initiative STWI is one good example of co-operation for sustainability where a business sector has joined forces to lower the negative impacts on water in the production countries.

An initiative characterized by a couple of typical Swedish approaches such as empowerment of all people involved in the production, consensus oriented dialogue where each and every one can, and is expected to, contribute and capacity building through education and training with the firm belief that all individuals want to contribute to a sustainable future once they get the understanding and the tools.

With an understanding of sustainability based on science we as individuals automatically tend to plan for success. As long as we have the basic principles clear. Hence the value of a robust and science based definition of sustainability like The Natural Steps’ sustainability explained in two minutes here.
We are 7, 2 billion people on this planet and as soon as we start to plan for sustainability nothing can stop us. 

Jan Peter Bergkvist has been active in the field of sustainable business at an executive level in the hospitality industry since the early nineties. Now a senior advisor working in his own business SleepWell, he published the book The Textile Challenge with Renée Andersson earlier this year. You can order the book at order@sleepwell.nuSEK 195, USD $25, EUR 22.

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