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We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

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Sustainability is probably the most important global issue that is least talked about. In essence it’s the need to follow the care instructions for the planet upon which we and our future generations depend.

We can define what a sustainable society is and have the ability to actively create the systems and undertake the behaviours that move towards that vision of success, yet if we look at almost every sustainability indicator, we are accelerating towards the cliff edge, in some cases the point of no return.

Having worked in the field for the last 20 years, I have found that there is still a lack of the core understanding of what we mean by ‘sustainability’ and a huge gap in any approach to strategically achieve it from local to global levels. A few businesses and municipalities are leading in this field, putting in place clear frameworks that are applied to meet the goal of achieving a sustainable state in the future.

These are recognising how to create the practices that respond to the sustainability constraints and opportunities ahead. However, many others talk about the need to be sustainable without any obvious clear strategies to achieve this.

Many are targeting specific sustainability goals, such as carbon or water reduction, yet unless organisations (and also societies) have a more complete understanding and approach to designing out unsustainability throughout their activities then the future heath of the planet and our societies will undoubtedly systematically deteriorate.

The danger lies in that if we only partially ‘get’ sustainability, we will only partially create the sustainability outcomes we need. Having people with a complete sustainability literacy, a common language that can be applied across policy, business and society would eliminate confusion, providing the clarity to make decisions to holistically move us towards our goal.

Too often, I see well-intentioned decisions made with often potentially contradictory long-term outcomes. For example, conversations with social purpose charities identify the focus on delivering their goals for social improvement whilst undertaking activities that undermine the natural systems upon which the social groups they support ultimately depend.

Elsewhere we see organisations invest in carbon intensive systems even though the impacts through climate change will penalise them significantly in the future.

We need to expand our thinking, to build a shared vision and imagine the world that we can all create. This will require us to have a fuller understanding of what sustainability is and our roles in helping to contribute fully towards this.

A future sustainable society is one that we should all hope to build and through this is possible through our unbounded innovation and creativity. It will mean us recognising that some of the systems upon which we rely, those that don’t or can’t deliver to a sustainable society, will need to be adapted.

We will also need to find ways to ensure this vision brings along vested interests and others that may otherwise fight against this change. This dialogue will help challenge many of the systems that currently hold us back. For example, businesses focus on the short-term quarterly reporting requirements and the need to meet the shareholders drive for earnings.

If we developed a shared vision that enables everyone to see their role and identify their needs in the short, medium and long-term, then we will begin to create more appropriate sustainable systems that will meet the needs for everyone for ever. We will see the value in investing for the long-term in all areas of life.

To move us on our path we need to ensure that all decision makers and those that have influence on the planet can use their knowledge strategically to systematically reduce and eliminate unsustainable impacts. This affects some more than others: governments, businesses, NGOs but also individuals who are key levers as both consumers and voters.

Sustainability issues surround us in every place we are and in all the decisions and actions we make now which will have implications for us in the future. Sustainability isn’t rocket science, we just need to raise our understanding to begin connecting the dots and learning actively about the world and societies around us and how our decisions impact on them. By moving from a partial understanding to a fuller understanding then we see the bigger picture and begin positively contributing to the amazing potential that sustainability brings.

Realising it is every one of our roles to help create the future we desire is the first step, becoming curious about what we can and should do and collaborating and creating the innovations and systems that will deliver this world is in our hands – that is if we want that amazing future enough.

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. 

Further reading:

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

The business case for sustainability – an exceptional Forum for the Future event

90% of investors say CSR and sustainability reports are ‘essential’

Business rife with short-termism; just 7% feel pressure to deliver long-term returns

The Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility 2013

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. He has master’s degrees in both in sustainability leadership and environmental policy and works to help create innovative local solutions and lever ideas for transformational sustainability change. He also explores ways to engage people to connect authentically and passionately to become the sustainability leaders and heroes the future needs.

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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