Sustainable development in business has widely been interpreted to mean adopting strategies and activities that meet the needs of the enterprise and stakeholders today, while protecting, sustaining and enhancing the human and natural resources needed later.
This interpretation recognises that businesses can only achieve real growth by taking care of the needs of the business enterprise and those of its stakeholders.
The latter include shareholders, lenders, customers, employees, suppliers and communities who are affected by the organisation’s activities.
Businesses increasingly contribute to emission of greenhouse gases — specifically carbon. The 2015 Paris agreement that was signed by 195 countries, and the EU, aims at reducing global warming to below 2℃.
Tree planting has been identified as an effective way of achieving carbon neutrality — having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
In Kenya, the national government through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry targets achieving and maintaining a 10 percent national tree cover by 2022. The last comprehensive forest cover assessment, “wall-to-wall”, conducted in 2013, established that by 2010 the national forest cover stood at 4.18 million hectares, representing a paltry 6.99 percent of the total land area. The current estimate is 7.2 percent.
Increasing forest cover also plays a significant role in helping the country to achieve development goals. The contribution of the forest sector to GDP, for instance, is estimated at $365 million (3.6 percent) annually, excluding environmental services, non-timber products, and contributions to other sectors and household wood energy (FAO, 2014).
Forests provide timber and poles that are critical inputs to the achievement of the government’s plan to provide affordable housing. Trees are also sources of raw materials for pharmaceutical products.
The contributions to manufacturing and food security goals can also not be understated.
The Harvard Business Review says that while it is not possible to predict how climate change will alter the planet, “Two things are certain: Its complex environmental impact will directly affect business, society, and ecosystems; and (that) governments will seek to mitigate its effects with far-reaching regulations.
Therefore, businesses cannot continue to stand on the sidelines as governments seek to protect natural resources, both for the future of humanity and business. It is therefore vital that they actively get involved in devising strategies that reduce these risks and find a competitive edge in a warming and carbon-constrained world.
Locally, a few large corporates have recognised this and are aligning their strategy to both support the government’s initiative of increasing forest cover and protect the environment for future.
For example, in 2019, while celebrating 35 years of its existence, Equity Group announced a plan to plant 35 million trees.
This is in support of the national government plans to increase the country’s forest cover to 10 percent. The bank has partners and, so far, seven million trees are planted.