The world is changing, and as we expand our knowledge, the more we discover how little we know about our ecosystem. For example, for years, hydrocarbons were synonymous with prosperity. But lately, many people have started to pay attention to sustainability. As a result, many corporates put it at the core of their success.
Today, leaders often use sustainability in speeches, the basis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG2030). But despite all these, people rarely stop to ask what it means or how it relates to an individual’s daily actions. But one thing is clear, even though we view sustainability differently, time has come for we to embrace it collectively.
Looking back now we see how our forefathers’ actions contributed to the current pain in floods, fires, and other adverse climate-related disasters. If we knew the term sustainability and how to manage our ecosystem responsibly, we could not be facing these today. And it will be worse for our future generations if we do not foster sustainability.
Sustainability is part of everyday life globally. It is at the centre of everything, from international trade talks to simple contracting large and small enterprises. Regulators across the sectors have also taken it seriously. It guides policymakers in individual, national and even global decision-making.
There is an increasing consensus that sustainability, as used frequently in everyday speeches, refers only to environmental concerns. Since 2000, climate change, biodiversity loss, ecosystem services loss, land degradation, and air and water pollution have been the most significant environmental challenges.
United Nations has organised 26 conferences on climate change, and this year we have the 27th event commonly referred to as COP 27, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
The more famous of these conferences was the Paris Agreement (COP 21), which came up with a legally binding global treaty on climate change.
Although 196 Parties at COP 21 adopted the deal to limit global warming to well below two degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels, it has faced many challenges. Specifically, the problems include geopolitics, and failure to transmit the importance of these decisions to the bottom of the pyramid.
Every citizen must understand sustainability if we are to make significant changes. And this requires us to start investing in the area effectively. For example, in Kenya, subsistence farmers do not know that their land use practice has far-reaching implications on climate change.
And this has caused their yields to drop because of poor soil quality. Scientists who have solutions to rejuvenate the soils always talk to themselves. Policymakers also fear that they could lose their positions if they advocate for sustainable land use policies.
Kenya, which has developed intelligent agriculture policies, does not have agricultural extension officers to explain the complex scientific methods for improving farm productivity. In addition, European countries have already developed sustainable regulations that may further disconnect Kenyan farmers from the markets.
According to research on embracing the broader idea of the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) framework, there are opportunities to help organisations manage sustainability-related risks concerning the environment and all organisational stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, and employees.
A report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Making Peace with Nature: A scientific blueprint for tackling the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies, published in February 2021, reveals how to address climate-related challenges jointly within the framework of SDGs.
It says everyone is responsible for ensuring that human knowledge, ingenuity, technology, and cooperation are focused on changing how people interact with the environment. Therefore, polycentric governance enables people to act responsibly and express themselves without undue hardship or compromise.
And once people have understood why they must act differently in their interaction with the environment, it is only then we can appreciate other solutions such as circular business models that necessitate sustainability.
Other interventions include consistent knowledge dissemination through schools, farmers, and business organisations such that sustainability becomes an everyday activity for all humankind.
The writer is Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mission to the European Union, Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States and World Customs Organisation