What can you do to promote sustainable development?
Saving the planet, feeding the world and securing the future?
It might seem like a tall order, but taking action to promote sustainable development can be done in a thousand and one different ways. From the practices of major international institutions to the commitment of voluntary organisations – not forgetting the everyday actions of individuals –, doing something to create a more sustainable world is within everyone’s reach.
Why promote sustainable development?
Since the early 1970s, study after study, particularly those published by the Club of Rome, a nonprofit informal organisation of intellectuals and business leaders, have all agreed on one thing – Western society models based on exponential and infinite growth just aren’t sustainable on a planet with finite resources.
We can no longer ignore the impact of our modern societies on the environment and the problems these models cause. In today’s highly globalised world, every action has a cascading effect. From growing inequality and biodiversity loss to more intense natural disasters and massive population displacement as people flee entire regions that have become uninhabitable, it’s high time we considered a different model.
Sustainable development is the logical recognition of the damage that’s been done to the world we live in, and our responsibility for that damage. We need to take action, at all levels, to shift our societies towards models that are more inclusive, more respectful of ecosystems, and more equitable and sustainable.
There’ll be 10 billion people on this planet by 2100. We owe it to them to do better.
How to promote sustainable development?
Making people aware of their responsibilities without frightening them, that’s a key part of sustainable development. Yes, the situation is critical. But overly alarmist or guilt-inducing rhetoric will probably just paralyse people, rather than encourage them.
Sustainable development is first and foremost about awareness and education. It’s a global way of looking at the world we live in, in all its social, environmental and economic dimensions. These are often complex questions with no clear-cut answers. Sustainable development is about continuous improvement. Headline-grabbing targets set for 2030 or 2050 mustn’t blind us to the reality that every little helps, that being aware of the impact of our actions in our daily lives is already adopting the principle of sustainable development.
Sustainable development isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s an ongoing process of questioning how we can do things better, how we can think differently, so that our impact is more positive overall. While it’s important to share the latest scientific findings and combat misinformation and disinformation, we mustn’t see sustainable development as only a matter for specialists and scientists. Everyone, whatever their circumstances, can do their bit to better understand their environment and their impact.
In this sense, it’s crucial we raise awareness at a very early stage in order to provide the necessary keys to understanding the world around us. Education on the environment and sustainable development has been part of the school curriculum here in France where our Foundation is based, for example, since 1977. As another example, Klorane Botanical Foundation set up the “Budding Botanist” programme to help teachers share the wonders of plant biodiversity in schools.
But beyond the classroom, it’s crucial we reach out to all those working for a more sustainable world, all stakeholders across society, whether in the voluntary sector, in business, in the cultural world, in public authorities, or just those with something to say. It’s by cultivating these relationships that we’ll be able to play a slightly more important role in bringing about change.
Committing to sustainable development
Who does what?
Sustainable development is everybody’s business. From giant international institutions to local citizen groups, anyone concerned or angry about the state of the world we live in can pick up the baton and drive home change in their own communities.
- Citizens: by voting at the ballot box, voting with their wallet, or via the contributions they make to the economy, every citizen can choose to be an agent of change. Whether it’s changing the way we consume or travel, voting for sustainable policies, signing and sharing petitions, coming up with new initiatives in the workplace, or even just discussing issues with friends and family, the possibilities are endless!
- Associations: they might specialise in a social or environmental topic, have a local or international focus, or even involve their members in humanitarian missions and awareness-raising initiatives... either way, associations rely on the goodwill and hard work of their members and play an essential role in developing and promoting sustainable development issues.
- Local authorities: from parish councils and town halls to mayoralties and entire regions, local authorities are responsible for orchestrating sustainable development action plans on their patch. They particularly like it when their constituents are involved and vocal, so don’t hesitate to make your voice heard, especially at public meetings or during consultations.
- Businesses: a major driver in the success of sustainable development goals. CSR strategies are how these challenges typically translate operationally, as companies commit to having a more positive social and environmental impact. CSR is no longer a matter of choice for most companies, it’s a development model.
- Banks and investors: alongside businesses, banks and investors can choose to promote companies that are committed to sustainable development. Investment funds are now increasingly using ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria to determine the extra-financial value of an investment. For their part, banks are developing more and more responsible or ethical products, such as micro-loans, to support the local economy and sustainable development. And growing awareness within civil society is leading them to gradually abandon their funding of projects that drive climate change.
When it comes to sustainable development, no gesture is too small to count! Every aspect of your daily life can be optimised for greater sustainability. But that doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel! Just a few steps in the right direction can make a massive difference. There are plenty of resources and practical tips online for living better and more sustainably, but here are a few ideas to get started:
- Reduce your waste: our throwaway culture can’t be transformed overnight, so the idea is to create as little waste as possible to reduce your footprint. Buy in bulk whenever you can to limit unnecessary packaging, buy only what you need to avoid wasting food, follow sorting instructions to ensure recycling channels work properly, compost your organic waste if you can, and reuse the compost in your garden...
- Reduce your energy usage: target wasteful items and think of alternatives, for example, replacing your old light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, unplug your electronic appliances when you’re not using them, use the eco-settings on your dishwasher or washing machine...
- Shop smart: stick to short distribution channels, which have a reduced carbon footprint, ask questions about how the items you’re buying are produced, particularly about working conditions, only buy fruit and vegetables in season, visit your local shopkeepers, think about cooperatives or plastic-free shops, have your appliances repaired rather than buying new ones after the slightest problem...
- Travel better: opt for public transport, car-sharing or soft mobility if you can, limit air travel as much as possible, travel smart rather than fast, opt for eco-friendly holiday destinations where you can benefit the local community...
What is sustainable development?
Simple explanations of the biggest concepts! Klorane Botanical Foundation tells you everything you need to know about sustainable development.