Sustaining Sustainability

One of 2012-13’s main buzz words has been sustainability. Sustainable food, sustainable materials, sustainable agriculture/aquaculture, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable building, sustainability programs, you get the picture…

What does it all mean? Well, in a nutshell, it’s the ability to operate and produce without negatively impacting on current or future resources and production. That is, to either use a resource that is naturally plentiful or to replace that resource at the same rate as you are depleting it. Solar energy is sustainable, fossil fuels are not.

Research shows that over 70 per cent of businesses have “sustainability” as one of the main things to implement but how many are really taking the step?

Sustainability programs are being promoted throughout the business world and lots are implemented but to what scale? Time and time again we see a shortfall in the reach of these programs. They might cover the resources side of things, such as energy and water usage, but too often they stop there. What about the food that is sourced and fed to staff and clients? What about the staff? Are they being engaged to support the new program? Without their support it will fail.

A Sydney IGA is showcasing their latest sustainable supermarket with doors now on the previously open shelved fridges and lighting in the aisles with motion sensors that dim the lights when no one is around. They also used recycled building material in the refurbishment. The majority of the products they sell have not been produced in sustainable manners, but at least they are taking a step in the right direction.

Only a small handful of food suppliers source and supply ethically raised, sustainably produced food to those voting with their wallets to protect the planet. Our approach on sustainability is to support the whole chain, from the land to the animal and the farmer, because if we don’t look after the farmer, the next generation won’t want to stay on the land to produce our food.

There are also a growing number of sustainability advisory businesses such as Net Balance helping businesses implement lasting change within their organisations. Ultimately, to sustain sustainability as an imbedded approach to business and life in general everyone needs to get behind it and support it because as with most things it is only as strong as its weakest link. One step at a time though…go and change a light bulb.

– Tim Elwin
Urban Food Market, Marrickville.