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Mapping out a sustainable future

Posted on by Rebecca

I spent a recent train journey to London reading the European Commission’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. And it made for an interesting, but also rather scary, read. Indeed, over the course of the 20th Century the world’s use of fossil fuels increased by a factor of 12 and we extracted 34 times more material resources. But what’s more shameful, is that in the EU each person consumes 16 tonnes of material each year – and we waste SIX tonnes each.

What’s even more worrying is the fact that our consumption demands are predicted to only increase – we’ll require an additional 70 per cent of food, feed and fibre by 2050. And when you learn that 60 per cent of the world’s major ecosystems producing these resources are already degraded or being used unsustainably, it’s really sobering! Put simply, in 40 years time, we are going to need more than two planets to sustain us!

I found the EC’s document very insightful and the world would definitely be a more sustainable place if all its Visions are achieved. However, the document sets out a very utopian view and there is real lack of detail in how we get there. That is the issue that we are all currently facing – how do we achieve it? It’s all well and good setting targets and objectives, but there needs to be practical advice and support in how we get there.

Looking around the businesses in the environmental sector, there’s a great mix of innovation and concepts that make perfect sense but require a change in approach. However, together they face the same questions and challenges from their target customer base; is it essential? am I legally required to do it? and how much does it cost? As the roadmap points out, the era of plentiful and cheap resources is over. However, it’s not a concept that the corporate world is fully ready to accept yet.

Communication is fundamental to ensure that individuals and businesses are aware of why changes need to be made. Without it, there is no rationale for doing things differently. As communicators, we understand resistance to change and seek to deliver behavioural change by making audiences aware of why this is good, the benefits offered but importantly how it can be achieved. If every person and business was to make a small change – be it to waste, energy or material use, the impact on the environment would be significant but rather than intangible goals, small milestones are needed with practical guidance on how to get there.

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