The topic of sustainability is very close to my heart and I have been thinking about discussing this topic in my newsletter for a long time. But how do I do this without pointing a finger or sounding patronizing? I still haven’t found an answer to this question, especially because I still have plenty of room for improvement in this regard when I take a look at my own way of living...
However, I now take the courage to do so – reassured by the many articles on this topic published in some serious nationwide newspapers such as Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and also in our local church bulletin.
It goes without saying that the discussion in our community as regards sustainability and climate protection has been very much triggered by the horrendous flooding right at our doorstep. It is a rare sight (luckily for us Europeans) to witness the impact of global warming up close. Now, we actually can no longer look the other way. I say ‘actually’ because we tend to forget all too quickly, particularly when we have not been affected directly and personally. And I have to repeat the word ‘actually’ again: actually, we all know how close the effects arising from climate change have come to our doorstep and how they seem to be unstoppable. We only would have to listen more to our scientists. The article “Wollt ihr‘s wirklich wissen” (Do you really want to know?) published in Süddeutsche Zeitung describes the insights and computations of scientist Luis Samaniego. Luis Samaniego is a hydrologist and, accordingly, undertakes research as regards water contained in the Earth’s biosphere. According to his explanations, the flood disaster was caused by the fact that a larger quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere can absorb more water and hence can also release more water – which is the reason for the higher probability for heavy rainfalls. Of course, the droughts in 2018 and 2019 are also a consequence of climate change – Luis Samaniego can explain this, I cannot. What I would like to do from now on: listen to scientists and trust them.
I hope that we as a society, including our politicians, have learned a lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic and the already visible effects of climate change – the lesson to listen to our scientists now and trust them.
I would like to see those who are in charge of businesses take responsibility for their actions, also for the effects on nature and the environment. Two clothing companies expressed their view in this regard at the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Sustainability Forum. For Trigema and Vaude, sustainable behavior does not only cause rising costs, but it is also associated with a future competitive edge. I am quite sure that I as a consumer must act responsibly when it comes to issues such as how many clothes I buy, where and how these clothes are manufactured, and under what circumstances. In the article “Nicht nur Nächstenliebe” (It’s not all about charity), I found out that the global clothing industry accounts for 10 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide. Of course, I have found it easy to have less clothes over the last year and a half when I was entirely working from home. I have resolved to partly keep this new habit.
One last thought, which I considered downright revolutionary, came from Heribert Prantl, author and columnist at SZ. In his article “Was die Natur braucht” (What nature needs), he asks whether our jurisprudence should be changed such that you can file a lawsuit before a court on behalf of a river or a forest. From a legal point of view (Heribert Prantl himself is a lawyer), this would mean that elements of nature may be legal entities as well, rather than merely a legal subject matter. Up to now, legal entities, i.e. natural persons/individuals or legal persons such as companies, have made use of legal subject matters such as houses, dogs, cars, forests, fields, game animals, etc. Based on Prantl’s idea, nature would no longer be subject to the classification of only having to serve people and their capital interests. Nature, Earth, animals and plants would be given a chance to have their say. Needless to say that there would still be a need for people to claim and enforce nature’s intrinsic right. Thus, Heribert Prantl demands a promotion of our basis of life, i.e. Earth, also on a legal level. This is based on the insight that mankind belongs to Earth, rather than Earth to mankind.
On a small scale and for each and every one of us, this means that when we want to protect our basis of life, we need to change our habits and have to deal with restrictions. In terms of clothing and food, this means that you should ask yourself: What do I buy where and how much? In terms of traveling and mobility, this means asking yourself: What means of transport do I use, how far do I travel and how often?
Well, I have to admit I ended up pointing a finger here and there. However, the topic is too important (for me) to keep it out of the public debate. And as far as this topic is concerned, I am willing to come across lecturing... And yes, I am also having a look at my own habits because there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Final thoughts on a sustainable business environment:
What is the objective of our business? Whom do we want to serve? Who and what do we include in our “WE” or team spirit? Our long-term future is inevitably linked to the state of our planet and all of its inhabitants. Do we want to conduct business based on an attentive behavior?
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here